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Friday 10 November 2006

How submitting your video content to the BBC could cost you money

Quality content and creativity are valuable things. If you need proof, just look at the millions of pounds that businesses earn from back catalogues of music, films, TV shows and news footage.

(more…)


Filed under: The media,TV & film,Video-making — GS @ 9:57 pm
Wednesday 25 October 2006

Questions that Manchester Pride, Marketing Manchester & the Manchester Evening News don’t want to answer

On 18 August 2006 I wrote to Manchester Pride with the following questions. I received a reply from Marketing Manchester, saying that I would get a ‘prompt reply’ just as soon as Pride was over. More than two months later I am still waiting…

Here is my letter:

(more…)


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester — GS @ 1:14 pm
Thursday 21 September 2006

An inconvenient truth: Gay Manchester was better 20 years ago

Ad for Heros gay club, Manchester 1980's

I get tired of newspaper articles that make out that the gay ‘scene’ in Manchester used to be so seedy and bad years ago, but now it is so wonderful. It just isn’t true.

Take this article from 2003 which appeared in The Manchester Evening News — a newspaper that can be relied on to regurgitate hype about gay Manchester (just check out contradictory figures in the Evening News for attendance at Pride over the past eight years).

Here the Evening News quotes Iain Scott, owner of Taurus bar and restaurant in Canal Street who says:

“The last 10 years have seen the biggest evolution,” says Scott. “It has gone from three, maybe four, venues to over 30 venues in the Village Business Association.”

There may only have been a handful of venues around Canal Street. But if he is suggesting that there were only three or four in the whole of the city centre, then that is not true at all.

Flyer for Stuffed Olives mid-1980's with typewriter and magazines of the time

I moved to Manchester in 1982 and in the early to mid-1980s there were the following gay bars and clubs in Manchester city centre:

Stuffed Olives, High Society, No1 Club, Manhattan, Rembrandt, Dickens, Napoleons, The Union, New York, Heros, Archway, Thompson’s Arms.

A quick look at a couple of issues of Mancunian Gay magazine from the time shows some others that I don’t remember. The November 1983 mag lists: Why Not? on Ashton New Road and the Egerton Arms Hotel on Gore Street. The May 1984 issue lists Shadows on Union Street (later called El Cid). The June 1985 issue includes Paddys Goose on Bloom Street.

I make that 16 pubs and clubs. Not ‘three or four’.

‘Him Monthly’ August 1983 issue lists a leather/denim night every Friday at the Wheatsheaf pub on Camp Street (would you believe?) and there was the Poly gay disco also on Friday nights. And let’s not forget the Bloom Street Cafe and Gaze bookshop and Clone Zone which were also on Bloom Street.

There were two gay bars that we used to go to in nearby Stockport: The Baker’s Vaults and the New Inn.

Flyer for Heros gay club, Manchester, 1983

In those days, gay bars and clubs were almost entirely gay. There were no straight boys looking for a fight and no shrieking hen parties. On the whole, people were not on drugs and it was rare to see anyone drunk and incapable. It was really quite civilised and fun. You could enjoy a night out without worrying that you might have your face punched in or drink spiked.

Yes it’s true you had to knock on the door to get into some places. But that kept out the trouble-makers. These days they are inside the pubs and clubs.

Ad for Manhattan gay club, Manchester 1980's

In the 1980s some of the places were in better parts of town: Stuffed Olives and Heros were on the other side of Deansgate to Kendall’s department store. Manhattan was in Spring Gardens and No.1 Club was near the town hall. In fact, far less ‘seedy’ than Canal Street is now.

Ad for No 1 gay club, Manchester 1980's

Many venues were gay owned and run (unlike today). There may be double the number of venues that claim to be ‘gay’ now. But I reckon there are fewer gay men and women out on the scene now than there were in Manchester 25 years ago.

This isn’t just because everywhere is now ‘mixed’, but also because older gay people aren’t welcomed by and don’t ‘fit in’ to most places in 2006. Meanwhile, many gay youngsters reject what the scene offers and can socialise perfectly well without it.

