The Culture Show is a weekly Arts magazine programme broadcast on BBC2 in the UK on Wednesday nights at 10pm, focusing on the best of the week's arts and culture news. The show is now in its ninth year, having established itself as one of the longest-running arts magazine shows in the history of BBC television. On Sept 4th 2013 they ran a half hour program dedicated to YouTube which the BBC promoted as "Investigative journalist Jacques Peretti ventures into a world he doesn't understand; a company that is revolutionising how we are entertained, a website that is changing youth culture". The show is no longer available on iPlayer but here's an overview of the show:
Now to most readers of this site this may seem old news but apparently not to the viewers of BBC2. The sudden interest that one of the world’s oldest broadcasters has in one of the newest reflected in the way it wanted to know how YouTube affects the professional creative community. The conclusion? Everything we thought we knew about television is changing. Peretti posed the question "Is this the future or death of Television?" He also deliberately acknowledged that his audience is probably 30+ years old and whilst they may aware of the YouTube phenomenon it's not yet a routine part of their daily life, unlike more recent generations.
The program offered the uninitiated an inside view of the world of the YouTube creative community that’s receiving higher viewer ratings than many popular BBC TV shows and proffered that this new "television for all" would have far reaching consequences for our culture. To help inform that point of view he interviews 3 leading British YouTube bloggers: Dan Howell, most viewed UK YouTuber Charlie McDonnell and Tanya Burr.
Last year, for the first time, 13 to 24 year olds spent more time online than they did watching TV. What they are watching may seem ‘silly or inane’ says Peretti but we dismiss it at our peril because what the YouTube creators are doing right now is shaping main-stream culture. Another UK YouTuber Benjamin Cook believes that YouTube is "the most democratic of creative platforms......if television is a monologue then YouTube is a conversation".
Then we were introduced to Channel Flip, where main stream TV celebs are staging their ‘made for YouTube’ content. Its Creative Director, Justin Gaynor says he started the channel because it was so much easier to create for YouTube than traditional TV. Any of us can now become broadcasters.
But then we offered an opposing view from Andrew Keen - founder of Audio Cafe and author of Digital Vertigo, and one-time internet zealot who hates YouTube. ‘Why?’ asks Peretti. Keen says:
Because high quality content can’t be financed by advertising on the Internet. The only people making any significant money out of online broadcasting is YouTube. The Internet in general has been as very, very bad thing for the professional creative community.
Matt Locke, founder of Storythings, helps to bring some perspective to these opposing views.
There’s never been a better time to be making video content, because there’s an explosion of ways that audiences are finding and engaging with content. its never going to get simple again ever. It’s only going to get more complex. This will mean you will have to be light and agile to innovate quickly as a broadcaster and you’re going to struggle with it if you are big and heavy like a dinosaur.
(An allusion to the BBC?)
SBTV certainly qualifies in the light and agile department and is capitalizing on the new medium. Its founder, Jamal Edwards was previously being turned down as a runner by the BBC. His success comes from providing content for a niche that is not catered for by mainstream TV and now he’s collaborating with the BBC and is courted by all the big record companies. SBTV has been valued at around £8 Million.
So is this the future or end of TV? Peretti believes that YouTube fulfils that basic human desire to communicate and no one is there to there to tell you that you can’t. It serves a far wider and diverse viewership than any TV station can and TV knows it. Does that answer the question? Well, no not really. Like all good TV broadcasters he’s not going to bite the hand that feeds him. Not until he’s making more money from his YouTube channel than he does from his BBC salary that is.