Move over TV, here comes PC

New computer programming aimed at African-Americans is called wave of the future

Online

April 02, 2006|By HOLLY SHIVER | HOLLY SHIVER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

OBI LINTON SITS behind three perfectly positioned video cameras, bright lights illuminating the studio.

"Is the set ready?" he asks as he prepares to tape a program offered through his invention, BlackTVOnline.

It's more a procedural question than one he expects an answer to.

And so the cameras roll.

It's another taping of The Capitol Glover Report, one of more than 35 programs offered on Linton's Internet site; one of two political shows aimed at an audience hungry for commentary from an African-American perspective.

In 1999, Linton, of Catonsville, established what was a fee-based Web site that carried the name Webgriot.

In July, he changed its name and its format so that it is advertiser- driven and free to anyone using the site.

Linton, 34, says the purpose of BlackTVOnline is to offer positive programming from an African-American perspective that is not offered on major network television or cable. In addition, the audience isn't limited to subscribers.

"We believe that the Internet provides an opportunity that broadcast television cannot -- which is the opportunity to reach the whole world in a very positive and direct format," Linton says.

BlackTVOnline is part of a growing trend in Web casting by entrepreneurs who want to offer alternative programs without the traditional network gatekeeping.

"Web streaming certainly contributes to the media mix; it's part of what's breaking down the barrier between the two -- TV and computers, entertainment and information," says Tom Kunkel, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park. "I think the question is for video streaming, in a time when you have digital TV, is will people turn to the Web for entertainment -- some will.

"Web streaming is changing the discussion of entertainment and how we've traditionally received it. There will be a time when your TV and computer are one in the same -- at some point you won't be talking about video streaming, you'll simply be talking about entertainment."

With most filming done in a modest studio in Catonsville, BlackTVOnline offers a variety of shows, from comedy to dance to politics to soap operas.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to bring people to the World Wide Web who I think need to be there," says Doni Glover, host of The Capitol Glover Report. "Everybody doesn't watch the 6 o'clock news, everybody doesn't read the newspaper, so clearly BlackTVOnline [and similar online programming] are the future."

In June, BlackTVOnline conducted a survey that shows that 70 percent of BlackTVOnline's viewers were interested in the site and liked it because it focuses on black issues and the programs are original.

"There is a general belief that [black people are] not interested in seeing positive images of themselves," Linton says. "So we get movies and television shows that continue to perpetuate the same stereotypes from the '70s blaxploitation films. That's been a disservice to us as a community for a long time; it really has left some very bad marks, and I think that is part of the reason why so many people like what we do here."

Glover says that the provocative programming offered on networks such as BET "shows that we haven't grown much at all. It shows that we are terribly underdeveloped, and I refuse to accept that."

"BlackTVOnline promotes black people at their best," Glover says. "It provides a more accurate depiction of the African experience in America and beyond and provides an introspective look into what black people are thinking, and I think that's the beauty of it."

Shows are updated regularly and are available at the viewer's convenience.

All of the programs aired on BlackTVOnline are original -- written, filmed, edited and broadcast by an in-house staff of black professionals.

The most popular shows include The Black Week in Review, Nigeria in Review, The Capitol Glover Report, Healthy African Cooking With Ngozika, Sisters and This Way In, a black-cast soap opera.

Rosalyn Gaines writes and directs This Way In, giving life to each of the 60 characters who make up the cast.

Gaines, a playwright for nearly 20 years, describes This Way In as a mirror of life.

"I look for real characters. I'm not really interested in the glam of life. I'm interested in the grit that takes people to the edge of making instant decisions in their lives; some they regret, and some they feel good about. So that's where I write from," Gaines says.

Earlier this year, the Internet site began filming Spread the Word, a book-review show shot at various Karibou Bookstore locations. The site also began airing The Love My Body Show, which focuses on issues related to the body.

Several of BlackTVOnline's shows are filmed outside Maryland. Those sites include Richmond, Va., and Dallas. And Linton says several London radio stations have picked up some of the site's programming. He is looking to expand the programming and the filming locations.

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