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LinkTV Building a YouTube for Social Change

LinkTV, a non-profit satellite TV channel that specializes in news and documentaries about global change and the developing world, is launching a site called, which it says will be a one-stop portal “to help raise awareness of global development issues.” The project, which is being funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was previewed on Wednesday with a video address from actor and UN ambassador Danny Glover (a LinkTV board member), which is embedded below. LinkTV, which was founded in 1999 by TV veteran and documentary producer Kim Spencer, says it will be using “the latest semantic tools” to create a digital media hub with videos, news articles, opinion and commentary, along with links that will allow readers and viewers to get involved in global development.

ViewChange, which LinkTV said will launch this summer, is being designed by Method, the firm behind sites such as Fancast and TED. And it will use a couple of interesting open-source information tools to pull together content, including Freebase — a structured data platform from Metaweb Technologies — and OpenCalais, a semantic engine developed by Thomson Reuters (s tri) that extracts keywords and other data from text. LinkTV, which claims to be the largest independent TV broadcaster in the U.S. with a reach of 47 million homes through the DirectTV (s dtv) and DISH (s dish) networks, in outlining its mission in a statement, said:

With access to a rapidly evolving database of structured content, visitors will be able to more effectively engage with policymakers to encourage support for development efforts.

The site’s “semantic video player,” which will include related content and links, will be shared with other sites (LinkTV also has a YouTube channel as well as a Vimeo channel), and will have an open application programming interface (API) that will allow other sites to create applications and pages that include content. The site’s press release quotes Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle saying “It’s great to see a not-for-profit initiative leading the charge on next-generation Web technology.”

Mark Suzman, director of Global Development Policy and Advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that “innovative investments in international development are helping people in the developing world lift themselves out of hunger and poverty, and lead healthy, productive lives,” and that ViewChange would help to “showcase inspirational stories of people who have benefited from these investments, showing that these programs are delivering real results by giving them the tools to change their lives for the better, and that progress is possible on a large

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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user azrainman

6 Responses to “LinkTV Building a YouTube for Social Change”

  1. Hi Mathew,

    The team at Definition is excited to be a part of the initiative. As the development team for this project, we are working to combine Link TV’s vision of social change with Linked Data principles to increase information accessibility for all who are interested in making the world a better place. We are also fortunate to be working with Method, who has provided a stunning visual design for the project.

    We’re eager to show everyone what we’ve been working on for the past several months, and look forward to receiving feedback from the community when the beta launches this summer.

    Rob DiCiuccio
    Partner, Definition

  2. This is a wonderful example of where semantic web platforms might meet media and learning…

    Where I hope it evolves- is around personalized learning management systems…

    Beyond semantic web, I’ve been exploring role of NoSQL platforms for next generation learning management systems. I wonder how they might combine structured dbases w/ integration via non-relational dbases? But all good news! Great for Calais, et al

    Garry G
    Brooklyn, NY

  3. Bravo! [no pun intended – for TV geeks]

    Since LinkTV obviously hasn’t the bucks for HDTV telecasts, hopefully, they’ll be able to provide downloadable HD quality versions of their programs via the website [iTunes?].

    We watch their shows with some regularity; but, in SD-only, it’s not always going to be the first choice for the family.

    Geeks and Luddites still watching B&W won’t understand that, I know.