Wednesday, January 08, 2014

London LIve - Everywhere television, the future of television

London live

As alliterations go, they could not have picked a better name: London Live.

Finally the sleeping cockney flaneur awakens. For visitors to the capital, stuck in a hotel wanting to savour London's treasure, this is it.

For video addicts turned off from television's biggest disease: sameness, London Live is about to rewrite the rules.

In a few weeks we'll know. In recent years I have learned a few things myself.

It's 2.07 a.m in the morning and I'm inserting video bibliographies into a text, whose simplicity, hopefully, belies the enormity of the task I have set myself. 


What will TV look like?

What will television look like in the digital age? That's the grand theory. I'm doing the accessible bit in a world where grand theories are like stray shoelaces on trainers. Steady, cuz you're about to  fall flat on your face.

Six years in the making, several countries, more than a 100 experts and a lot of crying into cups of teas, trying to get the rhetorical arguments to flow, finally it's nearly here...

David Dunkley Gymah on the future of Video go to for more

Thus far I have had a number of enquiries from industry figures, but alas my friends will have  to wait a bit more. Sorry!

But the questions as my research collides with the launch of London Live are as follows. 
  • In an age of digifest, user-gen, and mobile tech, with html5 and Vice breathing down the web, and social flaring,  how will fixed television fare? 
Could it be the new 4K camera, sourced by  that creates the impression of watching life unfold from your window? Or is there a new style or narrative we should be aware of?

My thesis points to an array. Six months ago I introduced Touchcast to a friend - one of the top executives in the BBC. Videohyperlinking. -- how you create linear television by being discursive, is a biggy, or game changer if you're stateside. Watch it hit a space near you soon. 

And then there's the method behind the concept of the Outernet, which featured on Apple's site ( see pic below) 
A new form of television - live in public spaces by David for Apple profile

Culture Vultures

Technology is a part of the solution. But actually there's a more interesting question. How do  grab and then hang on to one of the UK's most fickle audiences - Londoners. And how do 
you measure success?  

The Evening Standard has the opportunity to launch a new type of television.  A TV that can radicalise our perception of what constitutes TV. Just as they did more than fifty years ago.

And why not - a new millennium, a new 24 hour entertainment TV station. No one's tried it yet, not in this era of digital plumbing. Live TV and Channel One were before their time.

Prresenting at Time Square NY
Television, according to one of the most influential texts ever written on the subject, Television by Raymond Williams,  is a cultural construct. What does that mean? It means at some point someone decided what it would looked like.

And over the years that feature has been normalised in various cultures, so that you and I have expectations. In fact Television has taught you and I to understand the media it presents.

This facade withstood the pen of many sociologists and focus groups before cable, satellite, mobile phones and the Net took shape.

Knowing what television looks like now has become the turn on for one generation and the major moony for another who traditionally shirk TV. The question becomes who do you pitch to? It's a constant concern for TV makers. In the 90s I worked for Reportage and the issue was as ripe then as it is now.

BBC Reportage from david dunkley gyimah on Vimeo.

Janet Street Porter's Reportage wrote the rules outside mainstream before they adopted its techniques.

New TV

Alternative methods are only suitable to various cultures, as I spoke about at one of Europe's biggest media gatherings. NewsXchange.

Consistently television has reverted to type. The group it knows and the progamming itself understands.  It's had to do this too, because of the bottom line and the idea of turning a profit soon. 

Being part of the launch of a new station or Dotcom is exhilarating. When the candles on the cake have been blown out, it's also for execs, a bloody pain in the neck,  particularly when the suits start asking about projections.

Ask any savvy entrepreneur behind a television station and you're inclined to be disappointed. Sky News, for instance, is funded from other kitties. At Channel One they burnt through a million pounds a month  and that was peanuts in terms of funding its operation costs. 

Newspapers and television stations, as some of the videojournalists discovered from the Press Association's VJ programme I helped set up, are different animals. The pros is it means Nupes in TV can reset the agenda. The con, is that they should be allowed to left alone to build a brand. Sadly, like Cardiff FC, managers like unrealistic changes.

So what if you could invent a new form of television?  Oh yes it is possible, but to do it, firstly you would have to reconcile the idea that you would be teaching your audience a new type of television to grow into to. You'd  have to hold your nerve, and then secondly know what it is and produce this new type.

18-30s don't do traditional television

The second is hugely difficult because most television forums call upon other television types to assist them. Imagine where You Tube would be if it relied on the convention of wisdom. Or, think of the talent pool where TV people come from  - and consider, if you had the data of commissions from non Traditional TV types.

Many years ago in the capital, a little unknown station called Channel One did something radical -- low cost reality TV series? Well, yes, that's the television cultural construct at work again. No, it chose people who were not in, or done television. 

Steve Punter, a videojournalism and later BBC Editor referred to them as the "odd ball".   Many now litter the echelons of innovative television.

To produce good TV, you've got to be anti-TV, otherwise you merely mimic, without the budget -- if you don't have it - what your competitors are doing.

I come from a television background: BBC Reportage, Channel One, Newsnight and Channel 4 to name a few, before a couple of years with a huge mentor, John Staton formerly a TV producer at Saatchi and Saatchi. Hence I am guilty of the second.

But in my six-year study submitted soon for my PhD at University College Dublin, the first question about operating away from the norm is critically considered.

It took in some of the world's leading talent in story form,  and my own autoethnographic narrative:  the Knight Batten Awards for Innovation; Channel 4 Digital Awards Runner Up; International Award for Videojournalism, to sculptor an argument.

These served as both markers and also door openers to some of the busiest peoples whom I needed to speak to. The content is king argument has proved to be one the most versatile sayings for grabbing audiences, but the research underscores this with some key caveats.

The content is standard, the question become how different can you be to put one over the industry and sate the appetite of a new audience.  London Live could provide some of those answers.

David Dunkley Gyimah was this year's Chair of Television Innovative  News at the RTS.
He is the founder of, a senior lecturer and artist in residence at the Southbank Centre. he submits his PhD in two months time. He's been in the media for 26 years and now lectures and trains [ he launched PA's videojournalism training programme] around the world.