PoliceTube: How Online Video is Helping Criminal Investigations

Youtube: A Place to share videos of yourself with those around you. What if those people were the Police? Would you still upload videos then?

Now more than ever before, Authorities are realising the power of online video; for making connections, for broadcasting appeals, and for finding the criminal who is responsible. We are all aware of CCTV and its effectiveness in monitoring the public. We are also aware of its impingement of privacy and the big brother culture of the world today.

You might think it is a bit of fun to upload a video of your friend mucking about causing crimes you don’t find particularly offensive. But you must remember that these videos are not anonymous. Police can track you down.

Amidst the Student Protests last December, hundreds if not thousands of crimes were committed, but for those unlucky enough to be filmed, it was only a matter of time until it got uploaded to the world wide web.

Every other day it seems that the BBC report stories of people being identified from amateur footage found online. Police are catching onto this and they’re becoming increasingly good at it. You can see the petrol bomb story on the BBC News website here.

Given the massive influence online video has in journalism, papers across Britain can link to the film on youtube, which will then encourage thousands of users to log on and have a look.

But Orwell can be kept at bay for the meantime, because by the same sword the Police fight by, the Police themselves can be slayed. See here for possible evidence of a Police man apparantly charging at protestors on horseback.

Online video is now not only helping convict civilians, but also helping with the conviction of the Police too.

To the right we see wheelchair-bound activist Jody McIntyre who was reportedly filmed being dragged from his wheelchair amidst the student protests. And below – the video footage which was uploaded to youtube that sparked controversy late last year.

Online Video has also helped police in a pro-active sense: They have now started uploading their own, in a bid to crack down on crime.  Thames Valley Police Unit in particular have taken this stance and issued videos asking for any witnesses to come forward with any informati0n they may have. They have asked for info on a 14 year old knee-capping via youtube and this morning on a case regarding sexual assault. See video below:

Yesterday it was announced that High Definition CCTV systems are currently being tested across the UK that are up to 50 times more powerful than traditional CCTV cams. They have thus far been installed at local authorities and service stations, and the Aviva stadium is reportedly using them.

Looks like we’ll soon see new CCTV footage in HD quality on youtube soon! Talk about getting with the times eh!

by NICK KWEK

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Yesterday’s Television, Today’s Online, Tomorrow’s Disposable News

Last year’s Leaders debate attracted 4.1 million viewers across Sky News, BBC News Channel and Sky3, but online streams only attracted 300,000 viewers. And yet, during the festive period there, 145 million web surfers checked in at Hotel BBC iPlayer! With youtube hosting 93 online news channels, why are we still turning on the box?

In this digital age, are we still dragging our feet across the analogue field of television, or do news junkies keep up to date via online videos? Nick Kwek investigates…

Zoe Morris watches mainly music videos online and would only choose to watch news online if there was a big story already established to follow. Not exactly one for online breaking news.

Josh Cheesman relies on youtube for amusing videos and subscribes to feeds and forums for updates. He feels news feeds are best watched on the official BBC and Sky News websites. A trusted news website suits him best.

Siobhan Schwartzberg chooses to look up youtube for individual speeches, or special packages. She wouldn’t log onto the BBC website for individual news packages, but rather prefers watching entire news programs. – something perhaps more comfortably done via television.

AH! Sorry about the lighting Tony. Alas, a peril of mobile shooting! Tony relies on BOTH television and the internet: the BBC website and Yahoo are his poison of choice for current affairs news feeds.

Okay, so these participants are hardly a broad spectrum of our society, but they are genuine case studies and they do give us various opinions about watching news online. Surprisingly, only Josh regularly watches news online as a principal source for his current affairs, but this is not so shocking when we bear in mind the statistics. Check this out, as shown by a BBC conducted study:

Only 1 in 10 people say they watch online video once a week, with a whopping 67% saying that they “NEVER and CANNOT conceive watching online TV in the future”! But, it appears as if they may not have a choice in the matter, with advertisers steadily spending billions online rather than television. Since 2007 in fact, there has been a fall in the number of television viewers and a marked rise in the number of viewers online:

Online figures have almost tripled in 4 years.

The obvious advantage for watching content online is that you can watch it any time you wish; day or night, you can still access the same material broadcast via television earlier that day or indeed before it is broadcast. You can watch it for as long as you like, there is always a pause button, and you can go back and watch it as many times as you wish. But whilst it may be a good thing that people are keeping up to date online at various instances throughout the day, is this not impinging on the quality of the news uploaded, and are we appreciating and taking it in as much as we should, knowing full well that disposable news is at our fingertips?!

by NICK KWEK


Interested in Online Video Journalism? Enrol in a free course at NewsU International

Just last week NewsU International launched a new self-directed course to help journalists learn the basics of online video journalism.

