Launched in August 2005 as a digital cable and satellite channel, Current TV is the media child of former Vice President Al Gore and jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur Joel Hyatt. Dissatisfied with the state of cable news channels, the pair bought out NewsWorld International and cited a desire to democratize the American news media. The result was the youth-oriented channel INdTV, now Current TV, the first 24/7 independent media network rooted in viewer-created content and interactive online technology, which is press release vocabulary for “user videos submitted to the website are aired on cable television.”

Amazingly, Current’s progressive programming is culled solely from VC2 (Viewer Created Content), short video clips that last only a few minutes long. These clips are categorized as Entertainment and Information pods, Current Journalism pods, mobile footage, viewer-created ads, Current TV promos, or entries for one of the network’s many contests and promotions. Eventually, pods, mobile footage, promos, and viewer-created ads are voted upon online. The winners receive anywhere from $100 to $700 in cash and see their videos featured in full on the television channel, whose content is stocked by the site’s users. Like the users, most of the videos are urban and urbane, politically and culturally aware, and uniformly liberal. While everything on Current is low budget and looks it, almost everything is worth watching. The blog may be one reason for this. It’s an advice column operated by Current’s crew of contributors who each lend a hand in assisting viewers to create their own content, and are full of constructive filmmaking criticism as well as tips on getting submitted work approved and aired.

The content available to watch online and rate rotates all the time, so it’s hard to pinpoint any one section in particular. But the pods, particularly the how-to and documentary pods, are almost always fantastic. The fact that this company has succeeded in pulling a continued standard of excellence from user-created content is kind of amazing.

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