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Independent Media grassroots projects
Independent DIY media projects are spreading around the planet at unprecedented speed. Triggered by discontent with the mainstream media and supported by the widespread availability of media technologies, groups all over the world are creating their own channels of information and distribution in order to bypass the (mainstream) corporate media. The idea behind most of these projects is to create open platforms to which everyone can contribute - not only a small media elite with their particular interests. By eliminating the classic division between professional producers and passive audience, many issues and discussions that were previously suppressed become visible and available.
The media ´platforms´ used are as diverse as the people involved. Independent publications are produced in most regions of the world. One prominent example here in the UK is the weekly news sheet Schnews. Meanwhile, community and pirate radio stations are re-conquering the airwaves, being the only means of distributing information in many parts of the world. Video has become a particularly DIY-friendly technology, with some groups, such as the Brazilian TV Viva, organising open screenings in public places, and others, such as the German AK Kraak, producing regular video news shows. In countries with public access TV, groups such as the New York collective Paper Tiger compile videos as a TV show and screen them via public access slots. Elsewhere, other groups are starting to screen videos over the Internet - watch out, for example, for Pirate TV which is produced by the video collective Undercurrents. The Internet has many more alternative news and info sites to offer, from the grassroots noticeboard a-infos (Alternative News service) to the slightly larger non-governmental-organization (NGO) focused Oneworld online.
Reporting large scale events
Digitalisation allows a combination of all these media platforms. And it makes real-time reporting of major events possible - with the integrated use of mobile phones, laptops, irc, digital cameras and email.
The global anti-capitalism protests on June 18th 1999 saw the first co-ordinated attempt by DIY media groups to provide rapid reporting of large scale events both in London and across the globe. With London acting as an international media hub, a mixture of pictures, text reports, audio and video from around the world were posted to j18.org and reclaimthestreets.net, painting an inspiring picture of simultaneous grassroots action in over 40 countries, with the kind of raw direct coverage that the corporate media dreams of being speedily relayed across the planet. While the site suffered from a lack of still images, video and audio coverage was streamed live out over the Internet throughout the day; with corporate websites like www.FT.com (The Financial Times) relaying the stream directly from their front-page! The reaction from corporate media was one of astonishment, with networks like CNN contacting the London Media Centre to ask just how it had all been achieved!
This DIY media reporting concept was taken a stage further during the large-scale mobilizations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in November 1999. While the actions were again global, the Seattle ´Independent Media Center' (IMC) concentrated on providing a wealth of Seattle reports in all formats through the innovative use of a completely open publishing system. This allowed anyone with Internet access to upload either text, still images, audio or video files directly to the reporting website. With the actions spanning several days people could directly communicate and record their experiences on to the website, building not only one of the most complete records of political dissent ever, but also providing a valuable voice amidst all the chaos and smoke; in a few days the Seattle IMC site had received over 1.5 million ´hits´ from around the world.N30 report from London.
From April 16-18th 2000, the same model was used in Washington DC, USA, to provide extensive coverage of the mobilizations against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Again the protests were global. The scale of the coverage provided by Washington IMC of events in their own city was astounding. While many corporate news networks were reporting the restraint of the police, visitors to the Washington IMC could both see the images and hear the sounds of peaceful men and women being beaten, tear-gassed, and viciously attacked with pepper spray.
A growing network
In April 2003, 3 years after the anti-WTO actions in Seattle, there are more than 100 IMCs on all continents. They are all working together; building new alliances; and are well on the way to creating their own sustainable global independent media network. A part from physical meetings, Indymedia volunteers are coordinating the production and sharing of content through a system of presently between 600 and 700 email-lists, a twiki with over 600 users on currently 2723 topics, and a number of irc chats. The global IMC network is based on openness and broad participation: all software is opensource, most lists are publicly archived, everybody can sign up to the twiki, log-on in chatrooms, or publish on the newswire.
Crossing the Atlantic
After the anti-WTO actions in Seattle, several other IMCs were established in the US using the Seattle IMC as a model. On May 1st 2000 the name Indymedia moved across the Atlantic to London. Other European IMCs followed in Italy and France, IMC Prague was set up to cover the protests on S26 2000 in Prague.
From IMC UK to IMC United Kollektives
Indymedia (IMC) UK covered the Mayday 2000 actions in London and other places in the UK on a manually maintained website and introduced some fresh approaches to reporting large actions - most importantly the ´Public Access Terminals´ physically situated in the middle of the action, making it a true street media project and empowering everyone present to communicate their own experiences and views, live and direct. After having created a large compendium of experiences and accounts of Mayday 2000, people in London established their own open publishing site running on Active Code as part of the global imc network, and began to report on other actions in order to make visible some of the events and issues which are usually suppressed by the corporate media.
It was obvious that a truly country wide indymedia center had to be based on a network of local imc groups. The first network meeting was in Manchester, 6 months later in Lancaster, drawing new groups in. IMC UK became IMC United Kollektives.
June 2003 the IMC UK website migrates to a new system: MIR. This is one of the first indymedia project where several regional groups run their own site based on a shared database.
to be continued..
IMC UK, 25.06.2003 23:41