Zero budget broadcasting

Quality, as Robert Pirsig pointed out, is an odd concept: neither subjective nor objective. So when folk start talking about a need for quality to be higher: they are probably bonkers or work in advertising or the media. Sometimes they are both bonkers and work in advertising or the media.

But despite all that you knew what they meant at the Sheffield Documentary Festival when they talked about the need to raise quality. It's tough out there and rapidly getting tougher. There are a lot of good video makers and there will be a lot more quite soon. At the same time the opportunities any of them have to sell the stuff they produce are probably not increasing and may even be diminishing. There are certainly more opportunities to get that video shown than there have ever been, but many of them offer scant reward.

Last year at Sheffield the emphasis was on co-production. That is getting more than one company to pay for a video. This year, the dreaded concept of zero budget videos raised its ugly head.

What this means is that the tv company shows the video for nothing, zilch, rein! Given that many out there are desperate to get their stuff shown, some will agree to this.

I've been here before. Years ago, journalists had nothing to do with public relations agencies. Then they started taking the stuff and re-writing it. Finally they printed it verbatim.

The result of all that was business to business or trade magazines became corrupted. Readers believed everything they saw was an advert. Advertising salesmen got increasing power as it was realised that the readers had stopped reading (why bother?) and it was possible to fill the gaps between the genuine adverts with PR. The salesmen eventually became publishers and took over control from editors. End result magazines became junk mail, many readers put them straight in the bin and advertisers realised they were getting very little for their money and put increasing pressure on the magazines for better deals: like editorial features to back up the advertising.

This ghastly spiral seemed to be unstoppable. Will the same thing happen to TV? I hope not.