This post is part of Blog Action Day, where bloggers around the web are uniting to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind — the environment.
As the Internet has matured and reaches a more diverse audience, both physically and socially, it has become an efficient tool for the distribution of information on a wide range of topics. At the same time, the continuing improvements in bandwidth and video compression have allowed streaming video to become popular on the Internet. The culmination of these becomes evident when searching for Internet TV channels about the environment. Listed below are five of the best.
Green.tv is produced by the United Nations Environment Programme and places a specific emphasis on climate change, but covers all environmental issues. It features several channels, such as “Land”, “Technologies” and “Species”, and each of these contain several programmes relating to that category. These programs can be added to a playlist or downloaded in one of several formats, including MPEG-4 and Flash. The picture quality of videos is good, and they are professionally produced. Another interesting aspect of the site are the “partner” channels, containing programs produced by different environmental groups, such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.
Big Picture TV
Big Picture TV, established in 2003, covers a large number of topics, including Ecology. The site features video clips from a number of famous and not-so famous speakers, such as HRH Prince of Wales and Robert F Kennedy Jr. The videos on this site are typically soundbites rather than specially made programs, often taken from speeches made at conferences and forums that may or may not be in the public domain already. The video quality is ok, but unfortunately there is no full-screen option. Downloads of some videos (around 85%) are available to members only, either in MP3 or MP4 format, but with membership costing £18 a year it seems a lot to pay, especially when other sites are doing the same for free.
Public TV is a UK-based Internet TV site and online community, featuring videos from government, private and public organisations. There are actually 15 channels on the site, Environment being one, and videos can be posted to more than one category, making the site more accurate in this respect. There appears to be a large number of videos on the site; a quick search for climate change brought up 116 videos. Video quality isn’t fantastic, possibly a trade off with instant playability. The site overall is very responsive and has social features that other sites lack (comments, ability to email links to videos from within the site) plus the site is free and you only need to register to get the extra social functionality mentioned above. It should also be noted that green.tv provides some of the content for this site.
Frontier.tv is another online channel which doesn’t focus specfically on envrionmental issues, but does have a section in their “directory” that covers Environment & Conservation. This site has more global content, and lists the country each video comes from, with submissions originating in Germany, the US, Australia, Canada and Switzerland to name just a few. The videos are played in-site using an embedded version of Windows Media Player, which means that its much easier to get a full-screen view than the other sites, although the video did not line up correctly in Firefox when played at normal size. The video quality is good, and there are plenty of them. They have a schedule for transmission of programs, but you can play any program just by clicking on its title anyway. There is a download section, but there are only two titles listed, and one of those is a “test” download, and it leaves no clues as to whether this is a new feature yet to be populated, or an old one that is woefully underused! It does state at the top of the page that the site is in beta though.
Friction.tv is a little bit different from most Internet TV channels. The whole site offers itself as a forum for user opinion, but which uniquely uses video clips of between 30 seconds and 3 minutes to spark off the debate. Other users can then respond by uploading their own video or leave a more traditional comment. The site has various categories, of which “Environment” is just one, containing debates with titles such as “Ban the free newspaper distributors” and “Protest in Heathrow: Dont build a third runway!” Taking a glance at some of the submissions, and reading through the FAQ, the site shows a UK bias. The quality of the clips is ok (many come from mobile phones), but this is because they are meant only as part of the experience.
Overall, I was quite surprised that there were not more dedicated environmentally-focussed online TV sites or channels available. Only green.tv has been made solely for ecology and environmental issues. The others all had subsections that covered these topics, some better than others. However, the content overall was interesting and engaging, and does provide an interesting mix of opinion from different cultures and standpoints. Perhaps as TV over the internet becomes more commonplace (and the cost of producing content drops) more sites serving this purpose will spring up. It is worth noting that the organisations with the greatest knowledge in these areas, i.e. environmental charities like Greenpeace, are piggybacking onto other channels rather than creating their own.