It's a commonly held misconception but everyone thinks that IMS is far bigger than we actually are. They don't understand how our small and agile organization works, nor do they really care that much as long as they have something to watch or interact with.
Some parts of the Post-Crises media would be recognisable to a viewer from the past, but the way it is run and funded has changed greatly since the Bennett Report and the Media Act. Following the seemingly endless series of scandals in both the BBC and commercial broadcasters, events suddenly came to a head. What used to be known as ITV went bankrupt following the precipitous fall in advertising after the Second Slump, while the Beeb tried making the news just a step too far and too often, coming badly unstuck in the process. They lost their grandiose Salford complex to coordinated, professional arson attacks which took place under cover of the last series of riots. That time it was the building; next time - if they were stupid enough to provoke a next time - they were warned the staff would burn... Soon after the incident the BBC lost their interest in sensationalist investigations of the Manchester underworld. The rest of the media duly took note; regionally dispersed resilient office nodes such as we in IMS have are the industry standard, as well as being cheaper to run.
However the problems weren't confined to the terrestrial channels. Even the once all-conquering satellite network was suffering badly; then the effects of the Crises really began to bite... Despite the appetite for rolling news, or escapist programmes to avoid the rolling news, it was obvious that the media as we knew it had exhausted the possibilities for development under the existing regulatory regime; the way in which people consumed and interacted with the hyperconnected world had changed far more quickly than the industry could adapt to. Something had to change, and quickly.
The Royal Commission set up in the wake of the turmoil to create a plan for the future concluded the media was one of the reasons for the nation being in its current state, so asked independent critic and commentator Charles Bennett to come up with some radical solutions. He certainly did as he was asked. What he suggested, and became the Media Act, was the drastic restructuring of the BBC, along with the 'democratization' of the independent sector. The Act also established the 'pay as you watch' ViewCred virtual media currency to replace the licence fee and provide an alternative funding stream to advertisements. It was hoped that these new opportunities would rejuvenate a jaded industry. An up and coming entrepreneur named James Purvis, seeing the potential, swooped for the wreckage of both organisations and formed Independent Media Services. Charles Bennett became a major shareholder and member of the IMS board shortly after.
Since then we've grown quickly to become a major provider of streamed services for the majority of people who can't be bothered to seek out their own entertainment, but who instead want it served up for them to slump in front of at the end of an exhausting day. Few people thought that the model would work; a rump BBC providing small quantities of high quality news, drama and documentaries, with IMS providing streams of ahem, 'popular' programming. To an extent they were right; the Beeb has scraped through the bottom of the barrel in its desperate scramble for ViewCred and we in the independent sector have paradoxically become the home of what quality programming remains.
Those doubters also didn't foresee the effect the economic reforms of the Consensus would have. Becoming self-assigned in the media is a bold step or a desperate gamble, depending on your point of view, but it is far better than the alternative. So now we have a growing, vibrant and diverse Arts, Culture and Media sector, even if much of what it produces is utter brain rotting junk. Part of my job at IMS is, to be brutally honest, a sewage screen. I have to find gems, or anything remotely watchable from the torrent of execrable content submitted to us. The autosist culls a lot of it, but plenty remains!
There are only so many times you can watch variations on Cook It! Good As New, Made From Nothing For Nothing (with that irritating jingle), Growers' Club, or community Am-Dram productions before your aching eyes glaze over. Occasionally you'll get a surprisingly good programme such as The Improvisation Show, but those are very rare. The 'Adult Content' is a consolation, but after a while there are only so many home produced slap and tickle or Real Life Love shows you can watch, and many of the people involved are certainly less than erotic!
Ours being a lean and multi-skilled, multi-role organization we need all the help we can get just to keep on top of it all; so we welcome the assistance of any interns or media academy graduates wanting to gain real world experience in sifting the diamonds from the dirt. So that's why today I'm familiarising Nathan to the local area. You can only learn so much sat at your terminal. The way I was taught, and it's still the case, is that to get the real stories you have to beat the streets. There's always more going on there than is visible. There are the personal contacts, the rumours, the undercurrents, the animal sensing of what is otherwise imperceptible. Once you get a good reputation people will take you into their confidence in a way they never would online. To know, you have to Be There.
Some people have this gift, others can learn it. Getting Nate out of the office and into the real world will show us both what he's made of. I've heard good things about him, now we'll see how he does. Getting away from the desk will be good for me as well; time spent on your sources is rarely wasted and besides due to an administrative problem with the insurance I'm the only one allowed to drive the hybrid tuk. If we get any spare time we've got a few prearranged reports to cover, and we'll get some library video on chip; it always comes in useful. But our assignment for this afternoon leading into the evening is the forest of cherry pickers and lighting towers reaching skyward which have taken over Fort Widley as well as the surrounding green spaces. We'll be shooting some background on the practice and pre-selection for the forthcoming series of Dance Together!
