Friday, December 30, 2011

The Battle for Twyford Down, Winchester

The first direct action road protest in Uk against a road in 1992

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vote for The Sol Cinema to win Epic award

Please give us a Thumbs up to vote for our solar powered cinema to win an award

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Void (improv feature film) seeks crew

"In a world with no humans does humanity still exist"

Void is a film that takes place in the year 2020 after a virus has spread
all over the country the effectuating peoples brains and unleashing the
animal with in.
The film follows the lead character Max as he tries to survive in the baron
wasteland that london has become in the year 2020. Max is alone but is
still fighting to keep hold of the memory of a past love, on one of his
travels to find food he finds a companion in Jamie.

Shoot Date: 1st Apr 2012 - 15th Apr 2012
Shoot Location: Great Britain
Shoot Region: London
Is this a student project: No
Production Company Name: Early Train Prodctions
Production Company Url:
Budget: Up to 10,000
Genre: Drama
Form: Feature
Is project insured: Yes
More film details:

Positions on Film:

Boom Operator
We are looking a group of boom operator with there own recording kit to
pick up sound on location.

Is position paid: No, expenses only.
What you'll get from this expenses only role: Credit in the film, Travel
cover and food expenses, showreel footage and a digital copy of the film.


We are looking for a costume designer to make the costume look old and wear
so it matches the feel of the film.
The role will be more pre- production with only a copy of days on set to
help with some of the bigger days of shooting.

Is position paid: No, expenses only.
What you'll get from this expenses only role: Credit in the film, Travel
cover and food expenses, showreel footage and a digital copy of the film.


We are looking for a make-up artist to work with us on set to make the two
lead actors fit the world we are try to create, witch is of a waste land
here people have either died from hunger or been killed by others for food.

Is position paid: No, expenses only.
What you'll get from this expenses only role: Credit in the film, Travel
cover and food expenses, showreel footage and a digital copy of the film.

And make-up costs.


Sound Recordist
Looking for a sound person to be on set for a couple of day to record
dialogue and wild tracks

Is position paid: No, expenses only.
What you'll get from this expenses only role: Costs travel and food will be
A credit in the film and on IMDB.
Copy of final film, for your showreel


Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

ASBO for anti-war campaigner

Police apply to courts for an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) on anti-war protester. The papers say that the terms of the order sought are as follows:

The defendant must not:
Enter or be in the City of Westminster except while passing through as a passenger on the London Underground.
Carry with you or be in possession of any can of spray paint, tin of paint, marker pen, chalk or charcoal in anyplace outside the city of Oxford.
Carry with you of be in possession of bolt croppers in any place outside the city of Oxford.
For a period of 10 years. Cops intend to serve the ASBO after Xmas. What happened to Freedom of speech?
Read more from Chris Cole

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Richard Branson: Time to end the war on drugs

The war on drugs in America has been a massive failure. The ridiculousness of the drug policy of the United States will be discussed in traditional criminal justice degree programs, online programs and social science courses for years to come. Over half of all Americans polled believe that marijuana use should be legal, taxed and regulated. Drug reform policy is moving quickly in other countries, and America needs to keep up.Richard Branson has come out fighting to end the war on drug users.He writes in his blog
'Ten years ago the Portuguese Government responded to widespread public concern over drugs by rejecting a “war on drugs” approach and instead decriminalized drug possession and use.'
Drug use went down and property theft has dropped dramatically (50% - 80% of all property theft worldwide is caused by drug users).
Read the full diary entry here

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Win £1500 for your eco-film

Blue movies are so passé. But green movies, now that is in vogue. Kevin McCloud is launching a UK-wide competition to find budding filmmakers who can use their creativity to encourage people to green their homes.
Read More

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Channel Vision by Paul O'Connor

As the talk turns to setting up local TV, I found an article I wrote in 1999 when local TV channels were setting up. What can we learn from them today?

Channel Vision
Published in Big Issue
July 1999
by Paul O' Connor, Undercurents

Bored of TV game shows? Tired of endless soaps? Then why not broadcast your own shows? You could be controlling a slice of the airwaves alongside Rupert Murdoch and the BBC¹s John Birt(or Greg Dyke) for under £7,000.

For the first time in British broadcasting history anyone can use spare frequencies on the airwaves for local television broadcasting. If you live in or around Oxfordshire, the Isle of Wight, Leicestershire or Lanarkshire you will be able to tune in, free of charge, to Britain¹s first local terrestrial broadcasts without having to put any techno-paraphernalia such as decoders, cables or satellite dishes on top of your TV set.

The most notable of the four local TV stations at the moment are Oxford Channel 6 and Leicester¹s Midland Asian Television (MATV). A spokesperson for the Independent Television Commission (ITC), which issues the broadcasting licences, says they awarded one to MATV on the grounds that ³the service, targeting the large Asian population of Leicester, would provide a genuine alternative to existing services in the area² Looking at how dismally all minorities in Britain are represented on terrestrial TV, it is easy to see how important an Asian community TV station will be to Leicester. Programmes ³are mainly in Hindi and English, but some material in other Indian regional languages is planned², says Vinod Popat, the 43-year-old managing director of MATV. ³Sixty per cent of our programmes are being aimed specifically at the Asian audience and the remainder are cross cultural, covering such areas as sport, news, music and pre-school.² Popat had failed in an earlier attempt to obtain radio broadcasting licences for both London and Leicester.
The £7,000 costs cover the two-year licence and the search for a spare frequency. However, the crunch comes when you have to allow for at least another £500,000 for the transmitting and editing equipment. One person who put his money where his mouth wants to be is Thomas Harding, who was previously involved in running the alternative video news service Undercurrents. A co-founder of the Oxford channel, Harding says, ³We have set up the first TV station which produces 100 per cent programmes about local issues.²

Oxford Channel 6 is set to challenge traditional radio by supplying the news and views from the local community. Even Oxfords most outspoken radio presenter, Bill Heine, has joined up as a part-time presenter for Oxford Channel 6. Looking startled in the bright studio lights, his normally confident radio voice wavers as he tries to deal with the various camera angles while facilitating the sex education debate going on around him. The launch date for Oxfords local Channel 6 was set for the sixth day of the sixth month. Plastered throughout the city, Switch To 6 On June The 6th² stickers pleaded to the public to tune in. The 43 staff, mostly unpaid volunteers, packed themselves into the studio with the financial backers, city dignitaries and gatecrashers to start the countdown to the predictable launch time of 6pm

The champagne flowed and tales were retold of state-of-the-art edit suites crashing at vital moments, the never-ending struggle to cut costs, and the local planning battle which threatened to pull the plug on the channel when locals tried to stop them from putting up their roof-top transmitter. The channels managing director and ex-cheerleader Deborah Cackler began the countdown to 6pm. Her reason for setting up the channel, she says, was ³to support local independent companies and make programmes which will reflect the homogeneous community which Oxford actually is. The atmosphere was expectant as 120 people joined her in the 30-second countdown to usher in the first pre-recorded transmission.

Viewers were told they would 'get their kicks on Channel 6'. Programmes cover curios like odd village names, weird sports, the lives of nightshift workers and the local music scene. All the video journalists use public transport or bicycles to get around Oxfordshire to report the numerous daily lifestyle features. Ironically, back at HQ, the city¹s largest car dealer is sponsoring the flagship programme, 6 on 6.

Andy Colborne, 27, gave up his job in London to work as a volunteer with the Oxford Channel. As he watched his first feature being broadcast to a potential half a million people, he said, I'm now actually doing something for myself and the community around me. I see it as an investment in my future.Many of the volunteers believe they have learnt more in the few months with the local station than they could ever have done working within the larger stations.

A spokesperson for Central TV reinforced the station's fear of competition. The market to gain television viewers is becoming more and more competitive, with increasing outlets on cable, digital and the Internet, but with high-quality programming like ours we intend to stay well in the lead.² With a budget of nearly £20 million a year to develop and market Central TV¹s regional news and current affairs programmes, the pressure will be high for the new local stations to lure the public away from their familiar programmes.

Thomas Harding shrugged off Central TV¹s claims of superiority, saying, ³Oxford Channel will not be going for the hard news which Central TV news offers with their 30 minutes of crime, disasters and murders. People are tired of hearing all that. We are setting out to tell stories about the community they actually live in.²

Oxford Channel¹s current affairs programme Stir It Up mixes cooking with politics. People from the Asian, white and black communities debate various issues around the kitchen table while the camera zooms from the debate to the kitchen where the host is showing how to cook national dishes. The result is a passionate debate on racism as an Asian diner claims that ³black people get a hard time because they are not as well organised in councils as the Asian community².