Years ago, it really was like a family. You would see senior citizens in The Rembrandt and The Union alongside 18-year-olds. Out on the scene we had friends of all ages and some of the older ones were almost like aunt or uncle figures to us. We valued their experience and advice and enjoyed their company. They cooked meals for us (poor students) and threw the best parties in town.

But where do older people go in the wonderful gay village now, Evening News? Do tell… That public community has broken down and everyone is poorer now because of it. I would say, in general, there is more ageism, sometime bordering on age phobia (everyone aged over 35 is a paedo — it’s a well-known fact!) and perhaps fewer mixed-age relationships because those are less accepted (‘what will my mates think?’).

However, off the scene, mixed-age LGBT friendships are still very much around. Some of my dearest friends are aged in their twenties. But we rarely meet or do anything on Canal Street. If the gay village, scene and Pride don’t welcome everyone, what is the point of them? Are they a force for good or bad?

Ad for High Society gay club, Manchester 1980's

The old magazines also list a number of gay groups that met and there was the Gay Centre in the heart of things on Bloom Street.

The 1982 and 1984 issues list two clinics in the city centre area where you could get a sexual health check up. Compared to one today. In those days you could actually walk in and see someone immediately without having to wait up to six weeks for an appointment as you have to now.

The Pink Picnic 1990

The Pink Picnic 1990

Out, proud and very visible at the Pink Picnic 1990. It was held on a public footpath next to the Dovestone Reservoir at Saddleworth. No fences, politicians, marketing people, police or permission. All the money collected went to good causes.

And as for people not being ‘very proud to be seen’ until the gay village became over-commercialised and full of straight people in the mid 1990’s, with bars like Manto… What a travesty of the truth: tell that to the thousands of men and women who walked around the city centre (not in front of friendly crowds) and then packed Albert Square for the Section 28 rally in 1988, the Liberation ’91 march, or who took part in the Walk For Life every year.

They were out and proud on the streets. By comparison, how much courage does it take to go to a ‘mixed’ bar where you can pretend to be straight if anyone sees you there?

Liberation 91 march, Manchester

Watch historic video footage of the Liberation 91 lesbian and gay rally in Manchester, 1991

What is there is to be so proud of now? It’s all about money, youth, alcohol and hairless gym bodies. Our (non-political) Pride event excludes people who can’t afford to pay and the binge-drinking, drug-taking, self-destructive culture which it promotes results in many actually ending up with HIV and needing a lifetime of expensive combination therapy.

Raising money to help the fight against HIV and AIDS at a Jumble sale on Canal Street, August Bank Holiday, Manchester 1990
Raising money to help the fight against HIV and AIDS at a Jumble sale on Canal Street, August Bank Holiday, Manchester 1990
Raising money to help the fight against HIV and AIDS at a Jumble sale on Canal Street, August Bank Holiday, Manchester 1990

Above: raising money to help the fight against HIV and AIDS at a jumble sale on Canal Street, Manchester, August Bank Holiday, 1990.

Which makes a mockery of the relatively small amount that Manchester Pride raises for charity. In 2006 people with HIV were actually charged to walk in the Pride parade.

Currently, the gay village is something to be ashamed of, not celebrated. We have let big business and the City Council destroy the community that we once had.

Meanwhile the same people are behind this blatant rewriting of history because it suits them and their business purposes.

As for Iain Scott’s suggestion that in the 1950’s ‘all’ the buildings in the Canal Street area ‘were derelict’, this isn’t true. In a recent episode of BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, featuring David Dickinson, he revealed that in the 1960’s he worked in a building on Princess Street opposite the New Union. There were lots of businesses operating in the area.

Photo 1: from 1963, a shot of the site where Clone Zone stands now on Sackville Street. There are two neat little shops that are open for business. On the far right of the block is what is now Napoleons (then a restaurant) and beyond it a church which stood where the Bloom Street car-park is today.

Photo 2: The Rembrandt in 1962. The shoe repair shop next door was still there thirty years later.

Photo 3: this picture from 1973 shows a restaurant in the building that is now Thompson’s Arms.

