"Bilderradio" the new media project for Dresden
by Georg Knobloch 8/6/99

Three years ago a group of youth and community workers, media producers and technicians thought about new ways in community broadcasting in Saxony. This was mainly due to the fact, that there was no such thing as public access radio or television even though that a part of the German TV-license fee has to be spend on public access to the electronic media by law. In federal states like Hessen or Mecklenburg Vorpommern this has been implemented by "Offener Kanal" (open channel). "Offener Kanal" means, that citizens of the area can produce free of charge radio features or TV programmes of their choice, and broadcast them on their own responsibility at local cable networks. In Saxony, it is a different story. The authorities here feared this highly democratic approach, because they thought, mainly radicals would use this new media to spread their ideas. But there is no evidence for this to happen during the last ten years as Mr. Linke of "Offener Kanal Berlin" said. But nevertheless there is no public access to radio and television in Saxony nowadays.
The furious development of digital video and the Internet over the last two years made it possible to think about new ways of distribution for media-content. The advantage is based on the technology of the web which allows singlecasting as well as multicasting of radio- and videoprogrammes, that means that the listener/ viewer can choose between prerecorded- and liveprogrammes. That gives on one hand actuality and on the other hand the possibility to watch a programme when you want to watch it.
Beside these technical aspects there is another important fact. Since Web TV is a very young type of media, there are not many aestetical values to match, because we do not have any espectations as we would have while watching TV. This creates a chance for a lot of people to provide content without hesitating if they are good enough or not. In other words this would be real public access television.
These possibilities seemed very interesting, especially to the youth and communtiy workers in the group. They tried for years to get disadvantaged youth and informal subcultural groups involved into mediawork to express there view onto aspects of life. But they had to realise that these young people had no interest in producing programmes, nobody could watch. On the other hand they learned that radio and television are highly professional electronic media, where certain standards have to be matched. The following two examples should illustrate these facts and show, how unsuitable classical radio and television is for this purpose.
If you listen to a good radio feature the producer is able to create images in your mind, which have substantial impact on how you perceive the programme. But hard training is necessary to reach this level. The main problem with Television is that it is such a complex kind of media, where so many things need to be controlled while filming (e.g. sharpness, colour temperature, focal length, movements, backgrounds etc.). If this is not enough to put someone off it will be the finalisation with cutting, inserting and titeling that usually takes days. And if the final product, if there is any, is compared with TV programmes it usually looks dull. But all this does not mean that there is no interest in expressing opinions in the media, just an appropriate form had to be found.
In a cooperate approach the different people, that are involved in the project, found a possible way to match the requirements. They decided to create a media format that follows the plot of a radio programme but is illustrated by moving pictures. But now it was necessary to keep the recording equipment as easy as possible. Therefore it was decided to use portable VCRs of the VHS-home standard where everyone is familiar with, combined with broadcast microphones and a small fix-focus, wide angle, black and white TV camera which is originally used for surveillance purposes. Therefore it had been equipped with a small infrared spotlight. The advantages of such a camera are various. Firstly you could use it even in darkness without dazzling the person that is filmed. Secondly you will get always a sharp image and you do not need a viewfinder, so you could plug the camera onto your glasses, so it will film wherever you look at or even on the microphone, so it always films the person that is interviewed. All these simplifications are aimed to minimise the obstruction of the producer. So she or he could concentrate on the topic she or he wants to illustrate. This system is also useful to distribute the programmes over the Internet because its videostream could be compressed to real-time data rates which can be handled by today's 56k modems. Nevertheless the project has already started and will be live on the web from June the 18th (www.bilderradio.de). There is no funding by public bodies so far. But since the project is fully non-commercial it depends on public funding and sponsoring to provide the targeted communication service to the community. These days the authorities are discussing the issue. If they decide not to give any money to the project, it will be hard to reach the target, because then private funding by foundations and companies is necessary. In this case the project will loose its independence because these funding bodies will gain certain influence on the areas and topics covered by "Bilderradio". For the first public broadcast during the "Bunte Republik Neustadt" (community festival from the 18th-20th of June) four programmes are produced:
&Mac183; A portrait of "Wolle" Förster who runs two bars and a discotheque now, but was a pioneer in independent video production in the eighties in the former GDR.
&Mac183; A night at an independent techno club with interviews of DJ´s, organisers and guests
&Mac183; A programme about the technique and aims of "Bilderradio"
&Mac183; A "making of" film about the BRN-TV which is broadcasted this year for the first time on Dresden Television (DF)
The group is interested in all suggestions, comments or practical participation, because such an idea is never finally developed. If you want to contribute either ideas, contend or money do not hesitate to contact the people at "Bilderradio"