Shying well away from any intention of broadcasting political debates is Simon Bond of City TV in Wiltshire. Bond has applied for eight of the licences in all the major cities stretching from Newcastle to Bristol with the dream of building his very own media empire. Without any clear vision on programming he comes across as a man with more of mission to make money rather than to challenge any social problems. Bond intends to lower running costs by franchising unspecified programmes across his Channel 6 stations. No guidelines prevent any form of rampant commercialisation of the licences but as he says, ³So much of this business is not about making television but about managing cashflow, and although we are free to air, we still have to encourage the viewers somehow to actually turn that dial.²

City TV has joined the other 66 applicants for the current round of licences. The local stations currently broadcasting will be joined by another in Derry, Northern Ireland, on September 19.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Beyond Television by Matt Henry

Beyond Television
Published Big Issue Wales january 2001

Beyond Television
Television audiences are now little but products sold to hungry advertisers eager to keep you quietly consuming. Matt Henry finds out how the TV might make your world a better place.

In 1995 an Australian journalist sought to earn brownie points when interviewing his newspaper owner, a man named Keith Rupert Murdoch: "You've certainly led one of the most extraordinary lives in the twentieth century," the journalist slobbered, "and it's been entirely of your own making. Can you accept the accolade that you are probably the most remarkable Australian in about 200 years?" The question that probably earned him a pay rise was also a sickening example of how far money has come to dictate what we see, hear and read in our nation's media.
Only four corporations now control 80 per cent of the UK press and broadcast media - a trend that is not confined to British soil. The deregulation of America's media in 1996 spurned a series of mergers, buy-outs and partnerships that has left it to the mercy of a few giant multi-national corporations with a mass of business interests. The boards of media companies such as Disney, Bertelsmann, AOL/Time Warner, Viacom and Murdoch's News Corporation typically include representatives of international banks, multinational oil companies, car manufacturers and other corporations with a stake in controlling the information that we receive. "What scares me most," says Gene Kimmleman, co-director of the Consumers Union in Washington, "is that eventually we may have most of the big players in cahoots with each other. Who's going to blow the whistle? The way the public gets its information will be predominantly controlled by those who are benefiting from a monopolistic environment."

Yet, fears about corporate censorship of news information are already real. The ABC network was reported to have blanketed a story that Disney Corporation (which owns ABC) had hired convicted child molesters at its theme parks. Murdoch's tabloid, The Sun, reversed its opposition to the controversial Millennium Dome after Murdoch's British Sky Broadcasting satellite service became a key investor. And, few in Britain can forget how Murdoch's publishing company, Harper Collins, cancelled a book critical of the Chinese leadership by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten. Nor was this the first time that Murdoch had been accused of placing his business interests before principle with regard to China. In 1994, he removed the BBC World Service from his satellite broadcasts into China at the request of the authorities there, who did not like a program the BBC aired about their former leader Mao Tse-tung. AOL boss Steve Case denies that business interests at AOL/Time Warner would ever be allowed to restrict the work of news reporters. "This is not about trying to have some influence over all these media properties for some kind of self-serving reason." It is rather difficult to have faith enough to believe that multi-nationals could exercise such professional restraint - especially when you consider that media corporations have given some $75 million dollars in campaign contributions to candidates for US federal government since 1993.

Mark Crispin Miller, director of the Project on Media Ownership at New York University, argues that such direct intervention is quite rare: "Usually it isn't necessary for the boss to interfere. The culture of the newsroom in this corporate system tacitly requires you to learn the ropes. You learn what to do and what not to do. You've got to make a living." What this means is that editors quietly practise a form of self-censorship so that certain stories will never make headline news for fear of offending one or more business interests. With this covert selection, the newsroom not only reports the news, it literally makes the news. Those reporters that fail to learn which stories are of acceptable taste and which are not will quickly suffer professional death. Such self-censorship has long been an issue with media researchers and academics in the US. America's annual Project Censored awards are now awaited with some apprehension by the mainstream media, as a group of journalists, academics and students comb the news every year for the top 25 most significant stories which the mainstream press failed to report. The number of such stories is reportedly growing year on year.
Swansea based video-editor and media studies lecturer Helen Iles was disillusioned with corporate influence when she left her job as a commercial video-maker to pursue independent film production. "The national press is designed to distract us from what's really important and what's really going on in our lives," she claims, "The heavy focus on entertainment doesn't improve people's lives - it just discourages them from taking control of the environment around them." She believes that the corporate manipulation of the media not only prevents us from learning about the realities of certain business interests but also takes away our very potential to do anything to change the situation. If democracy is about people having enough information to make informed political choices, then the media seems to be working to cloud this information in favour of certain groups.

Political scientist Lance Bennett shares Helen Iles theory about the media disempowering citizens, claiming that the media presents politics as a: "depressing spectacle rather than a vital activity in which citizens can and should be engaged." Punchy news reports pegged around the words of far-away scientists and question dodging politicians ignore deeper reasons and causes and do little to encourage people to think that they may have a say in shaping their world. Bob Franklin, in his book Packaging Politics, claims that: "Politics (like football) has become an armchair activity. Watching the match from a ringside seat at home has replaced the need to play the game."

Helen Iles claims that those in the media have failed to resist the quick-fix, short- term, junk food mentality: "The media do have some kind of responsibility towards educating and enriching people's social lives and mental environment. At the moment we are being fed junk food through the TV which is unfortunately addictive and, like most things addictive, not necessarily good for you in the long-term," she says. "We do have these sort of human weaknesses which aren't very good for us. When you feed people fast food, they stop bothering to learn how to cook. When you make quick-fix pills available, people are less likely to look after there own health. If you give people a diet of sit-com style entertainment there is less incentive for them to go out and interact with others in their community – digesting the lives of soap stars is an easy replacement for having to go out and make your own life."

Unconvinced that the mainstream media would or could change its spots, Helen Iles took video-training and production organisation Undercurrents Foundation to Swansea. The foundation, a charity section of the award winning non-profit alternative film company Undercurrents, has 10 regular volunteers and teaches local people how to use digital video technology to tell their stories – stories that would never make the mainstream news fully intact. When Gower residents objected to further depletion of their beaches by dredging in the Bristol Channel, Helen was there to ensure the issue was recorded and edited onto video. From here, the story could be passed to other residents wanting more information or sent to those with a say in the future of Gower's beaches. And, when Swansea residents objected to the erection of mobile phone masts in the area, Helen was there again to make sure the story got beyond the local rags – the mobile mast campaign has turned into a major issue and the film is now being screened across the country. Says Helen: "With the camcorder revolution and digital technology, good quality can now be achieved very cheaply – the boundaries are blurring between amateur and professional. If someone comes up with an issue they would like to air, we will give them training in basic camera techniques – it's about demystifying the whole production process. It's been this expensive and very technical process for so long and we want to make it clear that anybody can now make a video.

" Starting from the grassroots is the only way that the control of the mainstream media can be bypassed, says Helen, dismissing the idea of screening the videos in the mainstream media: "Its an awful lot of wheeling and dealing to get stuff on national TV. And then we find mostly that that they haven't the same agenda as you so the story changes along the way and it's not quite the story you started with – it's kind of flatter and the message gets warped. And then they don't want to pay you and you find out it goes out about 1:30 in the morning to people who don't respond."
Her solution for ensuring local people see the videos made in their areas was to take the foundation on tour – a Beyond TV film festival circuit that would screen locally and globally made films and provide video training to anyone interested. The festival kicked off in Swansea in December and will continue on to Oxford, Bristol, Brighton and Norwich in the spring where video-makers with stories to tell are currently getting busy. "The response has been fantastic," says Helen, "dozens of people came up to me after the screenings to tell me how inspired they were and to ask for video training. It's this enthusiasm that keeps me going." Meanwhile Helen is off to Australia for screenings in Brisbane and Melbourne where grassroots video making has long been a campaign tool of choice.

