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Written by Barry Starlin Britt   

Changing Student's Lives through the Power of Video



“Video Killed the Radio Star" was the first video MTV aired on August 1st, 1981. This 80’s song (which was actually released in 1979) did not kill the radio star but launched him or her to new heights and revolutionized our media for generations to come.

The song itself was by the British group “the Buggles”, and it celebrates the golden days of radio while telling the story of a singer whose career is cut short by television. The lyrics were inspired by the J.G. Ballard short story “The Sound-Sweep”, in which the main character, a deaf and dumb boy was vacuuming up stray songs in a world now rid of music.

We have never heard from the Buggles again except for on those VH1 “Behind the Music” documentaries – a where are they now tribute to those who inspired change but are now obscured into normalcy nearly 30 years later.

As an adolescent of the 80’s and prime media buyer of the day, I can tell you that when we saw the birth of videos, we knew it was powerful – powerful enough to change the world, communicate a visual and audible message - eventually across the world.

If the first video of its kind can create a media for Michael Jackson to be the first African American on MTV and launching him into global stardom, then just imagine the possibilities when able to “Broadcast Yourself.”

The Video – power at our fingertips; what will the human race do with their new power tool?

Flash back to 1981. As a middle school boy looking ahead into the future beyond this first video I see:

A TV show called “America’s Funniest Home Videos”

Crazy shifting camera angles

Quick, short frames

Edgy, lesser quality camera work that’s as cool as faded jeans or distorted guitars

The Internet

Billions of viewers

The ability to promote my band

Reality TV

Inexpensive video equipment

Cool video-editing software that anyone can use

And, “caught on tape” – those in an act of wrongdoing.

Fast forward with me to 1991. This is the year that the Rodney King video was recorded. I recently stood on the sidewalk in Los Angeles where this incident occurred and realized this is another video event that changed history, and the Rodney King video would be viewed as evidence in a court of law in 1992.

Follow me to 2009, and let’s glance at our video history along the way. We see countless images – some of which we are proud and others that are disgusting. Some are worthwhile, and some a waste of time. But nonetheless, there before our eyes retrievable at any time by the entire world are our actions.

Imagine if there had been inappropriate videos of President Barak Obama that were released during his election campaign; would he be where he is today as the first African American Presidents of the United States?

The point for our students and even for adults; do not let incriminating videos spoil your Dreams.

In the new age in which we live, the average teenager in America now has at least one video that is viewable on the web and many of our students do not see the eventual outcome of their decisions regarding video content.

As a father, it is my job to monitor my daughter’s video activity on the web regularly. As part of my actual job, I have to communicate the same message to other students. Since 2004 I have advised approximately 100,000 students in nearly 200 secondary schools in the United States on Internet video security and they get it, but must be constantly reminded.

In our current message to teens and specifically to high school students, we are emphasizing that employers are now using one’s personal web history to decide whether or not to hire. Many students are marked with a past forever recorded in history. And, deleting the content from MySpace or Facebook does not clean up the past. (Visit the Wayback Machine at to see Internet archives.)

The Message to Students

Be a Great Producer. Whether you are at school, at home or some place else, take into consideration your subject matter and your subject. Is what you are shooting and putting on the web going to harm someone’s reputation forever?

Will it make a difference such as in a court of law?

Is what and I am recording for the good?

Is it worthwhile?

Is it educational?

Is it quality entertainment?

Am I delivering a worthwhile message?

Be a Great Subject. If you are the one on camera, ask yourself some of the same questions. And, if you find yourself in what could be a compromising view of you, step back, turn off the camera and use your video energy for something worthwhile, educational and edifying.

The Video power tool in our hands is stronger than ever, and over the course of our video history we can view scenes of which to be proud and ashamed.

Now the future lies before us. Who will document those things of necessity, importance and of great impact? Students, you are our writers, producers, speakers, instructors and actors of the future. Which ones of you will choose to be the greatest?



Barry S. Britt is an ASCAP member, music licensor, digital copyright instructor and is co-founder and executive producer of Soundzabound Royalty Free Music in Atlanta, GA.

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