It’s time to move beyond the silent era on websites

It’s 2001 already — and the movies are more than a century old. We’ve had movies with sound since the late 1920s, and colour films since just before the Second World War. If someone were to make a movie today in black and white, without sound, it would be rather odd, no?
Yet that is precisely what most unions and left organisations are doing with their websites. (I’m speaking about those that have websites — I won’t even discuss the others.)

Our websites are often colourless — and always silent. Indeed, they are often simply electronic versions of printed brochures and other publications.
One of the essential differences between a website and a newspaper has been somehow been missed.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve come across two strikingly different examples of the way trade unions can use Internet-based video.
The first came in South Korea, where teams of workers trained to use video equipment have been documenting their struggles for some time now. Much of the material they produce is digitised and broadcast through the unions’ own web pages. In fact, several Korean unions have daily video broadcasts on their sites.
The other example came from the USA. In the wake of the terrorist attack on 11 September, the leader of one of the unions involved, whose members built and maintained the Boeing jets that were turned into deadly weapons that day, delivered an unforgettable and emotional reaction. Watching him speak, hearing the intonations of his voice, conveyed exactly how he felt in ways that were unimaginable in plain text.
Looking at American and Korean trade union websites, we can see how Internet video broadcasting has become utterly ordinary. But in Britain, we lag far behind — in fact, I think there’s not even one example of a national union here which actively uses web-based video or audio.
And why not? It’s not an expensive technology. Done right, it can even be done for free. With web cameras now costing less than