"The tour seems to be growing all the time," she says, "We have plans to take it worldwide – San Francisco should be our next stop unless our funding dries up. But we are still very eager to hear from anyone who has environmental or social justice films that they would like to get screened." If you have films that may be of interest, wish to inquire about video training or are interested in funding the work of the Undercurrents Foundation you can email them at:

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Breaking News: Police arresting reporters

I wrote this article about Police arresting reporters in 2002
Breaking news by Paul O’ Connor,Undercurrents

Dressed only in a white paper suit and little else, documentary maker Ben Edwards blinked as the early sun rose over the police station in Plymouth. It was the end of his 24 hour stint in a small cell, his video camera and tapes were now in the hands of the police. Just another statistic in the growing number of journalists in Britain arrested on the line of duty.
For three months Edwards has been documenting the direct action protests against the test crops of genetically modified crops (GM) up and down the country. Activists have destroyed over two thirds of all GM test crops growing in the open air. Edwards had been given exclusive access by the activists to report their actions as they trashed a GM site near Totnes in Devon on August 3rd. However the police were tipped off and duly arrested all the activists, along with Edwards, despite his credentials as a journalist. While he was locked up, police raided his home and seized his computer, and a number of video tapes and written material. Later, Edwards shook his head at the devastation of his home and said “ they seem to have no idea of what they were looking for, they even took tapes of documentaries I taped off the Tv”. Despite the home raid, detention and confiscation of his clothes, the police have yet to charge him with an offence. He is due to appear back at Plymouth police station on September 24.
A few weeks previously a journalist reporting for the Daily Mail was arrested in Ayrshire merely for knocking on a door.He was enquiring about the secret meeting of hugely influential capitalists known as the Bilderbergs. Eight years a journalist, Campbell Thomas, 34, is also a special constable and his initial disbelief at his arrest for breach of the peace was followed by 5 hours in a filthy cell.
Thomas said that “it seems that the arresting of journalists has been going on for a long time but newspaper and Tv editors rely so much on the police for tip offs that they don’t want to risk upsetting their prime source of news”
Despite all of the charges being dropped in court, he was suspended from his work as a special constable.

Television reporter Roddy Mansfield came up against the Metropolitan police while filming a protest against Rank leisure ltd. While he showed his NUJ press card he couldn’t remember his cards PIN. Mansfield was arrested for forgery of a press card. All the charges were later dropped, however all his news deadlines were missed and the story ended up on the edit suite floor. Since then he feels that he has been singled out for harassment by the police. He has been assaulted by riot police, had his camera smashed, been arrested 6 times and in May this year the Met. police actually erased his footage in front of him in the custody suite of Belgravia police station. However they didn’t figure on his camera picking up shots of their own feet and the microphone picking up their voices as they questioned him about him being a journalist. Mansfield sees it as his “first, real, hard piece of evidence of police news management”.

Photographer Nick Cobbing was one of the few journalists convicted and fined for obstruction of a bailiff despite the courts recognising him as a working reporter. He was arrested during the Manchester airport protests while working in the trees. While all the other journalists were corralled into the police controlled pen well away from the evictions,Cobbing managed to get into the trees and work where the news was happening. Cobbing is still in disbelief and he figures that the police have a covert plan “As the Police come under a lot of criticism for the policing methods, they want to put journalists off going to these events and the easiest journalists to put off are the freelances because they do not have the backing of the large news organisation.”
Another casualty at Manchester was HTV producer John Williams who was trunchoned over the head and dragged away from the protest site.
More worrying perhaps is the case of video journalist Gerard O’ Sullivan who was arrested in April while reporting at a vivisection protest in Oxfordshire. He has the dubious honour of becoming the first journalist to be charged under the Protection from Harassment act. Just who was been harassed by his filming remains open to debate but O’Sullivan has his suspicions “all I was doing was filming Thames valley police roughly handling a female protester when all of a sudden officers yanked the camera off me and arrested me under this law”.

Watch the film Breaking News which shows these arrests here.

Sally Gilbert, lawyer of the National Union of Journalists ( NUJ ) stated that “this law was intended mainly to protect women who were being stalked. When it was passed in 1997 the NUJ warned that it would be used against journalists”.
It now seems that the NUJ press card is no longer valid in the eyes of the police despite being originally introduced by the police themselves. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) spokesman Tim Mahoney cast any notions of police news management aside by saying “Do the police set out to control and manipulate the media? No, there is no intent to do that”
We can no longer sit back and watch our press freedom being eroded. Now is the time for the police to come clean about why they are intent on stopping the news reaching the nation. In the early part of this century the press baron, Lord Northcliff interpreted the news as “something which someone, somewhere wants to suppress, everything else is just advertising”. With the corporate take over of our media is vital that the real issues are reported and that journalists don’t find themselves wandering the streets in white paper suits.

Paul O’ Connor is the producer of undercurrents alternative news video. Undercurrents 9 has an award winning investigation into police suppression of the news called Breaking news.

Breaking news is available on undercurrents the alternative news video issue 9

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Caught in the Middle (East)

I wrote this in 2002 after a trip to Israel and Palestine.

Caught in the Middle (East)
By Paul O’ Connor
June 7 2002

Tick Tick Tick mind can’t stop wondering when the next bomb will explode as I walk past the crowded bars of wealthy Tel Aviv. This is a city in fear waiting to sign for its next delivery of death from a Palestinian suicidal courier.

Undercurrents was invited to present our work in the International Student video festival in Israel and I accepted as a way to gain a first hand account of the war being waged here. On first impressions, I find the Middle East to be a melting pot of contradictions. Arab traders sell the black and white scarves made famous by the Palestinian resistance fighters. The invisible walls which segregates the Jews from the Muslims is so total that you feel like you are watching two parallel universes in action. The day I arrived, newspapers reported that arms dealers from Europe were too frightened to come to Israel’s International Security and Defence Exhibition, which is open to the public. The disappointed organiser of the event was quoted as saying “Israel has something to offer, we can battle test some products”.

On the first evening of the video festival, I found myself sitting next to Jewish Hollywood producer, Howard Rosenman. Whether I wanted to hear it or not, he boasted about his latest project with Speilburg- a blockbuster chronicling the bravery of the Israeli air force. Two days later I was being led around the bullet riddled Bethlehem home of Yousef Abdul. Without warning, Israeli supersonic F-16 jets had sent missile after missile into his home. In a burnt out bedroom, his father had died shielding ten screaming children. His family’s misfortune was to have the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat as a neighbour. Looking into the lens of my video camera, Yousef pleaded with the American public to stop funding these lethal weapons.

Apart from the thumping of Apache helicopters gunning over the hot Mediterranean, it was all to easy to forget that outside the expensive bubble of Tel Aviv, the most brutal and violent raids were being inflicted upon innocent civilians. To celebrate the brutality of the raid on Jenin refugee camp last month, the Israeli administration awarded medals to 12 of their soldiers for bulldozing Palestinians to death. Israeli left wing and Jewish activists had planned to protest the ceremony, but a suicide attack that morning forced the proceedings to be abandoned. Anyone familiar with the Bible (or Heavy Metal) will be familiar with the town of Meggido. Thirteen young conscripts that boarded a bus there, died when a survivor from Jenin positioned his car alongside the fuel tank before detonating a bomb. As readers of the Book of Revelations (or viewers of ‘The Omen’ movies) will recall, the final battle between good and evil is predicted to take place in the area of Meggido. That battle has a name, Armageddon.

In a cycle of death following death, the Israeli Defence Forces (or in Palestine, the ‘Israeli Occupation Forces’) inflict colossal damage on the civilian population. For every suicide attack on innocent civilians by a Palestine fighter, the Israeli war machine destroys the area in which the bomber was born, or had lived in. To gain a perspective, imagine the result if the British Army had sent in Tornado fighters and tanks to destroy the Belfast home of every family member of one IRA bomber?

Under the cover and funding of the video festival, I offered to train the video and media activists trying to give a grassroots account of the war. In Tel Aviv, the volunteer run Independent Media Centre (IMC) consists of a video edit suite, a radio channel and a couple of internet connected PCs. Open access is given to anyone willing to publish their own viewpoints on Lining the shelves are our Undercurrents videos of direct actions from Britain, all translated into Hebrew. I left a few of our latest videos on CD-ROMs for easy and inexpensive copying and distribution. On the table lay the broken remains of a video camera. One young Israeli video activist tells me of the beating he received from Israeli police while recording a demonstration in May. Despite enormous pressure from the Zionist public (read fanatically nationalistic) this hasn’t deterred the founder of the centre, Momo, from screening their videos to encourage Israelis to adopt non-violent action to end the war. One of the most high profile actions is to refuse to join up for the compulsory military service. This week, teenager Jonatan Ben Artzi stuck to his pacifist principles and was thrown into jail for three months. The court of army judges declared it was not pacifism that prompted Ben Artzi to opt out but “an inability to adapt to the system”.

Having dinner that evening with a group of student filmmakers from the festival, I gained an insight into the Israeli mind. The “funky chick”, as she calls herself, with the braided hair to my left, mentioned she was a passionate Zionist before recently discovering a wider perspective on events through her film studies. She, like everyone else at the table, had spent her compulsory two years in the military serving as a sniper. Unless you live in Sandhurst perhaps, you probably can’t relate to the odd feeling of being surrounded by an average looking bunch of students eating Ostrich burgers but who are all trained to kill.