It's one of the most viewed, commented on, and participated in programmes of recent times, which really says a lot about the state we're in. The Connies love it of course; with it stimulating mass community involvement, social cohesion, joyful artistic expression, and moderate healthy exercise. In the spirit of our times there is the incentive of collective prizes for the successful neighbourhoods which increase with each level of the competition.
We've already had the preliminary local contests with their own self-produced programmes. From now on it becomes fully professional, and it is decided which of the top-rated collectives goes on to represent the city as a whole in the first regional heats. There is plenty to shoot here, and we're not the only ones at it; in addition to the local set of stringers everyone not actually dancing is vidding. Even the bare-bones Beeb have sent someone because this is The Local News today. But - unlike us - they're not on the inside. Away from the expectant crowds our privileged access gets us into the screened inner compound of portakabins.
Within the closely guarded enclave the hiatus of the production meeting is at its frayed peak; and this is the real conference, not the scripted false spontaneity we'll be allowed to film later. We who know how things are really done know better than to record this part of the process, even though some of the real-life histrionics would make great back-story satellite programme copy. The revelation of such a blatant fixing would be an explosive lead on the national news, but it would be a one-shot story; and probably the final one filed by anyone stupid enough to try it. No-one; least of all us, is going mess-up this nice little earner.
Eventually the final running amendments are made to the outline narrative, a rough script to improvise upon agreed, and we can vid the 'official' behind the scenes programmes with the panel of judges 'choosing' which groups will go through to the next round. The dance groups running through their final practice nearby are unaware their fate has already been decided.
Back outside we can film the motions being gone through; everyone plays their part impeccably. As the judges go into their false conclave we capture the nail-biting anticipation of their verdict and the genuinely innocent, exuberant flushed-faced delight of the Eastney and Paulsgrove groups when they are 'selected'. There are interviews with the winners, losers, judges, family and friends with Nate on the camera. Then we reverse roles before downloading the take back to the office and packing it in. If we've missed anything, though I doubt we have, someone else is bound to have picked it up and will feed it to us; though I'm sure we have enough for as much back programming as we will ever want. It will all get a guaranteed audience, plus the Dance Together! prodco will want to trawl through for anything they might want to use. It's the gift that keeps on giving, and there'll be even more to come when Dance Community! launches next year.
Imagine city sized collectives running kaleidoscopic displays of thousands of synchronised dancers. The lights! The music! The sparkle! The dry ice! The streamers! The live audiences filling the football stadia! The atmosphere! The distraction! The opportunities for monetising the viewer participation! The ViewCred! I may be a cynical bastard, but not as misanthropic as the people planning a kids' version of both formats.
At least the rain held off. It's been overcast, but the tuk's solarflim roof might have picked up enough of a charge during the day or from the lighting rig to delay using the engine for a few kilometres. In fact we travel 3.6 before the raspy conversation shredder automatically restarts. Then we forget all about the noise as my scroll rings. I didn't need the autosist generated alert as I can hear the approaching sirens and see the reflection of the strobing blue lights in my rear view camera. I pull over to let the fire engine pass, then launch the protesting tuk into its slipstream. We have only a few streets to drive and arrive as the fire service begin their job.
The incident is in one of the small terraced houses which are so common hereabouts. It looks as if one house that has been subdivided into three flats is involved, with the front door of the ground floor flat open and billowing grey smoke. The crew of a rapid response mini-ambulance are giving oxygen to someone sat nearby on the pavement. Meanwhile a small knot of people is being shooed back to a safe distance by a Street Warden while the fire crew moves in with practiced professionalism. One firefighter hand-launches a microdrone while two more unpack a Salamander robot. The vaguely humanoid 'bot stretches from it's compact cube, seemingly pausing for a moment to get it's bearings, then moves with startling fluid speed through the open door, a firefighter wearing gesture gloves and vidivisor directing it.
Another full-size ambulance arrives, closely followed by a CityPol car and a Compy tuk, but by now it's clear everyone living there have been accounted for, and are unhurt. The Salamander reappears through the door, the fire extinguished thanks to its carbon dioxide jet. Between the two of us we've recced the whole incident; it'll make a good report for tomorrow's South Tonight. Now all we need to do is wrap it.
Once the drone has landed and the Salamander refolded back into itself I have a quick word with the officer in charge. She says that it was a minor kitchen fire, easily dealt with, no casualties. The thermal sensors on the drone and the Salamander, plus a human follow-up, have confirmed the fire is out and staying out, so they're finished here. Nate gets some neighbours' reactions, then we leave.
"Well that was a productive day! Shall I drop you at a bus stop or do you want to go back to the office?"
"I'll go back to the office thanks; I've got a few things to sort out."
"OK, but don't get too workaholic too soon!"
The tuk's ratty little engine stutters back into life. I make a mental note to get it looked at.