Photo 4: a cafe and a couple of other businesses at the junction of Sackville Street and Major Street in 1962. This is the street that is between the CIS building and Bloom Street car-park.

In all, a thriving area I would say and probably with a wider variety of different businesses than there are now.

UPDATES: small additions were made to this article on 5 September 2009.


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester,The media — GS @ 6:08 am
Thursday 24 August 2006

Greg Palast on ‘The Fear Factory’

I’m going to tell you something which is straight-up heresy: America is not under attack by terrorists. There is no WAR on terror…

Greg Palast on why fear sells better than sex and how The War on Terror is the Weapon of Mass Distraction. Read it here.

Greg Palast’s investigative reports appear on the BBC, in The Guardian and in Harpers. However, research costs money and he ‘ain’t too proud to beg‘.

Work in progress includes:

1. The untold story of the New Orleans flood.
2. Shoplifting your vote: November 2006 fix.
3. The next oil war.
4. [Confidential.]


Filed under: Politics — GS @ 7:57 am
Wednesday 19 July 2006

There’s a £50 fee to be in the Manchester Pride parade this year

If you want to take part in Manchester’s annual gay pride parade this year you will have to pay £50 + VAT. No, this isn’t a fee for businesses — they already pay more than £1000 to be in the parade.

It is a charge for every non-profit group and individual. Whether you are unemployed, disabled, poor, retired, have HIV, you will have to cough up more than fifty quid to walk through the streets of Manchester and celebrate being lesbian or gay.

When I saw the report in this morning’s Independent newspaper, it took my breath away.

It is bad enough that the cynical, money-focused people who run this event these days, fenced off the gay village and introduced an entrance fee back in 2003. In 2006 that entry charge is up 50% for many people, from £10 to £15.

But this latest stunt has to be the final straw. The signs are that they are selling fewer tickets each year. Money raised for charity in 2005 was the lowest figure since 2002. They seek to mislead the public over their costs.

It’s time for everyone to boycott Manchester Pride and force a change and go back to the roots of this event.

I believe that the biggest threat the gay community in Britain faces now, comes from the people who dream up schemes like this. Those who seek to make money from us at every opportunity. They are only interested in people who can pay.

The current organisers have completely lost sight of what Pride means.

How is it that other sections of the community in Manchester can hold parades and events that are free? But when it comes to the gay community we are told we must pay tens of thousands of Pounds in costs for security, street cleaning etc.?

Why is it that the gay village has to be fenced off with a high entry charge because it is serving alcohol, when alcohol can be served at other outdoor events in the city centre which are not fenced off?

If the City Council can tweak the byelaws to block off public roads in the gay village for a whole weekend, how come it can’t tweak the laws that relate to alcohol?

This is discrimination 2006 style. The gay community can be beaten and threatened into paying this money by businesses, the Police and Manchester City Council — all of whom say Pride won’t go ahead unless we agree to their terms (just look back to what happened in 2002 when the event was almost cancelled).

No other section of the community in Manchester is being hit in this way.


Filed under: LGBT,Manchester — GS @ 12:08 am
Thursday 6 July 2006

Rocketbust: the question the articles never asked about Rocketboom

Andrew Baron, the creator and producer of the videoblog show Rocketboom, and Amanda Congdon its star, have parted company according to reports.

In all the hype that surrounded Rocketboom in its first year online, there was one question that always went unanswered.

Print articles and TV reports were in awe of the show. Breathlessly, they told us how it was produced in an ordinary living room, had a quarter of a million viewers each day and yet cost just $20-$50 to make. Some even suggested that the main expense was photographic light-bulbs.

Andrew, the creator and producer of Rocketboom, was quoted as saying he spent some 8-14 hours making each five-minute episode. Which will be no surprise to anyone who has been involved in the time-consuming business of making television programmes or video.

But, as they predicted a rash of ‘user-generated’ Rocketboom-style programmes coming to a website near you, what none of these ‘anyone can do it’ reports ever asked, was how did the people behind Rocketboom pay the rent and buy food?