In Jerusalem, 50 year old peace campaigner, Jeff Harper from the Alternative Information Centre took me on one a tour of the ancient walled City. Starting at the impressive Jaffa gate in the Jewish quarter, we strolled past the infamous Wailing Wall of David. Lined up against the remains of the western retaining wall of the old temple, Zionist soldiers, with assault rifles strapped across their backs, were bowed in prayer for its reconstruction. To stop me wondering why everyone was staring at me so suspiciously, Jeff informed that tourists haven’t been seen around here since the war flared up again. The only internationals in Israel now are either Journalists or activists in support of the Palestinians. With a foot in both camps, I was extremely careful to reveal little about my own viewpoints.

We walked on past the streets in which Jesus Christ was reported to drag a wooden cross through on the way to his crucifixion, and on towards the Muslim quarter. The contrast was stunning, only fifty steps behind I had stood in a rich and sterile white Jewish environment, now it was a mirch masala of colourful vegetable displays, fragrant spices, beggars pleading, and Arab traders yelling. Standing out like a bagel in a kebab shop, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon occupied a house smack in the middle and right above the Muslim quarter. His long flag, of a blue and white star, hanging from a window was splattered with red.

This sort of insensitivity prompted me to ask the entry controller at the airport not to stamp my passport. I figured my future travels to Arab countries would be a lot smoother without any inky evidence of a visit to Israel. Security forces took offence and subjected me to a body search, complete with intense questioning by three different people. However the video festival proved to be the perfect cover and an hour later I gained an entry visa, stamped on a separate piece of paper.

One of the reasons I had wanted to come was to find the videotapes that a friend had recorded, inside the Church of the Nativity, during the Israeli invasion of Bethlehem last month. While she had managed to smuggle the digital tapes out of the church before being deported, the tapes were still lying unseen somewhere within the shrinking borders of Palestine. It would be important footage to show the world, so getting them out of Israel would make the entire trip worthwhile.

I had two choices. Hop on an air-conditioned bus ride for fifteen minutes through the leafy Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem to the checkpoint, and then walk in. Or I could travel with the Arabs from the Muslim quarter of the city. I chose to catch a ride with the Palestinians. Since religious tourism ceased in the last two years, their economy is collapsing. Withdrawal of work permits to work in Israel by Sharon’s government has escalated the problem. The result is that one third of the workforce are now living on less that $2 a day. Meanwhile Israel airlifted 6000 farm workers from Thailand this month to do the same labour, which Palestinians had been doing for years.

Even the public transport has now been reduced to a mess of worn out white transit vans, one of which I was sitting in. Leaving a group of men cheering US play Portugal in the World Cup, I set off on a cramped and hot two hour ordeal around narrow back streets and across pot holed tracks and hills. Banned from the Jewish areas, the driver had to find open routes around the military checkpoints. In the distance I could see cars kicking up dust as they were forced off main roads in a bid to deliver food to the cut off and slowly starving population.

Our van was finally halted at a checkpoint near Bethlehem. I was ordered out by M16 toting Israeli soldiers. While one scrutinised my passport. I heard myself calming telling them I was an Irish Catholic on a holy tourist trip. Perhaps I had stood too close to the Blarney stone on a trip to Cork last month, but dragging up knowledge of my lapsed religious upbringing helped get me into the siege town of Bethlehem, without being searched or questioned any further.

To the North, South, East and West of the holy town, Israeli troops lie ready to send in their tanks at any moment. What was once a low-level checkpoint crossing a year ago, has become a military base protected by a deep trench surrounded by coils of razor wire. The largest earthmover I had ever seen sits facing the main street. Everywhere the Palestinians are rebuilding their homes, shops and streets following the Israeli invasion only a few weeks previous. Nudge the clock back another two thousand years and a mother and a Shepherd wandered these streets seeking shelter to give birth to a future activist. Today she would face a similar predicament as many of the inns now lay derelict. Standing 400 yards from the actual spot where believers mark where Christ entered the world, the Star Hotel survived by staying open during the invasion in April, charging an extortionate $500 a night to reporters who risked staying to cover the street battles.

Georgie, a British woman living in the town published daily eyewitness accounts on as well as helping co-ordinate activists from abroad coming in to support the Palestinians. Showing me around the ruins of Yasser Arafats administration building, she explained how they had set up an Indymedia working space two minutes down the road, in the same building as Bethlehem TV. However when the invasion began, reporters from the local Television channel fled. Today serrated track marks scar every wall and pavement from tanks forcing their way through the narrow streets. Broken doors still lay where the Israeli troops had smashed their way in during dawn raids. Every home they searched was now daubed with a green X.

To aid tank drivers find their bearings in the small town centre; an advance squad had sprayed directions in Hebrew across the main streets. Racist slogans and the blue Star of David are everywhere. I recorded black scorch marks around the windows and doors of a Mosque. Chatting with shopkeepers made it clear that this was a deadly and humiliating attack on mostly unarmed civilians under the guise of searching for terrorists. A schoolteacher cleaning red paint off a computer screen showed me yet another smashed video camera. Israelis troops had ripped the tape out, he told me when he tried to record the invasion. One soldier then poured paint over his office and equipment. However in a display of Arabic humour, one shopkeeper did give praise to the unknown tank driver who had flattened the concrete pillars near his home. No longer would he dent his car on them while parking.

Less than two weeks ago, the Church of the Nativity had caught the attention of the world’s media when 160 Palestinians including policemen, civilians and armed Militia had sought sanctuary in the 1600-year-old building. Blackened with time, flickering candles reflect in a silver shrine under the Alter, marking the very spot in where Christ was supposedly born. I felt I had completed a circle. Only the previous day I had stood on the spot in Jerusalem where the self-proclaimed Son of God had died and reputedly arose again. It is surely the most contentious square mile on the entire planet.

A golden domed Mosque now marks the exact point of their prophets recorded ascension into his Heaven. However hard-liner Jews (or Zionists) view the Dome of the Rock as an obstacle to their salvation. They hold beliefs that the Mosque must be destroyed to make way for the construction of their new temple. Property squabbles aside, Jews are also waiting for their God to choose a man who will end Evil, and bring all the exiles back to Israel.

Respect for other sacred places are low on the list of Zionists. In Bethlehem, Israel succeeded in outraging two world religions by sending snipers into a Mosque to fire round after round into the walls, statues, windows, and roof of the most unique of Christian churches. To the left of the marble pulpit the bodies of the dead had been laid throughout the 38-day siege. The women of the town risked their lives trying to smuggle in food to the resisters. Near a small metal door at the back, two citrus trees are in full bloom while two others have been stripped bare.

A local explained that the church occupants were so hungry, they ate leafs off the trees on the right but because of snipers, they couldn’t reach the trees on the left. At the height of the siege, ten activists from the International Solidarity Movement, out manoeuvred the Israeli blockades and tanks and ran in through the tiny front entrance of the church to offer support to the Palestinians. One of those activists brought her video camera in and spent nearly two weeks recording 23 hours of dramatic footage from inside.
Photo:Jaq and Palestinians. She filmed inside the church during an Israeli siege

The person who is now holding the tapes was found, but due to the many religious and political games going on behind the scenes, he could not be convinced to hand them over. The negotiations are continuing to get the inside story told about one of the most dramatic events of the invasion.

Sixteen hours later and with little sleep, I had to leave for the airport. In Israel, security checks go beyond just searching for bombs. While my bags were X-rayed, emptied, and pulled apart at the seams, questions were fired at me about who I had met, where I had been, and why was I here. A body search, followed by two hours of intense questioning was tiring but I succeeded in avoiding saying anything about my trip into Bethlehem. The video festival once again had played a useful covering role. Thoughtfully I had destroyed all the notes I had made and emailed all the contact details I needed to remember. I remained calm as every scrap of paper was minutely examined and every piece of clothing was checked but when it came to my video equipment I started to become agitated. When my camera was taken and not returned until twenty minutes later, my annoyance increased. Eventually after three hours of intense examining I finally boarded the plane on its way to Heathrow.

Even more loudly than before, I can still hear that Tick Tick Tick Tick in my head.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Article archive:Conflicting views

Conflicting Views by Paul O’ Connor,Undercurrents

Walking away from the devastation of the mature trees lying across the road, with the sound of angry chainsaw engines whining all around me, I turned and raised my video camera for one final shot before being bundled off to the far side of the highway by police officers. The five hour long direct action battle to save the last remaining mature trees lining the gateway to Oxford city was over. Campaigners had risked their lives by climbing the trees and putting their bodies directly in front of the chainsaws. Clinging to the very last twig of her mighty sycamore, a young woman let out a sorrowful howl as a once living and magnificent living tree came crashing to the ground.
How did the media report the struggle ? The radio news warned motorists of disruptions to traffic flow and Tv news gave the airtime to the chainsaw operators to gloat about how efficient they had done their job and the police chipped in to tell us how many arrests had occurred and to remind the viewers at home that the role of the police was not political or biased in any way and they were only here to prevent a breach of the peace from occurring. Newspapers the following day described campaigners in terms of “ego warriors” and “undemocratic” and “wasting the tax payers money”. Little mention was given to the fact that the air quality in Oxford is rapidly declining or that the high way widening scheme was dangerously outdated. This is an example of the sad decline not only of our air quality but also of our media reporting.