NewsU International, a partnership between the Poynter Institute and the International Center for Journalists, has launched the Video Storytelling for the Web training course in Persian. An English version of the class is also available here.

The course will teach participants how to produce online reports for distribution in online media. The course is aimed at print and photojournalists who want to expand their skills into online video but is also open to any students and other people interested in journalistic standards and the capturing and editing of video.

After completing this course, participants will be able to:

  • To select the best stories for the Web
  • To plan their stories
  • The basics of selecting and setting up audio and video equipment
  • To conduct an interview for a Web story
  • The basics of editing video for the Web

As a student in TV journalism with modules in online journalism I think this is a great opportunity for all those interested in producing their own online videos. If you look through this blog you will see our numerous attempts at it. Some have work, some haven’t but all were great fun to make and made you feel that you were doing something worthwhile that can impact on people’s lives in really important ways.

You may think that there is no need for such a course, that producing an online video is simply a matter of pointing your camera at something then uploading the results onto YouTube. However I can tell you from experience that this is certainly not the case. There are so many little important techniques and nuances of filming and research that without professional instructions can easily be overlooked.

What is so good about this course is that it is offered in Persian and this is no coincidence. In Iran, a country which severly suppresses free speech and journalistic integrity, it is great that an organization such as NewsU is offering the people this opportunity. As although the government may control the television networks’ output, they can’t control what is uploaded online. Thus we see the importance of learning good online video journalism techniques as in this way oppressed people can still have their true voices heard.

If you are interested in enrolling in the free course, you must first register your interest here at the NewsU International site.

Yianni Meleagros


The VJ Movement

The VJ movement is a website that brings together over 150 professional video journalists and cartoonists from over 100 countries contributing their own perspective on a wide variety of stories. In this way they the user can be as well informed as possible in order to form their own opinion on the story. As they say on their website, “We as journalists believe that there is more than one truth.”

They encourage users to post ideas and pitch stories but it is not citizen journalism. Users can help set the agenda but the items are all produced by professional journalists. By having so many different contributors they aim to provoke discussion and thus discover even more new opinions and perspectives on different topics.

They aim to produce videos that while being separate stories in their own right are linked together on a wider level. By allowing users to pitch their own ideas they ensure that the citizen and journalists are in a constant dialogue, something that is not really replicated anywhere else with the same level of success.

Moreover they have set up the VJ Foundation which is a non-profit organization that exists to support local journalists, encourage high quality journalism across the world and enhance international reporting. The foundation also provides support and training to journalists in regions where freedom of the press is under pressure. It also strives to increase awareness of the importance of the role of journalism in society.

For me what makes this website so special is the opportunity to get your ideas made into actual projects. For example, back in October a story was pitched about the situation with regards to homosexuality in Ecuador. Ecuador was the first country in the Americas to recognize same-sex relationships. However at the same time there are various clinics that claim ‘cure’ homosexuality. I found this piece really interesting and it really opened my eyes to the ostracization towards homosexuals that is still felt in many parts of the world. You can see the video below.

As mentioned earlier, the VJ movement attempts to link together separate stories to highlight similar injustices throughout the world. Linked but separate from the Ecuador story is one about how homosexuals in Israel are bypassing the strict religious laws by marrying abroad. Although there is a thriving gay community in the liberal city of Tel Aviv, the majority of the rest of the country is much less open-minded. In 2006 the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages abroad must be legally recognized. Despite much opposition from the government this verdict has yet to be overturned thus allowing homosexuals in Israel to live the lifestyle they desire and remain in their homeland.

As we have seen the VJ movement is doing such good work throughout the world publicizing stories with the help of their users that may have otherwise slipped under the radar. On top of this their foundation puts into action the principles and morals that they adhere to. Lets all hope the VJ movement keeps on rolling for many years to come.

Yianni Meleagros


The Young Turks – Online Video Journalism the way it should be

The Young Turks (TYT) is a new media talk show that covers news, politics, pop culture and lifestyle. It started as a talk show on Sirus Satellite Radio in the US in 2002 and then with the launch of YouTube in 2005 it soon became a successful webcast with one of the largest and most viewed channels on YouTube.

The host is Cenk Uygur, a regular contributor to MSNBC and the Huffington Post. In an interview with the Guardian last year, he told them that he wants to start a real political revolution in the US. The Young Turks itself is apart of a media revolution that Uygur hopes will replace traditional television. It has on average over 13 million viewers a month, with the majority coming from the US, Canada and the UK.

