Commentary Mark Saunders

What was video activism about in London during the 1980s? Mark Saunders remembers that most of the people who participated in the video group Despite TV were driven by a desire for social justice and media participation: ‘It was mostly people like me who were interested in the social justice uses of media, who couldn’t find any other channel of exploring this practice. Over the years some 300 people came through Despite TV. We had unemployed students, and people interested in the music industry but who were unemployed’. (see Mark Saunders Video 10.20: Social justice and media participation)

Despite TV has been involved in investigative video journalism; an impressive document is Battle of Trafalgar. The film is an account of the anti-poll tax demonstration on March 31, 1990 in London and raises questions about public order, policing, the independence and accountability of the media, and the right to demonstrate. Eyewitnesses tell their stories against a backdrop of video footage showing the day’s events as they unfolded.

Mark Saunders is convinced that investigative video journalism remains an elaborate and intense practice of media intervention even today: ‘People need to think beyond the fact that you can run around with your mobile phone and grab some shots. It takes more if you really want to make a change in the world’ . (see Mark Saunders, Video: 19.50: Another vision of change)

Wishing you an inspiring viewing session,

Heinz Nigg

In the 1970s and 1980s, young activists discovered video as a new medium and used moving images in their struggle for access to cultural expression for the many, not the few. They were researching and developing new forms of independent and participatory media work. This was an important step towards realizing the utopian promises of the digital age.