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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

YouTube and Cable

The rise of YouTube and other video content services have contributed a lot to the corpus of local communication. YouTube videos are cool to watch on your fast computer and broadband connection. I needed to explain to someone who Marian Anderson was, so I logged on to YouTube and in thirty seconds had her Lincoln Memorial performance running. That is a powerful assist to face to face communication that you cannot get with legacy television.

It is therefore a little too easy for a critic to discount access cable television by claiming that YouTube is a perfect replacement. This opinion seems to be most prevalent in cities that collect PEG funds but prefer not to share them with other legitimate stakeholders.

The problem with that claim is that it is intellectually dishonest. Consider this; access to YouTube in a comfortable mode, without stuttering requires a fast, (expensive), computer and a broadband, (expensive), connection. So, fewer people, and historically the people able to derive the greatest benefit from community television are shut out because of cost. Some people can't afford cable either but there are less of them.

YouTube and other Web entities do not subtract at all from the legacy television audience. San Jose State Business Professor Randall Stross points out that: "The video mode has been reinforced by the rise of YouTube. In December,[2009] almost 100 million viewers in the United States watched 5.9 billion YouTube videos, according to comScore. Tellingly, YouTube has not cannibalized TV viewership — it has instead carved out another chunk of our leisure time for video on a screen."

The answer here is not either/or but which is the best pathway to larger distribution. YouTube movies generally make for poor cable television programs. But programs produced by trained, skilled local citizen communicators for cable transmission sure do look good on YouTube and the other dozen or so venues. So when the YouTube dodge is invoked remind that person that The idea is to feed both expressions, not one or the other.