Uygur conceived TYT because he believes that eventually online TV will overtake regular programming and that American’s have a deficiency of real public service journalism. “We’re looking for journalism in all the wrong places. What’s the last story anyone on television in America broke?”

Uygur decided to turn down a $250,000 radio-only deal and TYT became the first daily streaming online talk show. It earned 30,000 viewers in its first month; by February of last year it had reached more than 200m views on YouTube. “Before if you got on CNN or ABC in America that was huge and that was the best thing, if you were a cable station it was great – they always bragged about ‘Oh, we’re in 72m homes’. Now I think, so what? YouTube is in every home.”

With just six other full-time members of staff and a monthly budget of just $45,000, the success of TYT has been quite remarkable. They make their money through sponsorship, subscriptions and YouTube revenue sharing. It has no advertising budget, the viewers provide the publicity by sharing links and clips on social networking sites. This is like word of mouth to the masses.

TYT keeps up with the US network programming by being able to book a wide variety of guests because of its ever-increasing popularity. As it has no higher up television executives telling them what to do or which guests to give an easy ride, they are able to ask what the public really wants to know. Needless to say this has upset a few people. “I heard from [US Senate majority leader] Harry Reid’s office, after his interview, that we were effectively blacklisted for future interview requests. I didn’t really shed a tear. We’re gonna be all right.”

The TYT has also been recognized by its peers for the sterling work that they do. They beat both the BBC and Rush Limbaugh, the leading talk radio host, to win Best Political Podcast 2009 at the Podcast Awards and Best Political News Site 2009 at the Mashable Awards.

According to Uygur this is just rewards for all the hard work he and his team have put it. “We worked really hard at getting all the details right. Whether it’s the tagging of the video or the thumbnail [image] … What ultimately mattered most was that we were delivering something the American media wasn’t. The American media is delivering nothing but fakeness,”

If all online video journalism could aspire to the standards of TYT then perhaps Uygur is right and traditional television may soon become obsolete.

Yianni Meleagros


At The Scene: Online Video’s Crucial Role in Breaking News

So, there you are in the office writing up your script for the BBC’s News at Ten and at 9.40pm the juiciest news story breaks out all around you! How do you capitalise on this massively visual piece NOW whilst it’s still hot?  What do you do? What can you do? The answer is Nothing. You are forced to sit, wait for 10pm and watch as the pie quickly cools…

GUTTED without Online Video

“What about the BBC News Channel and Sky News? They provide 24 hour rolling news!” Correct, you are right there. But only for people who can afford satellite television, which currently only stands at one THIRD of UK homes. The other 66%, the majority, are left to wait.

Your smug fellow colleagues at BBC who work in the department of BBC News Online, on the other hand, can dig in straight away. They can even burn their tongues by capitalising on news so fast.

It’s not just them stuffing their chops – Sky News Online, CNN, and Twitter constantly dine at the online video buffet for breaking news stories. And when they do, they can be assured it’s always fresh.

When the story of the 7/7 bombings in London broke in July 2005, the BBC went straight online to youTube and Flickr for videos and photos of what had happened. The user generated comments they found there also gave them ideas about the potential casualties they needed to report.
Jo Twist, BBC’s Technology Reporter says:

“Unlike TV cameras, mobile phones only need a functioning network to send back moving images. This can be done at the touch of a couple of buttons.

TV crews often need feed links and complex set-ups to file back their high-quality images.

The grainy quality of the moving mobile images will improve over time, but news organisations say viewers forgive the quality as they understand the circumstances in which such footage is often shot.”

The above video was taken by David Couzins, an un-injured train passenger underground the day of the 7/7 bombings. He says:

“Although not particularly interesting, I did manage to email this video directly to some of the world’s major newsrooms as soon as I got to the surface (something that was reasonably advanced in 2005) and as a result both the BBC and Sky News played this video numerous times throughout the day as the story unfolded. I will never forget that day.”

Amateur videos are becoming extremely popular as time goes on, as the average person becomes more and more adept to shooting their own footage comfortably and sharing it immediately. Their proxomity to the scene of the story cannot be beaten by news organisations, bacause it is from those involved that the organizations are alerted in the first place. Take the disaster in Haiti for instance:

In reporting the earthquake disaster in Haiti in Jan 2010, the BBC posted amateur footage from youtube without properly discovering its source or checking its reliability. But even if you do check the sources, and they all add up, time will not wait for you.

