Thursday, May 29, 2008

Challenging Times

I hope that my international readers will forgive a somewhat parochial entry, which might nonetheless have some bearing elsewhere.

Today one of TV Everywhere's clients, Golwg, Wales' leading weekly magazine, won a substantial grant to launch a multimedia news and information service, which will, inevitably have video as an important component since the bid was undertake in partnership with two of Wales' leading TV production companies, Telesgop and Tinopolis.

It was a project I felt passionately about since Wales has a problem with the web. Actually, let me rephrase that, Britain - and most small countries - have a problem with the web. Practically all the services used day-to-day in these nations are American. Now this may not seem to matter in a global village, and it's probably less important in a linguistic context, but for a small, somewhat beleaguered culture like Welsh, the fact that young Welsh speakers use an English service is significant. And this is probably a global challenge for all smaller countries and nations facing the dominance of English, Spanish and Chinese.

Ultimately, it is the cultural equivalent of all the towns that are deserted in their centres, like Llanelli and Caernarfon in Wales, but have huge out of town supermarkets on the outskirts that hoover up money from the community and send it back to shareholders in, well, wherever shareholders live (and it's certainly not in these towns).

Modern technology is great at creating a more connected world, and the long tail can work well locally, but it does not necessarily work culturally. The problem is that the web is actually viciously commercial.

The real challenge now for the Welsh is to do something they are very bad at - to commercialise; to recognise that they can trade with each other and the world and that they need not depend on others for their livelihoods. Luxembourg, Iceland, Switzerland, Monaco are all small countries that regard being commercially competitive and making money as good things.

Ironically, the Welsh are the nation who created the Eisteddfod, a cultural festival where contestants compete over everything from reciting to singing to composing and art. It's where I learnt most of what I know today, in a hugely competitive environment. It's why the Welsh excel as actors, performers and presenters.

It's time the Welsh transferred this inimitable ability onto the internet and used the platform that will be created by this initiative to sing a new song.

Today I've never been happier at 'winning' anything in my life, but tomorrow the hard work starts to create a new platform for one of the world's oldest cultures. With Narrowstep I might have helped redefine what television is, but this is different. It's redefining how a culture - my culture - survives in the World 2.0.

'Diwedd y gan yw'r geiniog' as we say in these parts...

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