However not all is lost, a glimmer of hope was raised last weekend as I attended a Peace and conflict journalism course in Berkshire, England. Organised for the second year by journalists fed up with the trivialising and commercialisation of their profession, the course brought together reporters, students, academics, and media activists from around the globe. Conflict and war are pedalled in the worlds corporate owned media on a daily basis, but mention peace and love and it will be somewhere on page 14 ,in the last paragraph every second year or so. In the year I was born, anti war demonstrators in Chicago were filmed being brutally removed from the 1968 Democratic Party Conference chanting “the whole world’s watching”. Thirty years later and the world is still watching but how many people are becoming active due to the reporting of the worlds events ? I figured not enough people where getting the full picture so three companions and I set up an alternative news video called undercurrents a few years ago to distribute the news of environmental issues which you didn’t see on the news.
One of the people presenting a workshop at the conference was Danny Schetcher, an ex-producer with CNN, and author of the ‘More you watch, The less you know’. He stated that ‘Television is a weapon of mass distraction and people are just not getting the real news in America’. Recently the Tv has not just been distracting us but actually being the messenger of lies and deceit. In November 1997 one of Britain’s largest television stations, Channel 4, broadcast the first series about environmental issues in six years. ‘Against Nature’ was three hours of environmental activists being taken out of context, cunningly manipulated or edited to say one thing when they meant another. The makers of the programme even went as far as comparing activists to Nazis because Hitler planted trees and was a vegetarian. The programme and the Tv station was lambasted by the outraged public and even the Governments conservative television watchdog, the ITC, reprimanded the directors of the station. Their investigations led to the series being blasted as manipulative and untrustworthy. This did not stop the station from selling the programme for broadcast to an Australian Television Network.
So why did an experienced Tv editor commission such a series when he must of suspected that it was complete nonsense? For the past three years my production company had tried to get programmes on the same station that would explore and investigate environmental conflicts and offer solutions but we hardly got it in the front door of the studio with our proposals. Our media is being dominated and bought out by the men of the multinational corporations and we are being fed their visions of the world -war, destruction, profit, conflict, and environmental degradation. Luckily an increasing number of news definers within the establishment are rebelling and slowly changing their attitudes. Channel 5 news creator Tim Graham stated that the current television style of reporting had to change “It has to come from the public upwards, not from some artificial temple of authority. We want to look through the other end of the telescope” he said
“Giving a host of people the microphone from all the affected communities rather than polarising it into an us and them debate would produce a better informed society and thus be in a position of making better decisions” agreed Jake Lynch of Sky Tv. What ? A Rupert Murdoch employee on a Conflict and Peace course ? Jake has been working for the press baron’s satellite television for over 3 years and has covered many environmental issues and had noted the decline in quality reporting over the last decade. His voice joined a long list of critics who were declaring that reporting now tends to focus on the personalities involved in the conflict rather than highlight the real issues.
Reporting on an anti car protest in London one afternoon Jake changed his usual style and asked the questions to the protesters that would normally only be asked to politicians or so called experts. ‘What would you propose as a solution ?’ he asked the elderly man or the young woman holding her baby, or the passing cyclist. When his news feature was broadcast that night, many of his work colleagues congratulated him on a ‘great piece, somehow different but great’ they said. Jake told me no one could work out just what was different about his report that made it stand out from the other features. “By just changing the question directed at the general public to ‘What do you think ?’ rather than the normal ‘How do you feel ?’ places the power back in to the wider communities hands” he says.
Having reported or actively participated in protests to save our environment I noted that the first few days are the most important in guiding all the following news coverage. In many cases during the rise of the broadly supported antihighway protests across Britain, the news presenter would either take the time to get to know the campaigners and file informative and fairly balanced reports or they would ignore any view other than the establishments and issue a hostile and ill informed report giving the airtime to the perpetrators rather than the victims. Once the first report is broadcast, the station then feels that they have taken a particular stance on the subject and this is how future pesters will continue to base their reports upon. Thus campaigners are either classed for the public as Terrorists, brave heroes, lunatics, concerned citizens, or trouble makers depending on the mood or values of one presenter in the first days of a campaign.
Gender may have a large part to play in the style of the reporting as well, reasons Johan Galtung, professor of peace studies in America university. “Peace is more holistic than war and women may be more sensitive to a broader range of variables than men”. Philph Knightley a war correspondent added “Male reporters tend to get more interested in reporting on who was winning a conflict while female women journalists would tend to focus on the victims of all the affected sides of a conflict”.
Tamara Gordon, now an ex-BBC producer, recalled an experiment while working for the BBC when she handed video cameras to the leaders of communities in conflict in South Africa. Having the technology meant that they could report their own views without the bias of an outside reporter. ‘Most producers are so scared of losing control of their documentary and that giving cameras to the public felt that they were handing away the ownership of the work” she said .“ I realised that the process involved in making this documentary would have a more positive impact than transmitting any documentary about the problems”. The documentary went way over budget and finally ended up being self funded by Tamara and her crew just so that the communities could continue using their video cameras to communicate between eachother without killing eachother. Tamara explained that “The 90minute video produced for the people of the local African community and the 40minute programme finally broadcast by BBC were two very different pieces of work”. She felt that her work of media- ating between the two warring community leaders with video was vitally more important than showing an unknown audience back in Britain a conflict happening somewhere in Africa.
As the battle to save our environment is becoming more of a public relations war by large corporations, the battle ground is rapidly shifting to the worlds Tv sets and newspapers. It is therefore vital that we redefine our reporting and concentrate on solving rather than exacerbating the conflicts across the world. ‘Be part of the solution rather the problem’ as the huge banner declared as it once hung between the mighty trees of Oxford before the chainsaw operators had their day.

Paul O’ Connor is a producer of Undercurrents the alternative news video, a radical news video made by video activists on the frontlines of struggles to save our environment.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

The rise of Indymedia

Article by Mick Fuzz,Undercurrents circa 2000

John Swinton, former Chief of Staff for the New York Times toasting the inadequacy of his profession before New York press Club, 1953:

"...If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of journalists is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks and they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

Speak for yourself, Matey!!

Inspired by the Video web stream coming out of London on June 18th 1999, independent journalists bonded together to form The concept of a web site that allowed users to post text, pictures, audio and even video was one that caught on like mad, wild fire in a tinder barn.

The chain has wheeled full circle and is now one of many Indymedia sites - a dynamic news forum with a focus on areas where corporate controlled media lets its readers down most. Progressive protest and news and commentary on the growing movement against global economic exploitation.

In a lot of ways the website concept speaks for itself, but you know, in a way I'm paid to promote this kind of thing seeing as how it should be beneficial to the human race, so let's go into a bit more depth.

Who will use Indymedia?
Why is it so different?
Why hasn't it happened before?
Why do we need it?
Why does Indymedia suit Pro-Change protes?
What are the other Implications and Opportunities?

So, Roll the Drums and on with the program.

Who will use it?

The most obvious candidates are independent journalists. Squall, Corporate Watch, Schnews and similar publications nationwide are taking advantage of the news posting system. It's a way of reaching readers that may not have been aware of that organisation previously.

Protesters and activists are the real target group to be motivated to use Indymedia. In the same way that Undercurrents encourages campaigners to use Video if traditional means of protest failed, the Internet is a perfect forum for advancing ideas and interpretations that corporate media won't touch. It's also the most realistic and time/cost effective way of trying to redress the balance towards establishment interests that occurs most noticeably in media coverage of Street Protest and Direct action. We reexamine this aspect later.

Freelance journalists are for the most part constrained by their editors as to what is considered fit to print. How many times have we heard about the long investigatory research undertaken by freelancers which comes to nothing because it is deemed unsuitable. Some of the reasons given in such circumstances are indeed laughable [if you're a freelancer then send yours in]. The predominant reason however is that a lot of the more interesting articles that aren't published remain floating in electronic hard drive limbo because they don't fit in with the magasine/channel's remit to advertisers.

Researchers in NGO's. It must be frustrating to have a paid position in a do-gooding NGO and yet not really feel that your work is reaching out beyond the scope of your subscribers. Undoubtabley NGOs have their own press strategy which plays an essential role in the battle to get Environmental and social justice issues in the media. However for the individual working within such a large organisation, Indymedia is a perfect outlet for research that should be transmitted freely.

Why is it so different? and
Why hasn't it happened before now?

Essentially the services offered by are no different from the one offered by news lists and bulletin boards where stories could be posted and pictures and files could be uploaded to share with others.

