Will Community TV Make a Come Back?
I remember a time back in the early days of Cable TV, where the first few channels in the line up were dedicated to low quality, poorly produced local, or, community TV.
If you haven’t seen “Between Two Ferns” on Netflix, then check it out here. The comedy show is just how I remember these early community TV shows to be – low quality, embarrassingly awkward and of little value. And unlike Between Two Ferns, they were not deliberately done that way to make you laugh.
How is Tech Enabling Better Community Engagement?
Fast forward a few decades and technology has come on a long way, and so has the ability to engage with the community.
I spoke with Darren Wingham from Wideo.co.uk over Zoom about his local project in the English countryside town, Overton. (Skip down to watch a clip of the Zoom call)
Darren, who has spent much of his career as a professional radio presenter, now works from home running a video production business.
He told me how the current lockdown had such an impact on the small community he lives in, and with his background and technical capability he wanted to see if he could help keep the community together, so set about creating a series of community TV shows.
Darren’s idea was to try to re-create the social engagement and information sharing that the local community was dependent on digitally, rather than in-person word of mouth that Overton, like many villages was built on. Importantly, he wanted to make sure the community were directly involved.
Overton.TV – Crowd Sourced Community TV
Overton.TV the digital community TV channel that Darren created. The channel is available via Facebook, YouTube and the dedicated website.
Adoption across the community was rapid and engagement is high, with lots of locals recording video content on their mobile phones and sharing it either via the website or Facebook.
When I spoke with him, Darren said they already had more than a quarter of the entire village connected via the Facebook group.
How it works.
Anyone in the community can take a video of something that’s important to them and the community and share it with Darren directly from their smartphone.
The image used at the top of the page was taken from a video taken just before the strict lockdowns came into force and shows the unveiling of a student art competition. Post-lockdown, Darren said the amount of content has decreased, conversely, the creativity has increased.
Once Darren has the content, he fires up his video production sweet at home to create almost broadcast quality content that includes the local’s own footage along with zoom video interviews and his own self-recorded material.
Each episode opens with a wonderful local-radio-style “what’s coming up”, my favourite was the episode that featured the local’s lawn mowing antics. (The video below the lawnmower segment is at 38m 58s)
The Tech Behind This
This is another one of those use-cases which doesn’t seem to involve too much tech, however it depends on a lot of technology behind the scenes, including cloud storage, laptop computing power and the availability of “prosumer” video editing software
But let’s take a quick deep dive into the video content. Most of this video content is created from smartphones, shared either over WiFi (via broadband) or over mobile networks.
In our conversation, Darren commented that even though the broadband connections in his area were adequate at 30-40Mbps, it was sometimes a challenge to do things as efficiently as he wanted.
Taking a look at my old company’s mobile coverage map for the town, I see that mobile coverage doesn’t offer too much more. Even though the fastest speeds seem adequate, they’re too patchy to be reliable, even for today’s smartphone cameras.
Mobile Video Drives Network Bandwidth
Now we’re talking about mobile and networks, it’s probably a good point to digress into the near future of what’s to come.
Each year the quality of smartphone videos increases. Today you can even get 8K video from the Samsung S20. That’s good enough quality to look really sharp, even on a cinema sized screen!
This graphic illustrates how much more you get in 8K video than a regular “HDTV”.
I remember when HDTV was a new thing, and that doesn’t seem long ago. HDTV is defined as 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels high (1920×1080). In total that’s more than 2,073,600 pixels, but is still smaller than the smallest screen size showed on the image above.
8K video resolutions of 7680×4320 pixels generate 33,177,600 pixels which is 16 times more than HDTV.
The next bit is a bit geeky, you can skip it if you wish, or expand it to read more about video, 5G mobile networks and the market forecast for 8K and 4K mobile devices.
Now, back to Overton….
As shown in the coverage maps above, even though 4G mobile networks are quite ubiquitous today, villages like Overton are still experiencing quite patchy coverage, so I wouldn’t expect Darren needs to worry about dealing 8K video streams for Overton.tv just yet.
However, what we can take away from his project is the power of the technology we have in our pockets to unite and bring together communities.
We all hope our quarantines will end soon, and to get back to “normal”. I think we all expect “normal” will not be quite like it was, and in fact, many argue that if we just go back to what we were doing before, it’s a lost opportunity to move forward.
As we move into the new normal, it is projects like Overton.tv that I hope survive. We all have such amazing technology at our fingertips, yet we often don’t use it for as much good as we could.
I’m already working on my own project to help connect small communities, that I hope to be able to share later in the year. What have you learnt from this period of isolation? What communities would you like to connect? Let me know in the comments below.
Watch Darren in our Zoom Video Chat