OpenTV is a welcome attempt at disrupting hegemonic media practices by offering a platform for marginalized artists to represent their experiences and communities through artistic endeavors. The common theme running through this week’s articles is that the mentality assumed by the major media conglomerates is that the Internet is a fundamentally commercial medium, so seeing this kind of initiative (undertaken by a younger member of the academy, no less) provides some hope for the Internet’s democratic potential.
With OpenTV taking the initiative to create space for underrepresented identities, it is also interesting to recognize similar attempts by more mainstream media entities – notably Amazon Prime, with Transparent, and Netflix, with Orange is the New Black. What we see here are two very different approaches to representation: one DIY, one professional; one open to numerous artistic modes, one beholden to traditional narrative structures (even as they are modified and disrupted by the streaming model). Ultimately, whatever gains in representation are made by the streaming services are somewhat undercut by the fact that their programming strategies are not fundamentally committed to political acts of representation. As we rightly celebrate the emergence of non-hegemonic narratives in mainstream media and celebrate their industry awards, which in turn allow for greater exposure of these sorely-needed narratives, we should also continually recognize the work that remains to be done, both within these texts and in texts that are not produced. In the final analysis, profit remains the primary motivation here. On the other hand, OpenTV presents its mission openly, even supplying a manifesto:
“WHO WE ARE
A beta platform for original series about independent arts and artists
Open to artists who identify as queer, trans, and cis-women and persons of color
Open to diverse communities left out of mainstream film and television production
Open to diverse forms of art, from dance and poetry to stand-up and drag
Open to diverse forms of storytelling from comedy to music video, drama to reality television
Open to diverse strategies for showcasing art and television
Open to promoting work already released online or offline”
And yet, OpenTV does have nearly the reach enjoyed by Netflix and Amazon Prime. As we ruminate on these tensions between corporate TV online and democratic online media, the question of scope and reach seems significant.