However, we live in an internet age where not many people use news lists or bulletin boards, everyone uses the Web. Technically speaking Database Web technology has made itpossible to replicate the functionality seen on newslists.

The technology behind it all wouldn't be possible if it weren't for underground techno-geek systems, software and support. The whole of the Internet and Information Technology in general would be under the Satanistic control of corporations like Microsoft, and all noncommercial information services and creativity would be up stoney broke creek. If you don't really know about the UNIX spanner-geek philosophy and hacking culture it's all really interesting. For a round up of it >>click here for the inside IT. story.

What it means for the contributors is that this much needed, open-posting web service can come together quickly and in a process of constant ad-hoc development. Which is exactly what was needed for the IMC in Seattle and Washington. It also means that anyone who want to set up a similar posting service anywhere in the world can do so without having to shell out huge quantities of cash to some Masonic-death cult Consultancy-Software company.

But why is this all happening now?

Well there's nothing particularly new about Independent media. In written form there have always been pamphlet and printed distribution. The internet makes it easier to reach people that would never think of reaching into the realms of [horrors] an alternative/radical bookshop. But the internet has also enabled an increased connectivity between groups that is causing a coming together of ideas and a more focused approach to protest. The interconnectivity seems to be pushing groups to address the root causes of "the Big Sickness", not just the symptoms. Economic and unaccountable institutions are rightly being called to face up their actions.

Why is it so Needed?

Indymedia and Web sites like it are the Antidote to the money controlled media virus. How can you really expect media controlled by corporate influence to report accurately on events, campaigns and a whole social movements whose aims are to restrict the power of corporations and challenge such money driven ideals?

It's also aimed at lazy journalists who quite often will rehash press releases, and other reports instead of going for better source material. If everyone does this you get a situation like Mayday where Police and Establishment communication with the press through well worn channels was used instead of source material and interviews from those actually present.

Have a look at this extract from the forthcoming Video Activist Handbook. It's relevant here in that Indymedia gives a perfect forum to activities like this that might otherwise be too much effort for the amount of views you actually get. We can get a picture of the desirability of a connected community of Web Independents.

Recent Internet Activities:

Mayday London and Weekly News casts with

Here are two examples of events which Undercurrents has streamed over the net.

Perhaps the best illustration of how Independent media can present a totally different picture to that of mainstream media was on Mayday 2000.

While the intrepid camera people were out catching the action north of the river, us internet geeks were behind locked doors somewhere in London Bridge, sitting on a high bandwidth connection, safe behind an internet firewall. Essentially, we able to drop out the IP's of any interested parties that were paying us too much attention, to prevent them from getting in the way of legitmate inquirers.

We were running two operations; Downstairs, clips of significant moment of the rushes were encoded and put on-line for views to watch on request. Other internet sites, including the Guardian on-line, were able to link directly to these shorts.
Longer extracts were then roughly mixed together for the the next operation upstairs where we were running a live stream. As tapes came in from the cycle couriers we were able to mix from the edited stuff straight into the fresh footage. We were able to contact a worldwide audience through the Indymedia network. Once the stream was functional we used the open posting news service to inform viewers where to check the stream from.

The end effect when mixed with music and commentary over the top was impressive. It managed to convey the cautious carnival atmosphere that marked this almost overwhelmingly peaceful event. The majority of what was transmitted consisted of interviews conducted with the concerned and coherent gardening protesters in Parliament Sq. Of course, we didn't miss out on the stripping of Mc Donald's but the balance of what was streamed - if only due to the fact that there was no time for extensive editing - was indeed representative of the peaceful mood and the intentions of the protesters there. The same cannot be said for what was to follow in Television and press coverage.

The audience for the live stream came from links from the Mayday and UK Indymedia sites.

Undercurrents streams a newscast weekly in partnership with

Pirate TV is a ColdCut/ Ninja tunes project. We have no objection to using showbiz-popstar connections to broaden our appeal. It seems that cross-pollination can help avoid stagnation and the sensation of existing in an activist ghetto culture, and the kids love it. is an internet television channel. Undercurrents streams our programming on this channel on Tuesday evenings. This is now to be archived and posted to the UK Indymedia site, significantly increasing the potential number of viewers we can reach.

As well as past Undercurrents features from the alternative news videos, we stream the recent footage shot by members of the Video Activists Network and any International features that have been sent in to the office. We read out news reports from alternative news publications, e.g. Schnews and Squall. We also stream audio reports of news that activists have uploaded to the internet in Mp3 or Real Audio format. Any exclusive information that we read out is also archived and uploaded to the Web on for other alternative information channels to use.

As you can see the Internet is making collaborations between alternative media groups increasingly easy and advantageous. Certainly, at Undercurrents we are keen to continue this trend and are keen to train other groups to use the techniques we've been using. Please contact us for details of future collaborations or Training.

If you really want to know why we need It's because we need more Independent Media! We've got to reach those people out there and we gotta save the planet. This isn't going to happen by clicking away in front of a VDU but it does help to get the message of street protest across.

Why Independent Media suits Pro-change Protests:

Until recently no-one would have argued with the democratic right of citizens to protest on the street. However the mainstream media is demonising even this and proving itself increasingly unsuited to covering such events. Why?

Let's sidestep the obvious reason outlined in the opening quote as no-one likes to think of themselves as a cog in someone else's machine and take a more charitable view of the problems they face.

Editors seemingly find the leaderless structure of such gatherings impossible to deal with. There are rarely press conferences or handy soundbites from established spokespeople. The end result is that the aims of the protesters as a whole are typically grossly misrepresented. Again the coverage of Mayday by Undercurrents, Indymedia compared to that mainstream media enforces this.

Surely the best way to find out the motivations of the protesters is to hear it from them directly. On Mayday the uk.indymedia people printed leaflets encouraging protester on the scene to upload their comments, photos, audio etc. Public access terminals allowed the public to add text to the site directly from the street. Phone lines where messages left were transposed to the Site as audio files were also a hit. It's all part of the next logical step for global survival.

If protesters concerned with environmental and social justice issues cannot find a voice elsewhere, they should be encouraged to use Independent media channels to communicate. In turn readers should be encouraged to tune into Independent media channels to hear these uncensored voices.

What are the other Implications and Opportunities?

As previously mentioned Independent press has been around for a while. However the Internet offers several advantages.

1) Increase in readership and scope of readership: The independent jounalist- video activist is no longer restricted by the geographical and social restrictions imposed by the physical limitations of getting a hardcopy to the audience. Now, there ain't nothing to it but to do it.

2) Increased scope of authors: The increased range of Contributors to such a forum should appeal to an increasingly Media literate population. You have to hope that as people get more twisted and cynical, that this is going to work to the advantage of groups spreading a not-for-profit message. Contributors to the site are working from the heart, rather than for money. Readers are going to respect that.

3) The umbrella structure of a loose knit group and open posting contributors facilitates widespread publicity.

4) The format of the Indymedia web pages allows groups to post relevant web addresses in addition to their news story. The implications for the reader are significant. After reading the news story the reader can then follow the link to find out more about the relevant campaign and how to get involved. This breaks the passive nature of traditional newscasting. You can refute what you read for others to see and if moved you are only a few mouse clicks away from getting involved.

The conclusion? The people set to benefit from the proliferation of Indymedia network of sites are not just independent journalists, activists and commentators, the spread of such news networks, should benefit communities world -wide who are voiceless under the current sensational news system and hopefully bring it on for the human race in general.

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Meaningless statistics are up one-point-five per cent this month over last month.

Article By Paul O' Connor
Published in "What are journalists for?"
March 1999

Technology will cure cancer, Columbus discovered America, hierarchy is natural , we have the highest standard of living, there is no life on Mars, Saddam Hussein is an ally, the planet can not feed this many people, too much sun causes cancer, snow falling in midsummer is natural, Britain won the war, women are a minority, Genetically engineered food is safe, nuclear power is not safe, British beef is safe, Mars has life on it , diesel power is cleaner than petrol, global warming is happening, global warming is not happening, the Labour party wants to end poverty, mice like cheese, Saddam Hussein is the enemy, technology causes cancer.....

And on and on it goes, day in day out we are brought the ‘facts’ by ‘experts’ transmitted via the various outlets collectively dubbed ‘the mass media’. Trying to make sense of our ever changing world many of us now rely so heavily on television or newspapers to keep informed that that we have become dangerously over reliant on the opinions of so called ‘experts’. If a panel of esteemed scientists claim that world famine can be eradicated by creating a new strain of crop in a laboratory by cross fertilising the genes from a fish with a tomato* - who are we to argue ? If the ‘experts’ can assure us that only military installations will be destroyed and civilians will be spared so why not go ahead and drop those bombs ? When a pasty looking middle aged man in a suit tell us that violent images on Tv do not affect our children who are we to switch off ? Just a few generations of mass media and we have started to forget how to think for ourselves.

