Grameen Video?


Brother can you spare a dime?

In 2006, Mohammed Yunis received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mohammed Yunis was and is a banker, and we generally don’t think of giving the Nobel Peace Prize to bankers. But Yunis was different, and so was his idea.

He was the founder of the Grameen Bank.

Grameen Bank (or Bank of Villages) was founded by Yunis in 1974 following the Bangla Desh famine. He made a loan of $27 to a group of 42 families so that they could get their lives back in order. They repaid, and an idea was born – microlending.

Today the Bank has 2247 branches, covering more than 72,000 villages. 97% of the borrowers are women, and the loan recovery rate is 98.85%, putting it far ahead of many currently failing mortgage lending institutions in this country. It is estimated that Grameen has lifted more than 50 million people out of poverty.

The Bank and its constituents are now worth over $7 billion.

All of this brings me to video.

I started to think of this after a board meeting last week of Videovolunteers.

Video is an exploding industry in places like India – far moreso than in the US.

The radical drop in the cost of cameras and edits, the explosion in platforms in satellite, cable and web… They all open the door for a different kind of structure in countries where all the cameras were owned by the state broadcaster.

Maybe, as with Grameen, the place for us to start is on the village level.

When I was last in India (or indeed in any part of the 3rd World), the profusion of television is astounding. I have been to the tiniest village in Laos where there is one TV set for the village, powered by a generator. Once, in Namche Bazaar, the last village in the Himalayas before the Khumba ice falls, I came upon the entire village gathered around a TV set and satellite watching Married, With Children, even though no one spoke a word of English.

But I am not talking so much about empowering locals with video cameras to report for CNN or webnews. That is still pretty far away.

But I think the infrastructure and costs are right to look at video as a cottage industry now.

I think we could equip and empower a whole generation of ‘local’ videographers who could earn an income by shooting and producing ‘village’ videos – weddings, local events, births, and so on. I have seen countless local photographers in villages across South Asia who make a living with gear that 47th Street Photo had in the throw away bin, even when they were still in business.

We could empower a kind of ‘Grameen’ Video, a very grass roots, yet self-sustaining local video infrastructure.

In time, these people, while earning a living, would also become increasingly sophisticated in terms of video production – and would, over time, seed whole parts of the planet with video literacy – something that is sorely lacking.

In time, they would become not only the ‘eyes and ears’ of events happening on the ground – they would become the ‘voice’ of the people that could speak to the world in a language we all understand…. and watch.

One day, perhaps, the notion of sending a ‘reporter and crew’ to Bangla Desh to cover a story will seem as quaint as the idea of sending a ‘regional governor’ to rule the place.


3 responses to “Grameen Video?

  1. As I was doing research for a recent comment here, I came across a little factoid that didn’t register at the time. It does seem to go with the current subject, so I’ll add it here.

    I was opining on the widely-used U-Matic systems that were the standard for so long, and how they gave way to new tech for the obvious reasons. It didn’t hit me at the time, but the article went on to say that this equipment is becoming popular in the third world because it still works and can be had for next to nothing.

    We might consider them boat anchors, but in the third world, they *are* the high tech. Maybe the first thing to start off the third world might be as simple as sending out a bunch of 3/4 inch tapes, as that’s what a lot of them are using for broadcast.

    These guys won’t be having HD sets, simply because they’ll be buying all the hand-me-down stuff from other countries. They don’t have the FCC forcing them to buy new standards.

    Maybe with the 27 clams they can start a local broadcast staion. They’ll probably show Gilligan’s Island reruns, though. But hey, it’s a start.

  2. Jim,

    The third world that I know is directed towards mini-DV. Less expensive gear that produces an acceptable quality at an acceptable price. Small enough to travel with and cheap enough to fit a third world budget.

    U-matic is dead. It has been for some time even in the third world. I’m not trying to make fun of your post or insult you. Just inform you.

    The third world broadcast stations are what I am talking about. Freelancers in those regions either use Betacam or mini DV. It’s been years since I’ve seen anyone, even third worlders, use 3/4 U-matic.

    You can’t even get replacement parts to maintain U-matic gear unless, it too, is used.

  3. I spoke too soon, I apologize.

    Most of my research suggested that Africa was using a lot of U-Matic. Going back over it, it seems that that is mostly for broadcasting old archived stuff, but not actually creating new stuff.

    Religious channels are done using very old stuff still, and you can find the decks on ebay for around $200. There is also a fan site for the decks, but even they say that U-Matic is completely dead.

    The places that I found actually shooting things (like original movies in small African countires) were all done in the 90’s.

    Thankfully for the VJ debate, everybody has moved to small DV camcorders.

    I stand corrected.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s