It was clear that making Rocketboom was a full-time job. After a year, I began to wonder. Did Rocketboom have a financial backer who had given them start-up cash? Was Andrew a rich-kid who didn’t have to worry about earning a living? Were they all on welfare?

Of course money isn’t everything, but eventually it became clear they did want to earn an income from the show.

As a video blog, Rocketboom has been a spectacular success. A phenomenon and I wholeheartedly congratulate Andrew and Amanda on what they did. But, as a business, it represents a missed opportunity of quite staggering proportions. I read they made about $80,000 from the one ad they had so far.

To be running for eighteen months, with 300,000 viewers per day, five days per week, and make only that, is just mind-boggling. With Google ads you can make $500 a year from a website that only gets 50 visitors a day…

History is littered with the tales of people who had great ideas or creativity, but failed to do what was necessary to turn those into an income. Rocketboom gave away its product under a creative commons licence. Its website and show usually carried no ads. It seems to me that the only valuable asset is the ‘brand’ and Amanda Congdon is a huge part of that.

Now the bubble has burst. Occasionally Rocketboom was brilliant (Amanda dancing in Russia), but often it was a bit too off-the-wall and left us scratching our heads in bemusement. Andrew was an expert on the RSS distribution side of things, with the result that Rocketboom was the first to make it big. It was a novelty and highly popular for that reason. That iconic combination of Amanda and the map… They captured a moment in time and I fear that moment is now over.

If I was Amanda, I would start making a new online show right now while she is so much in the public eye. If I was Andrew, I would sell the Rocketboom show, archives (which don’t have a lot of value because they are so topical) and domain name and split the money with Amanda, while they still have the chance to make some money from this. Otherwise Rocketboom is going to begin a slow fade into history without making either of them rich.

The worst thing would be to get tied up in a legal case for several years, by which time there will be nothing left to carve up. Time is of the essence for both of them…


Filed under: Net & technology — GS @ 11:17 am
Wednesday 3 May 2006

The BBC, public participation and ‘user generated’ content

How serious is the BBC about public participation and user-generated content? Not very serious, I would say…

The BBC has always looked on the public as material to be used in its programmes and now it looks on photographs and videos that come from that public as material to be used in its programmes. So not much change…

The old joke is that the official BBC tie has small checks (cheques). But, for many people these days, the BBC means no cheques…

My experience, as a former magazine writer/photographer and now web developer, is that the Corporation is always on the look out for free content. I’m tired of producers and researchers asking to use my photographs for free. There’s never any money. With a remit to encourage creativity and promote culture in Britain, the BBC is the last organisation that should be doing this.

Then there’s the raw deal that independent TV production companies have experienced over the years… If this is the BBC’s attitude to fellow professionals, then pardon me for being just a little bit cynical about the Beeb’s enthusiasm for material from the public.

READ THE SMALL PRINT

Before you supply any photos or videos, as a member of the public, read the terms. You’re giving the BBC:

‘a royalty-free, non-exclusive licence to publish and otherwise use the material in any way that we want, and in any media worldwide. This may include the transmission of the material by our overseas partners’

In the case of video, it says they may not even be able to credit you. Wonderful — no payment and not even a name-check either. Isn’t there some European law that entitles everyone to be identified as the author of his or her work?

I hope the public will wake up to this soon. I believe that the companies that deal unfairly now will pay later once people get over the novelty of seeing their video on screen and realise that they have been ‘used’.

It really pays to keep people happy these days. The video blogger or photographer who has a good experience of providing footage to a company, may continue to do so for years to come. But leave someone with a bad taste in their mouth and there will be no more material from that source in the future.

Guess which of these is the best business model?

UPDATE: LoadedPun has the story of a video blogger who helped CNN make a report for TV but then was told he would have to pay $1000 if he wanted to include the final video on his blog. In fact, so far, he hasn’t even been able to see the report!

Maybe this guy will think twice before getting involved with CNN again? Piss off enough videobloggers, who then tell everyone else, and soon no one will want to work with CNN. It seems that yet another big media company hasn’t quite woken up to the way things are changing?

 
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