VBS.TV: online video journalism for the younger generation

VBS.TV is an online TV network that streams a variety of news, music, pop culture and current affairs videos. It was launched in 2007 by New York based media conglomerate Vice, in collaboration with MTV. The site is co-managed by creative director Spike Jonze, the Oscar nominated filmmaker whose credits include Being John Malkovich.

This online TV network is unusual. It targets a younger demographic of 18-24 year olds and offers more diverse content in terms of news and current affairs. It attempts to and succeeds in offering an alternative to the ‘dumbed down’ mainstream televisual programming so often focussed on celebrity culture. The site capitalises on far lower set-up costs and the knowledge that online plays such an important role in the lives of those fitting into this demographic. Confident that many of the younger generation are bored with Heat, Nuts and Paris Hilton, the site produces videos that offer a deeper look into important issues, formed as a result of their counter-culture philosophy.

VBS.TV has gained a strong following and industry recognition. VBS.TV online videos are featured on various other sites including YouTube and Vimeo. VBS online video documentaries have also been featured on CNN – the media organisation said they were ‘intrigued’ by the journalism and unique reporting approach of VBS. One video featured by CNN is an online video documentary about a forest at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan that has attracted hundreds to go there to commit suicide, and explores the pressures on people in modern Japan.

The videos have a transparent approach to them where the viewer is taken on every step of the reporting process. The site is wholly advertiser-funded and content is free to access. Many contributors and freelancers produce videos for the site. Whilst you’ll still find stories about sex, drugs and rock and roll, you’ll also find reports on the war on terror, and North Korean refugees. Below are some of my top pics:

  • A half hour documentary on the student protests over rising tuition fees and the scrapping of EMA entitled Teenage Riot. You can watch the video on VBS.TV by using this link: Teenage Riot.
  • A video which typifies what VBS is about called Heavy Metal in Baghdad, which is a unique documentary about the fortunes of Acrassicauda, Iraq’s only heavy metal band which formed during the final years of Saddam Hussein’s rule. They were only allowed to play if they included a pro-Saddam song in each set. The film provides an insight into the life of young people in modern day Iraq, and gives a fresh angle on a major world news story unexplored by the mainstream press.
  • Swansea Love Story – this is a moving and saddening documentary about heroin addiction filmed in the vein of gritty realism. Reporter involvement (RI) is extremely limited, even at times when the viewer is screaming at the reporter to intervene. The production of the piece achieved interesting and thought provoking shots by filming contrasting sequences of the main subjects with wide shots of the desolate Swansea landscape and also with shots of the local church choir which adds another layer to the film. You can watch part on on YouTube below:

Natasha Malcolm-Brown

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