By Cheryl Clarke– co-founder, LiveTree ADEPT
I’ve earned my crust as an independent in the media and content industry for almost 20 years and in that time have journeyed along a continuum of feeling a mild sense of discomfort to utter rage at the lost opportunity of unlocking the potential of creativity and commerce to work towards a more fair and sustainable world. It seems to be staring us in the face but we’re limited by this powerful language of how things ‘are’.
As a complicit link in the chain of creating blanket discourse that values unsustainable growth over new ideas for a better world, I’ve started looking more systematically into how we’re all susceptible to this language. When you flip the same coin and see the other side – how things could be – with exactly the same people, resources, and profitability, then you start to see the possibility of the magic of change.
But even stronger than the language is the very real way our current global financial system forces commercial enterprise into a process of commoditising and monetising our very relationships, values and of course creative culture. And this is getting worse, with internet giants owning our data and getting into content creation, the dark genius of their business models is chilling at best. At least in the analogue world of broadcast and advertising, I might have been taken for a broadly demographically identifiable mug, but a relatively anonymous one at least. Not one where they know my name, where I live, what I buy and when, where I am at any given moment, what conversations I’m having, if I’m driving – and then trust these same companies to have my best interests, not their offshore profits, at heart.
I’ve been talking to people in influencer roles in media, television and the environmental sector, you might even call them leaders. They have some really interesting things to say when they’re not in the board room. When what they say doesn’t ‘threaten’ the relentless growth juggernaut.
Put simply, apparently people do not want, don’t have the time, money or motivation to contribute to matters of environmental or social change. The media industry doesn’t even seem to be having the discussion in any cohesive way – it’s not in the budget! But is this because we are all held captive to this language of helplessness – that there’s no alternative, the constant buck passing, the resentment of being ‘told what to do’.
Buckminster Fuller, the renowned 20th century inventor and visionary born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1895 dedicated his life to making the world work for all of humanity and operated as a practical philosopher who demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called “artifacts”. One of his famous quotes says: ‘You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
After over a decade of trying to get under the bonnet of why an industry that holds such potential to tell stories that make the world a better place is so strangled by a singular objective of profiteering and showing at times seeming audience contempt, (rhinoplasty brides anyone?) I’ve been delving into the history and story of money in contemporary society and it’s started to shed some light. It allows us to understand better how we’ve got to this point, coinciding with the development and proliferation of a technology, the blockchain, that has mainly been used to trade digital currency to this point but can now scale and promise undeniably hopeful answers to some of our seemingly relentless free market yet centralised issues.
I’m a business person through and through, I’m fascinated by how humans organise to endeavour to create something and share the spoils so we can make best of our resources. It’s my assumption and it certainly was true for me when I started out, that I wanted to work in the entertainment industries because I wanted to be close to those I saw as having a creative purpose. They wanted to make beautiful films or art, to inspire, educate and entertain and shhhh, make a difference.
If we look over the top of the media garden wall, we know business can’t continue to mow through resources and people in the blind pursuit of growth as it has for the last 50 years, our people and planet simply can’t sustain it. So, do we wait for ‘the people at the top’ to have an epiphany? A few individuals through persistence, action, energy and commitment to get things moving and make some improvements but never shift the balance of power. These are laudable efforts of course, but the separation between ‘I, you, them and us’ helps only to serve this rhetoric of compromising values and leaving your purpose at the door when you come into work.
What LiveTree ADEPT is proposing is a new choice for creative people, companies and fans to come together and build something new, to do as Buckminster said, and render the old model obsolete. This doesn’t mean the old guard comes crashing down from day to night. Just that, if there’s a real possibility to open up a means for anyone with enough talent and energy to tell stories, that have an audience who want to watch them, decided by that audience, not by a cabal of self-interested studio owners or commissioners, then what possibly is the objection to that?
There is a small percentage of people who got into the media business simply to make as much money as possible and to feel as powerful as possible – just as recent research from the University of San Diego has found there are around 20% of senior managers who are psychopaths. But what about the other 80%, what about them, what about you?
Where’s this perceived resistance in change? Aren’t we all then part of the resistance, calling out others to take the responsibility to enable change, when in the end, in our hearts, we know we’re all one.
The Media CSR Forum is an ‘independent’ body looking at issues of sustainability in the media sector. Its admirable, yet I might suggest limiting work, comprises a cohort of 25 media organisations, including major broadcasters, some publishers and advertising agencies.
It produced a report in 2013 entitled ‘Does It Matter Material, Strategic or Operational?
An analysis of sustainability issues in the media sector’. The resounding and depressing conclusion was that no, not much. I’m not sure that’s true, I’ve got a hunch. In the foreword of the report, it says ‘Sometimes we need to readjust our social architecture so that it better enables us to make habit patterns out of our good intentions.’ This has never been truer. The media industry has such enormous power and its very existence thrives on the creation of ideas and the ability to deliver these to mass markets. Set it free. Be the leader. Come and set up in the LiveTree, the view of the future is quite beautiful.