By Maura Kelly
On July 15, Reporters Uncensored (RUTV) will launch its first season of thought-provoking, international news and analysis of leading social entrepreneurs LIVE on the Web. RUTV is anchored by journalist and senior advisor to Reporters without Borders, Tala Dowlatshahi and features a team of independent local reporters from around the world. This week, executive producer, Maura Kelly writes about behind the scenes and what you can expect in the upcoming weeks.
Technically speaking it's all about the connections
It's Monday afternoon and I'm in the office waiting on the launch of our new Web site complete with an embedded Livestream broadcast player. Live, 24/7, linear and VOD all in a single player and with streaming video software, soon RUTV will be live on the Internet for anyone anywhere to view and comment on. The day has been full of tweaking scripts, screening clips from our team, all the while, I'm wondering if the TV Skype interview we set-up with our Sudanese reporter is going to make it into the show. He is planning on using the nearest post office computer since his is not powerful enough; it's antiquated actually and can't handle Skype. Our first show looks at Dafur and the International Criminal Court's (ICC) arrest warrant for President Al-Bashir for his alleged crimes against humanity. Our man in Sudan is key. But we do have a back-up because new technology is NEW and bugs are ever-present. That's what happens when you decide to use the latest digital tools and software to connect reporters in different regions of the world to give voice to those not in the prime time news game.
Overall, Tala and I am excited about the launch, and the team of local journalists worldwide who have signed on. Right now, RUTV is the only program on the Web devoted to exploring international issues through the lens of local reporters on the ground. A secondary focus of the show will be to highlight social entrepreneurs who are creating positive social change around these issues.
The RUTV team come from far and wide: from the teacher/writer in Kenya to the youth correspondent in Peru -- a seasoned filmmaker in Tehran, an investigative reporter and human rights activist in Nigeria to the environmentalist in Poland We are especially pleased to have local African reporters who will talk about African issues and discuss the ICC and Dafur on show one. It is the combination of multiple perspectives and our RUTV staff -- international in flavor and multi-disciplined that will give the series a big voice.
Deciding on the topics and what to include
There are unfortunately too many international issues that the mainstream news outlets do not cover. Not sexy enough, the audience is not interested, doesn't get the rating. RUTV is unfiltered, uncensored and looks for important issues that get lost.
On Wednesday, the series opens with a brief look at Iran from the POV of host Tala Dowlatshahi, an Iranian-American and creator of the show. The main topic this week takes advantage of the annual International Day of Justice on July 17th to look at the ICC's indictment of President Al-Bashir of Sudan. Many African leaders and academics are critical of the ICC and we'll discuss its role in today's world. JUSTICE or RACIST? Local African reporters will talk about how average people in their country really feel.
We will also discuss Mahood Mamdani's latest book "Saviors and Survivors" which looks at the ICC as a racist institution set up by colonial powers to exploit African countries. Skeptics of his book say Mamdani is neglecting to fully take into account that the ICC is not a watch dog group and that the court was created largely based on the political will of the states whose signatories include many African country members. We tried to interview Mr. Mamdani for the show but our schedules collided but we had to include his book and its content.
At RUTV we like to test the waters and see how others feel and think about the issues. We'll hear from Tove Gerdhardsen in Copenhagen about what Europeans think of the warrant.
It turns out that Mahood Mamdani is also very critical of the Save Dafur Campaign stating, "Save Darfur has turned into a lavishly funded and massive ad campaign spreading and sustaining a lethal illusion, consistently exaggerating the level of mortality and racializing the reasons for it." We will have a rep for the Save Dafur campaign respond and also hear about their latest efforts.
Now the serious works begins
In the past year, a whole new world has opened up in the global news business: citizen journalism, camera-phones, twitter and tweets and now broadcasting live on the Web from multiple sources -- without fiber or satellite feeds. RUTV is testing it all and working out the technical bugs thanks to our partner Livestream.com (and we're using the term "launch" loosely). We'll be Live and On Demand starting July 15 at 6pm on Reporters Uncensored.
Thanking you in advance for watching from anywhere and anytime.
Maura Kelly is an Emmy-award winning producer and former executive producer at PBS