In countries like Syria, where the authorities make it nearly impossible for professional journalists to operate, citizen journalism has become crucial to keeping the world informed about what is happening on the ground.
To facilitate this difficult, dangerous and frequently deadly work, the live video streaming service Bambuser announced yesterday that it will start giving citizen journalists free premium access to its product.
Citizen reporters who want to apply simply have to email firstname.lastname@example.org with their Bambuser username and a short description of the content they produce. In return, the video streamer promises to give them an ad-free service with unlimited viewing hours and storage, as well as access to statistics about their videos and special customisation options.
Normally premium access costs between €99 and €499 a month and, even at the top end, viewing hours are not unlimited.
The company, which is based in Sweden and Finland, explains the decision on its blog, saying, “at Bambuser we truly believe in free speech and democracy. Over the past years we've seen more and more activists and citizen journalists use Bambuser to broadcast real-time information about activities and events when they happen,” The blog continues, “we believe videos from areas with unrest should be ad-free and we also think you should have the opportunity to learn more about your viewers.”
Bambuser has been critical to helping citizen journalists publicise the events of the Arab uprisings. As the Bambuser blog reports, the livestreaming service was used by citizen reporter Rami Ahmad Alsayeed, whose footage of the shelling of Homs was broadcast by major news outlets including the BBC, Sky News and Al Jazeera. Alsayeed was killed in Homs in February.
Bambuser has a deal with the Associated Press, which lets Bambuser users choose to give the AP access to their videos and distribute them to other news organisations. The AP can contact Bambuser citizen reporters who decide to make their content available. When the agency distributes their work, it gives these users credit.
Bambuser has previously reported being blocked in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Kazakhstan. Earlier this month the service reported that it had suffered a Distributed Denial of Service attack, which it said appeared to be aimed at its Russian citizen journalist users.
As Bambuser announces its offer of premium access to citizen journalists, the company’s Executive Chairman, Hans Eriksson, tells The Next Web, “We think it’s particularly important in terms of the context that videos are viewed by a global audience. We don’t believe ads combined with protests, demonstrations and war-like situations are proper. We know ads are also an issue for the broadcaster as he/she wants the cleanest possible video out. To us, these people are important users and if we can help them to a better total experience in what they’re doing we’re very satisfied.”