And even if you do provide up-to-the-minute news during broadcast, nothing can be done once transmission has ceased: if a burning story breaks at 10.36pm, there’s no opportunity to broadcast it for another 6 hours on BBC One until 4.35am the following day.

With online news, you can be sure to get that breaking story out and spread it to the world fast. You don’t have to send a reporter to the place of the incident. You don’t have to voxpop for mixed reviews/opinions. You don’t have to reconstruct any action that takes place. You just have to venture online.

Because Online Video will always be first at the scene.

by NICK KWEK


Goliath is Back: 4oD versus the BBC for the title of Video On Demand Champion

It’s a classic case of David meets Goliath but in the digital age. This time the big dog bites back, leaving the rest trailing behind.

So without further ado, let the battle commence…

As a devout viewer of Channel 4 for the past 22 years, I quickly caught on to the idea of being able to watch television programmes when they weren’t on television. Thus, when Channel 4 on Demand (4oD) opened its web-based doors in November of 2006, I was already camped outside propped up on a deck chair enjoying a ham sandwich ready for an invite inside. At first, I was asked for ID and subsequently rejected – oh the nostalgia of only being allowed 4oD access if you were a member of Channel 4. I even remember being asked to pay once I had gained entry, you know, to see special material. This option didn’t particularly tickle my fancy however, so I declined. But once I signed-up, I was in, and to my genuine belief, I was there to stay.

At first I tried to keep it quiet, on the down low, hush hush. Because here I was, in what felt like rather a state of privilege – I was getting to see exclusively Channel 4 content as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted. Whilst others still tried to catch the latest Eastenders or Coronation street fidgeting in the cold, I was lounging at home with my feet up watching the latest Peep Show episode, and when I felt like it, the complete series of Nigel Slater broadcast nearly 10 years ago in ‘98. I could even pop to the kitchen for a cuppa, just keeping the programme on pause.

Yup – life as a viewer was pretty sweet until late 2007…when BBC iPlayer was firmly launched…

But who noticed the launch? I mean, really?! People by this stage were revelling in the apparently endless 4oD collection that was growing by the day, both with old and archive material. And by this time, over 100 million visitors had watched 4oD. No no, it wasn’t until iPlayer’s re-vamp in the summer of 2008 that it gained any real attention. And even then, the Beeb could only offer a 7-day catch-up, whereas 4’s programmes were there for always. Faith restored. For the meantime.

Slowly and surely though, things started changing – iPlayer continued to grow, as did 4oD, but in a different way. A better way.

Soon, the Black Books series wasn’t available on 4oD…Well-known films started to disappear…Advertisement breaks started springing up out of nowhere, like toadstools on a perfectly preened lawn.

Simultaneously, the Beeb quickly caught on to the fact they have thousands of hours of archive footage at their disposal, buried away in the depths of television history. They were soon shown the light.

And as all this was happening and both 4oD and iPlayer gained their following, ITV got a little lonely. Soon they became hungry for a piece of the pie. Sadly though, it looks like they’ll remain hungry for a long time yet. The ITV Player is completely littered with advertisement breaks, to the point that viewing a simple half-hour show is a frustratingly laborious task. ‘Celebrity Juice’ for instance, has FOUR ad breaks for its half-hour show – with not just one of a few seconds, but FIVE 30 second-long clips. Not to mention the incredibly exacerbating slow speed of the site; you feel as though you should be awarded a medal for Audience Commitment by the time it loads. The sporadic pop-out window, too, is another spit in the face.

Then there is Demand 5. Yes, that’s right, Channel 5’s Video On Demand service. What is that you ask? Exactly. Let’s not dwell on it, but simply conclude that it has never been viewed by yourself, your family, or any of your immediate associates. BT Vision gave up on it in October of last year, so we can too.

Now, back to the betrayal.

These days, Alfa Romeos are more reliable than 4oD, and iPlayer sort of just makes sense: It’s not just one channel’s programmes up for grabs; You’ve got BBC HD now, as well as BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC News, BBC Parliament, BBC Alba, CBBC BBC and CBEEBIES BBC. In iPlayer, there are no annoying Pop-ups, if there are ads, they’re far and few between and the overall streaming service seems faster. You can also download programmes onto your hard drive and keep them forever and ever, and now almost every programme can be enjoyed in High Definition!

Courtesy of Worldtvpc

As the latest statistics reveal, viewer figures for iPlayer DOUBLED from 60m to 120m a month between 09/10! And that was a year ago.

No more Peep Show for me!

Sorry 4oD, but unless you pull your technical socks up, you’re going to end up like Myspace – full of creepy old men pretending they’re cool.

BY NICK KWEK