Video Volunteers has partnered with MTV Iggy to produce videos in Kashmir about life in the refugee camps of Jammu. Here’s a link to one of the videos, about a boy who watched his entire family be slaughtered:
MTV igg is a new channel/show of MTV that is focused on Diaspora youth. The partnership unfolded as follows: in December, I did a small fundraiser in NY for Video Volunteers. At events like that, when people as ask how they can help and what we need, one of our appeals is, ‘we need connections with the mainstream tv news media, because we want to bring community video to mainstream audiences and make it partly sustainable that way.’
At this fundraiser, Dina Madhani, our partnerships manager based in NY, had brought the director of MTV Iggy, Nusrat Durrani. And after I screened some of the videos of the community producers, he said something I’d never heard before: “your video is definitely compelling enough for mainstream and I would love to help you bring your content to a mainstream audience.” suddenly, I felt like we had something I’d been looking for for ages — a champion of our work in mainstream TV. And MTV no less!
Nusrat articulated the relevance of a partnership with VV in a really interesting way. MTV Iggy, like Video Vounteers, is also targeting people who don’t have a voice — in MTV Iggy’s case, it is diaspora youth in America, Canada, England, Australia from Asian countries. These kids love the pop culture —the music and movies — of their countries of origin, but no one in the countries they migrate to knows these artists, cares about them or is interested in this music. These diaspora kids from countries like Korea, China and India, of which there are millions in the West, don’t have a voice or a platform for thing that interest them. Just like the Community Producers we work with in India. It was a reminder that voicelessness is not just something that affects the poor or the oppressed, which is how I tend to think of it in my own narrow way.
So Video Volunteers produced a series of short videos in the refugge camps in Jammu. MTV Iggy has done a pro-social campaign on the Kashmir issue to connect their audience with one of the most voiceless groups — kashmiri youth. I can’t think of a place or a time when we have heard from them!
here’s another video we did, about a young human rights lawyer named Deepika.
So one of VV’s training consultants did the project along with one of the Community Producers, a young man called Tarun from the slums of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. We chose him to go because he himself has experienced the kind of communal conflict that is raging in Jammu and Kashmir. Ahmedabad, the city he is from, experienced terrible riots in 2002 and 3,000 muslims were called. Though Tarun is a Hindu, he saw the violence, and says that being part of the half-hindu and half-muslim team of community producers caused him to let go of his own anti-Muslim feelings. It was exciting for us to give a community producer a chance to broaden their experiences beyond their own locality. Because one of the handicaps for a community producer becoming a mainstream journalist is that a Community Producer has seen so much less of the world than a mainstream journalist. They haven’t had those opportunities.
One of the things we committed to doing as part of our Knight Foundation grant is to pursue sustainability, because we don’t see community media as always having to be a charity project. I’m not sure this project with MTV was exactly sustainable. For one, we had a very difficult time figuring out how much to charge for the videos, so we need to improve our ability to understand pricing. We certainly invested a lot more in the project financially than we earned from it. But we are still learning about how a community media organization can and should work with the mainstream, and it was massively worth the effort when we saw our name on the MTV Iggy homepage, alongside Amnesty International, as one of the partners. And the best news is that MTV Iggy has agreed to feature even more community-produced content in the future.