I recall standing in between the remaining trees and a chainsaw outside my home once when a neighbour shook her head at and told me “It’s not worth it you know, one day they will have a machine that will put it all back together again”. It didn’t sink in until much later that I realised that she had honestly felt what she said. However she probably is not too far off the truth. The majority of our living spaces has been entirely shaped by human thoughts and hands. In the last years of the twentieth century most of the human race is living within projections of other human beings minds. What we feel , touch, smell, and hear in the world has largely been processed for us by some other human, and more than likely by a male one. We have allowed the experience and ancient knowledge of our earth to become secondary and mediated .

This may have a touch of Orwell about it but thinking about it , our homes are now plotted out carefully by corporations driven by profit, not community welfare. We now get the ‘right’ amount of everything. A small lawn back and front, a network of roads for our motorcars, a garbage dump, a large supermarket, a couple of pine trees here and there, a pub or two, and a small river to flow through the gutter. Anything which was wild or natural is covered over in concrete, water which once ran free in babbling brooks now comes out of a tap, and even the light from the moon and stars has been banished by electric luminance. Then to protect this ‘normal’ way of life the state spends more money on weapons than hospitals and schools. Nothing less than a state police force and a nuclear armed defence force is necessary to protect this new corporation-imposed society ! Once you catch yourself looking at our artificially created surroundings with a fresh and critical eye you will find yourself observing how this artificial way of life is reinforced on a daily basis in the nations television networks and news papers.

The media is a powerful tool to bring about positive change but due to the ownership and control of the largest outlets by profit seeking individuals, the tool is generally a blunt one. Throughout my three decades the world as created by the corporations has been beamed directly into my home yet I and many others have been alienated for even questioning this new template for living. Life is about much more than seeking out stressful low paid jobs, eating fast food, having shallow sex ,viewing death and destruction, and trusting middle aged white men to create the society we all want to live in. The mainstream media tells us that happiness and fun is about drinking a cocktail of chemicals, colourings and gas from a aluminium canister. Apparently life is not about dancing in the full moon or reclaiming the ainceint ways of mother earth and channelling energy and love. How can one book of encyclopaedia describe the powerful gravitational force the moon has over the sea yet a newspaper will refuse to admit any effects the orb can have on our own watery bodies ? How can one medium such as a book sell us the beauty of a growing tree, yet a television can convince us that bulldozing an ancient forest is the price we must pay for progress. Tuning into our intuition is all we can really trust. Do we really believe that war is a valid and rational reaction to a problem? or that mass poverty is just an unfortunate freak of nature ? or that animals and vegetation are on the planet merely for human exploitation?

Surviving alongside the homeless, the marginalised, and the ignored of society, exploring the many varied cultures and realities in the world, I attained both a grounding and an insight which I doubt I would have achieved if I had chosen to work within the corporate managed world. It is also generally from this perspective that the various channels of the Alternative media stem from.
However producing newsvideos or writing empowering articles which are aimed at reaching people lost in the fantasy of the latest soap saga is not for the faint hearted.

Alternative media is generally produced with the minimalist of resources and by a handful of passionate people who share radical positive visions for the future. Take a wander around a gathering of alternative news reporters and you will hear debates about creating a society where people are not expected to live with foul air and radioactive waste in their waters, and where entire nations are not forced into famine and war over national debt. The mainstream media ‘industry’ is been redesigned to produce desires rather than visions and talks in terms of profit rather than community benefit. Mingle amongst mainstream hacks at a cocktail party and the talk is routinely dominated by the latest ratings, political scandals, gossip, competition, celebrities , fashion, money, war and power. Two very different worlds being created and reinforced by people with different agendas but both using the same persuasion tool- ‘the media’. When ITN broadcast a 4 minute feature last year on their main national news flagship ‘News at Ten’ about the launch of a new vacuum cleaner I decided to check both the AP and Reuters news feeds for that same day. I discovered that ITN chose to ignore the following stories in order to run a thinly disguised advert for Dysen vacuum cleaners as a news item.

World bank grants Uganda 85% relief on its national debt
Italy’s most senior police officer is jailed for corruption
First US Mc Donalds staff walkout over working conditions
Cot death in Irish republic increases by 70% since 1997
Neath council found guilty of killing 2 workmen following chemical leakage into sewers
Children protest throughout Asia to end child labour
Lesbian cruise ship sparks protests in Bahamas
Britain’s largest union calls for strike in support of a 4 day working week
British tourist attacked and blinded by British troops based in Cyprus
Airtraffic controllers in Britain claim that near misses have doubled
Police lift 10 year ban on Druids celebrating at Stonehenge on Solstice
Back to index
The ultimate power of the mainstream media lies in the simple fact that they have established a large distribution network. While media guru Marshall McLuhan succeeded in popularising the notion of a television induced global village , he failed to perceive that this powerful medium would be very tightly controlled by a handful of men driven by profit and for personal power.Mass corporate owned media must take at least some responsibility for the spread of low cost / high profit anywheresville concrete towns complete with burger joints and shopping malls throughout the world. Take a trip down any high street in London, Melbourne, Dehli or Berlin and you will come across the same consumer outlets, the same products with the same message. Enforced by the mass media, people of the East are being convinced they need the freedom of the West while the ancient Eastern traditions are sold as the key to fulfilment for Westerners. Existing as a schizophrenic, the mass media publish horror stories about families devastated by drunk drivers on one page and run glossy adverts for fast motor cars and alcoholic drinks on the next page.
Throughout this century people have stood up and criticised the growing dominance of multinational companies yet have consistently been cast aside by newspaper columnists and Tv presenters as ‘radicals’ or ‘left wing’. The media will create a Swampy character for their audience when these ‘radicals’ become too big or noisy to just ignore. Turning the focus on the lifestyle of an individual has become the mainstream media’s method of not getting too close to the flame of enlightenment. The audience ends up remembering the funny looking kid who digs tunnels to save the earth rather than the specific issue he or she is trying to highlight. Trawling through old newspapers or television programmes will show us that these media ‘controllers’ have been wrong time and time again. Ignoring thousands of years of growing food successfully without using chemicals, our artificially created society had to wait for decades before ‘experts’ could tell us that drowning our vegetables in pesticides is actually unhealthy. Cattle pumped full of hormones and mixing the feed of vegetarian animals with contaminated flesh has proved disastrous despite being hailed as a success by ‘experts’ in the beginning. What is particularly frustrating about these disasters is that the existing alternatives have rarely been given the exposure necessary to challenge the ‘expert’ notions.
Back to index
Delving into the history of the most persuasive outlet of the mass media, the television, and we may get an insight into who pulls the controls to limit what message the public receives. Back in 1927 the BBC was forced to change from being a commercial institution to a public service and non profit one with a mission statement to ‘inform, educate and entertain’. However this was limited to transmitting the thoughts and dreams of the southern white English middle class whose aim seemed to rarely stray from the task of upholding the status quo of the southern white English middle class**. Despite the proliferation of other television networks this control base is still in force today. Late last year the London based board of governors blocked the bid by BBC Scotland*** to produce its own evening news. What the Scottish people would see and hear would be decided in Westminster. Within the same month a Times newspaper columnist resigned in protest when his article was spiked merely for outlining the dire effects digital Tv could have on our society****. Any arguments that spiking his article was purely an objective editorial decision is sullied by the well known fact that Rupert Murdoch ,the owner of the Times is investing heavily in TV networks world wide.
Controlling the flow of news has been high on the authorities agenda, the military for one has always attempted to control what the nation sees ‘back home’ about recent bombings.

The British Police have taken it upon themselves to control domestic news. What better way to control the news than arresting and detaining journalists until deadlines have passed and then releasing them hours later without their films or tapes. Arrests of reporters covering environmental issues are increasing alongside the rise in popular protest against the destruction of our green belt for yet bigger roads, carparks and shopping malls. For some reason the varied Police forces or perhaps the Home Office have decided who shall report the news and how. During protests to save forests in Manchester and Birmingham ,police erected fences around the trees and banned all journalists from the site. A platform well away from the action was erected with views of only a tiny section of the forest was constructed by officers. In the same year when the very basic framework of the police were exposed as corrupt and racist by numerous newspapers why should any journalist believe any press release by the police ? The press office of the police went very quiet in all of the following cases.

