I am just out of a live participatory television program, a pioneering and successful experiment by Italian independent and alternative grassroots satellite + online TV station Nessuno.tv.
During the live TV show which went live between 9 and midnight last night, the show hosts showcased video news shorts edited by different contributors, while interviewing individuals in the studio, open for anyone to visit and sit-in during any of the live programming.
But the most interesting thing was that for the first time Nessuno.TV pioneered the intervention of home-based individuals connected to the show via webcam.
I was myself kindly invited to join the show which focused on Italian pop star Adriano Celentano and his new political/musical television show just launched on state-wide public funded RAI television.
So while I had the opportunity to briefly voice my own humble opinion on the topic, I was totally thrilled by the bridging of traditional television as I used to know it, with the new revolutionary paradigm of a true participatory channel.
The show went live on the Web as well as on traditional satellite TV (in Italy, Channel 890 of the Sky menu). I was therefore able to see myself on the big tube in front of me, while viewing on my own laptop screen the production assistant giving me indications on when to intervene and the real-time video feed of the actual program.
Wow. That was truly something. Thanks Nessuno.tv for showing this is not part of a dream world anymore.
Interesting things I noticed include the unexpected realization that the Internet, web-based version of this TV show was the actual master and that the TV feed going to the satellite and back to people's homes is now only one of the many possible delivery lines now available.
As a matter of fact, on my laptop I could view and hear the audio of the live show, with at least 15-20 seconds in advance of what went on, on the actual TV screen.
The quality of the video webcam feeds coming from home-based opinion makers like me was rather good but it varied a great deal depending on the quality of the webcam and amount of bandwidth available to the individual home-based reporter.
You should consider a 256Kbps upstream bandwidth to be the very minimum needed to provide a good quality image at a reasonably smooth frame rate.
Interaction with the live host may also present some little problems as the issues of delay mentioned above make it impossible for you to listen and respond to the live feed of your TV set. Home-based TV participants need therefore to interact with the audio coming off their backstage connection, which nonetheless may be rich of distracting voices and noises provides true synch with what is going on in the studio.
Alessia, one of the production assistant of Nessuno.tv, popped up on my access interface to the show and kept me informed as to what was going to happen and when I should have gotten ready for my intervention.
Participatory TV as I saw it first-hand last night has much potential indeed. But it also runs high risks of being a bad photocopy of the boring, highly commercialized television content programming that has pervaded western life on this planet for the last 50 years.
Unless the paradigm of participatory television is taken further, by giving more space and opportunities to focused, theme-oriented grassroots contributions and hosting of TV shows, the "participatory" factor may often appear to be only a glowing marketing buzzword consisting only in having tv studios open to street audiences and a few webcam opinion-makers being given a handful of seconds to share their opinion before the next commercial break.
Participatory tv, thanks Nessuno.tv for breaking new important ground on this front, but it begs understanding and through awareness that the big revolution may be achieved only when:
What else would you think should differentiate true, grassroots participatory television from traditional commercial prime-time television as we know it today?
Originally written by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia.