What's all this about?
"In the UK, a handful of giant corporations control the nation’s TV channels, news outlets, radio stations, search engines and social media platforms. This has given wealthy individuals and organisations huge political and economic power and enabled them to distort the media landscape to suit their interests and personal views... Urgent reform is needed to reclaim the media in the interest of the public and to provide media free of bigotry and capable of holding power to account." (Media Reform Coalition)
From our roots in the media and trade unions, and in an attempt to broaden media democracy in the UK, we began work to create a new online television platform in 2014. As our work developed we came to realise we were exploring and building within an emerging paradigm of platform cooperativism – the result is Deepview TV.
Deepview TV is designed as an alternative, ethical platform, for third-sector, community and issue-focused, radical, progressive, investigative, educative films and programming. It will provide both a tool and a hub for collective action. Importantly, it also offers an opportunity to demonstrate what can be achieved by a co-operative, collaborative, and member-run platform - at scale.
Who are Progressive TV and what is Deepview?
Progressive TV was set up as an independent, not-for-profit, television/production company to provide a vehicle for the development of the project and to develop programming content. As the project progressed, it became increasingly clear that replicating the commercial, single ownership model (albeit within a not-for profit framework) would be unlikely to provide long term viability without becoming what we had set out to challenge.
Deepview TV will provide an independent public online service and resource, run by, for and with content creators, campaigners, voluntary and community organisations, charities, self-help groups, co-operatives and social enterprises (third sector), for the benefit of all society; co-owned and co-managed by its own membership – its content creators, IP owners, audience and other stakeholders. In short, a 'Television Commons'.
Currently, Deepview TV is a multi-stakeholder co-operative 'in waiting'. It has yet to be provided with a formal constitution because we do not want to eliminate or pre-empt possible solutions from the platform cooperative sector, or finalise operational decisions which will impact so many contributors, collaborators and users until we have been able to broaden active participation.
What about content?
Content will reflect the importance of factual, informed documentary and analysis of current affairs, but will also include drama, music, comedy and other genres. We will be inviting contributions from across various sectors of the community, especially from third sector, voluntary, social enterprise, campaign groups, unions, co-operatives; and contributors from sectors such as BAME) black and minority ethnic, LGBTQ+, youth and elderly, homeless, and more.
In addition to readily available content from, for example, third sector contributors - organisations, production companies and individual filmmakers, Progressive TV is planning to produce content exclusively for the Deepview platform.
Is this achievable?
Yes. We already have a fully developed initial platform and a working Proof of Concept and after incorporating feedback from our testers, we will be ready to roll out our MPV (minimum viable product).
Technical innovation in the application and use of systems and services will be required as Deepview grows. We are starting 'slow' – focusing on what is needed for the community to share content and take decisions together, rather than suites of sophisticated apps. We are also starting 'low' with simple, immediately practicable solutions that minimise cost - and consequently minimise the sums needed to be raised or to make Deepview TV financially viable.
Over the last 3 years it has been necessary to learn what is and isn’t possible – and to understand in detail the implications of various routes that could have been taken. Our explorations have included inter-disciplinary coverage of a broad range of operational aspects including, content production, management and scheduling; open source web applications; finance and accounting; co-operative, collaborative structures of management and ownership.
It is by following this strategy that we have now been able to provide an initial MVP that has the advantage of not only being deliberately low-cost, but also has the potential to be scaled up according to the needs of members, as well as being replicable. Now, working with this knowledge, we are in a better position to seek feedback and engage in discussions with the variety of experts, professionals, potential users and others who will form our prospective community. With this feedback, we are moving to the next stage.
Sounds great, so why haven't I heard about this project?
As far as public profiles are concerned, we've intentionally kept our internal research and development under the public radar. Until now, apart from progress announcements to immediate attendees at the annual conferences of the Open Coop and at the Media Democracy Festival, we've limited our discussions to a 'one-to-one basis'. This has enable us to quietly develop and shape our (entirely self-funded) work on the Deepview project, without distractions, enabling it to grow and mature beyond the initial idea with which we started. You are hearing about us now because we have reached an important stage where community input and participation is now necessary and is being actively sought.
We are now starting a formal Consultation Exercise, mainly with apex/umbrella organisations in the UK that share a membership/partnership base of common interests. These organisations will include Trade Unions (TUC, GFTU, BECTU, NUJ, etc), Co-operatives UK, the Radical Film Network, the Media Fund and the NCVO. In addition, we will be contacting selected individuals and organisations in the media, tech and the New Economy, for their thoughts and input, as well as inviting initial 'early adopters' to participate and collaborate in the development of the community and the platform.
This Consultation phase will also involve the testing and refining of our MVP by contributors and potential users. To ensure that this is done quickly, efficiently and as comprehensively and as inclusively as possible, we are now seeking funding to provide additional tools, resources and professional skills.
How can I help?
Most large scale media or tech projects of this type are usually driven by a single 'hero entrepreneur', corporate teams or venture capitalists. By contrast, the realisation of the Deepview project is as a truly collaborative, community endeavour. As a community resource and tool, Deepview needs the input of its anticipated community to actively help drive and build the platform so that it can successfully serve their needs and interests. We therefore want to tap into the expertise and experience of individuals and organisations from the media, from the tech sector, the third sector, labour, co-operative, progressive and other relevant prospective stakeholders and user groups.
To help better understand some of the thinking and values informing our project philosophies, you may find the following resources helpful:-
- Media Reform Coalition
- UK Media Audit 2017
- Commons Transition
- Platform Cooperatives
- UK Cooperative Economy Report 2018
Also, a very useful primer is the book Ours to Hack and to Own: The Rise of Platform Co-operativism, A New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet. (Open Democracy has a very good and comprehensive review of the book.)
We would also encourage you to explore the sample list of individuals and organisations whose work or ideas we have acknowledged on our Acknowledgements page.
Finally, if you feel you can contribute any help in the form of advice, suggestions, skills, finance (!) or if you just have a query, we'd love to hear from you.
(* FAQ=Frequently Asked Questions)