In Manchester John Williams, a television cameraman for HTV was truncheoned and dragged from the trees, Nick Cobbing a photographer for the Guardian was arrested and fined with obstruction merely for choosing to report from the trees rather than the police controlled platform. A photographer and a Tv cameraperson was arrested in Totnes for reporting local people destroying up Genetically engineered crops. Cameraperson Ben Edwards found himself wandering the streets in a police issue white paper suit minus his clothes, camera and tapes. Edwards nearly went out of business when everything was detained for over 6 months as evidence. The police even raided his home and seized his computer, a number of video tapes and written material. Later, Edwards shook his head at the devastation of his home and said “ they seem to have no idea of what they were looking for, they even took tapes of documentaries I taped off the Tv”. A few weeks previously a journalist reporting for the Daily Mail was arrested in Ayrshire merely for knocking on a door. He was enquiring about the secret meeting of hugely influential capitalists known as the Bilderbergs. Eight years a journalist, Campbell Thomas, is also a special constable, and his initial disbelief at his arrest for breach of the peace was followed by 5 hours in a filthy cell. Thomas said that “it seems that the arresting of journalists has been going on for a long time but newspaper and Tv editors rely so much on the police for tip offs that they don’t want to risk upsetting their prime source of news” Despite all of the charges being dropped in court, he has been suspended from his work as a special constable.

Specialist reporting on environmental issues increase the chance of being arrested it seems. Videojournalist for the alternative news video Undercurrents, Roddy Mansfield came up against the Metropolitan police while filming a protest against Rank leisure ltd, the boss being champion of free speech ex-Channel 4 Michael Grade. While he could display his Natioanl union of Journalist (NUJ) press card with his photo on it, he couldn’t remember his cards PIN. Mansfield was arrested for forgery of a press card. All the charges were later dropped once officers ensured that his deadlines had passed. Since then he feels that he has been singled out for harassment by the police. He has been assaulted by riot police, had an expensive videocamera smashed, been arrested 8 times and once the police actually erased his footage in front of him in the custody suite of Belgravia police station. However they didn’t figure on his camera picking up shots of their own feet and hands with the microphone picking up their voices as they questioned him about him being a journalist. Mansfield sees it as his “first, real, hard piece of evidence of police news management”.
However Tv news editors don’t see it that way. Despite numerous articles published in the Guardian, Independent, Observer, and numerous magazines, numerous court cases, and dozens of documented cases the Tv channels are ignoring this suppression of the news. The Channel 4 investigation series ‘Dispatches’ would not risk commissioning an investigation to find out if the police do have a co-ordinated plan for controlling the news saying ‘The arresting of journalists has been going on for a long time and we just have to accept it’
It is out of this complacency that alternative media is flourishing and exposing issues well before the mainstream get around to even acknowledging that a problem exists. Breaking down the elitism and power of both the mainstream media and the large corporations is vital if we are going to reclaim control in order to rebuild our communities. Instead of buying into the daily output of death, crime, consumerism, fear and destruction, why not seek out and support the alternative media brimming with support and visions of love, hope, regeneration and most of all resistance ?

* These trials are being carried out by Multinational corporation Monsanto ltd
** ‘On Television’ Stuart Hood & Thalia Tabary-Peterssen
*** Scotland Daily Record November 21 1998
**** Rev Doug Gay resigned in November 1998 from the Times

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

Press Gazette: Article from 2001

I was quoted in this article for the Press Gazette. I was in a live debate with Chris Cramer, the head of news at CNN

TV news attacked for 'lazy journalism' in riot coverage

The failure of mainstream news to get to grips with reporting the anti-globalisation protests is due to "lazy journalism" rather than a conspiracy to toe the establishment line, it was claimed at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
The mainstream media was criticised for its coverage of the protests in Genoa, Seattle and the City of London by the heads of independent media organisations, who argued that its coverage failed to reflect the issues behind the protests, the peaceful nature of some of the demonstrations or the indiscriminate violence meted out by the police.
But Chris Cramer, president of international networks at CNN, who admitted that some of the network's coverage had failed to fully reflect what happened in Genoa, claimed that it was down to "lazy he-said-she-said-type journalism". He added that the independent and militant journalism coming out of the protests was "an antidote to that laziness".
Cramer also denied that a news organisation like CNN, which was reliant on big-brand advertisers, would be constrained in covering protests against the global economy.
Paul O'Connor from alternative news agency Undercurrents, who showed footage of Italian police attacking protesters, said police violence only became national news when people sleeping inside the school were the victims.
"Police brutality became national news when they raided the school," said O'Connor. "They were brutal and there were no problems saying it this time because it wasn't in the street."
But news chiefs rejected claims that there was a conspiracy within the mainstream media. "The idea that we are somehow censoring the news is blatantly wrong," said ITN editor Nigel Dacre. "If you think we are sitting in offices saying 'edit that out' then you are living on another planet."
They also denied that they were following a political agenda that would exclude using footage showing police attacking peaceful demonstrators and said that if offered material of the kind shown at the festival they would "jump at it" .
"Why would I not want a more comprehensive journalistic picture of what happened on that day?" argued Cramer. He added that the pressing need for alternative news provision would grow as the big news organisations cut back on their foreign bureaux. "We are going to be relying more and more on agencies," he said.
While BBC coverage of the protests was picked out for criticism, O'Connor said that all the news organisations had failed to grasp the nature of the anti-globalisation movement. "Reporters have no idea what this movement is; they are so out of touch," said O'Connor.
But head of Sky News, Nick Pollard, said the suspicion of protesters towards journalists had blocked efforts to make contacts in the movement. "Don't underestimate how incredibly suspicious the protestors are of us," he said. "We tried incredibly hard to make those contacts before Genoa, but because of the suspicion no one wanted to know. The same was true of the May Day protests."

Article from

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.

From the archives: Undercurrents report live from Prague 26 Sept 2000

Undercurrents report live from Prague 26 Sept 2000
By Martin Palmer and Paul O’ Connor,Undercurrents

The images presented to the planet when the International Monetary Fund and World Bank hold their annual joint meetings are not ones of men in suits making key decisions for entire nations. The latest images are now of young people playing drums and waving banners, often lost in smoke and tear gas fired from riot police. Today, as the meetings got underway in Prague’s former Communist-era Palace of Culture, a police and army guard set out to ensure the security of the “castle” as activists have dubbed it. Around 8000 activists are on the streets of the capital of the Czech republic to disrupt the meetings, taking inspiration from the actions in Seattle and Washington DC.
On Sunday the Undercurrents video crew arrived at the Independent Media Center to find police illegally insisting on checking the passports of everyone who arrived. When the Undercurrents reporters refused to give any details and attempted to enter the police dragged Martin while another grabbed his lens. The independent media responded by putting a dozen cameras in the face of the officers and forcing them to leave.

Ya Basta! an Italian network of very together activists hijacked a train to take them to Prague. 1,200, strong they led one of the three parts of the demonstration. Protesters sorted themselves into three groups with blue, pink and yellow colour’s for ease of identification and cordination. Flags in the three colours led the march off in opposite directions both to surround the castle and also confuse the police.
At the police barricade on the road bridge opposite the conference center, banners in various languages declared the protests illegal and that force would be used to disperse people. A stand off was the result with the Ya Basta! leading the yellow group trying to push past the police line. Activists succeeded in taking two police batons as souvenirs. Having made their was round to the other side of the center the Pink group, consisting of mainly British activists, moved in. With a sound track from a Samba band and activist folk band ‘Seize the Day’, activists got busy with fence cutting. One fence cutter said “ I am doing this to stop people being hurt if the police try to force us into the side.” Meanwhile the downed fence was dragged off to become part of the activist’s barricades. Police refused to talk despite various musicians trying to open a dialogue. A diminutive middle aged Indian woman from the Narmada dam campaign stood nose to nose with the line of armed & armored police in gasmasks. The pink group moved past the military tanks, hundreds of armored police, and dozens of army personnel and found a side street blocked only by a thin line of uniformed police. Masked up black clad activists grabbed a metal barrier and ran at the line and a battle ensued with both sides getting stuck in. Sticks and rocks were thrown as police responded with deafening loud firecrackers, smoke grenades, and water cannons. One masked up young man grabbed cameras screaming at the press, both independent and mainstream, to stop filming. Meanwhile the samba band and other activists blockaded the streets forcing a number of delegate’s cars off the road. One Mercedes had its windows smashed and after making a run for it the suited middle aged male occupants had an undignified clamber over the police barricades to escape.
City center McDonalds restaurants lost a few windows while taxi drivers complained that activists were targeting them for carrying delegates to and from their hotels. The British group got a call on their mobile from a woman named Estelle. She has a broken arm and head injuries and is hiding in a hospital from the police. Radio and television news is reporting that 25 police officers have been injured. Delegates have been told that they can not leave the conference center as they are surrounded but later reports said that they are being evacuated on trains.

We finished the article with the following...
'Undercurrents video reports are due as soon as we can sort out the chaotic Internet connections in Prague'

Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions.