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While many continue to find issue with the content available on broadcast television, the emergence of new programming online is appearing to satiate those who desire to be entertained, yet not at the expense of depth, dimension, or even an opportunity to be educated.
The ‘New Wave’: Public Purpose Content
Public purpose content is a hot-button topic in the broadband and technology spaces. The phrase generally reforms to online media programming which is created not only to entertain, but to edify.
While many have voiced criticism against the use of federal broadband stimulus funds to support public purpose content, many continue to sing its praises – particularly the promise of the new online medium to encourage broadband adoption.
“Content is completely intermixed with the issue of adoption,” said Rey Ramsey, president and CEO of TechNet and former CEO of the nonprofit One Economy Corporation at MMTC’s recent Broadband and Social Justice Policy Summit.
One Economy has been a pioneer in the online content space, and public purpose content is credited with being its brainchild. According to Ramsey, the organization has made a commitment to creating internet media that is empowering, attracts more people to use broadband Internet, and thus can help close the digital divide.
“When we coined the term public purpose media, what was at the root of that was saying we have a three part test at One Economy,” said Ramsey. According to Ramsey, the organization’s goal in creating public purpose content is to “give information,” “build awareness,” and “inspire you and make it easy for you to take action.”
One Economy has gone as far to create a website dedicated to public purpose media, Pic.tv, where visitors have access to videos, Web series, blogs, and other interactive entertainment media. Several of the shows are produced by top-notch Hollywood producers like Robert Townsend (who has even created a studio dedicated to the production of public purpose content) and praised Hollywood producer, writer, and director Dennis Leoni, who has been lauded by MMTC for being a content innovator in the digital space.
Emerging Internet Content: Parting with Tradition
To reward and encourage online content creators, MMTC conferred its first Digital Media Pioneer for Social Justice awards on Dennis Leoni and Issa Rae last month.
Leoni, President and CEO of the production outfit Patagonia House, has created the series “Los Americans” for Pic.tv, which emphasizes several weighty issues impacting Latino Americans. Leoni contends there is a lack of variety in content on mainstream broadcast television.
“I personally feel that broadcast television sort of forces people to watch certain things,” said Leoni. “So we get used to watching certain things and we think ‘Well, that’s what everybody’s watching and that’s what’s great’ and so I actually think it dumbs down America.”
As creative forces continue to leverage broadband technology to produce entertaining, yet illuminating, content, traditional broadcast media and content advertisers will likely take notice, making the future of content creation in the online space, and the opportunities for digital entrepreneurs, seemingly endless.
As an example of the tremendous success of online content, the Web series “Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” is currently experiencing wild popularity and drawing attention for presenting portrayals of African-American young adults that challenge the status quo.
Misadventures actor and manager Madison Shockley said the show has reached over 5 million views online in one year.
“We’ve done that without spending a penny in promotion and I think the reason that’s happening is because the content that we’re creating is not making it to television screens,” said Shockley at the recent MMTC summit. “Not because there’s not a market for it but the people who control that market are not allowing content like this to be on television. So we have taken it into our own hands and the Internet and high speed internet has played a tremendous part in that.”
• Kenneth Mallory is an award-winning journalist and attorney who has free-lanced for several publications, in addition to serving as a general assignment reporter for the Washington Afro-American Newspaper. He earned his B.A. magna cum laude from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in addition to his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law.