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Conscious.tv - the idea

It was approaching midnight on the 31st December 2006. My wife Renate and I were celebrating New Year’s Eve on the island of La Gomera, in the Canary Islands. As usual, she was drinking champagne and I was sipping my glass of mineral water. I had recently reached my 60th birthday and we were having a lively discussion about the things that we hadn’t yet done in our lives that we would still like to do.

“It would be great to have a TV station,” I pronounced. “I could combine all my interests: consciousness, football, music, hiking, make some new programmes and broadcast some existing ones. We can get literally hundreds of channels on our TV at home and they are nearly all rubbish. I am sure I can do much better than that,” I declared.

It was of course true that I had no experience in television at all but on the other hand I had built a successful record label and music publishing company and I had never known anything about music. I couldn’t play any musical instruments and certainly couldn't read music. But I knew what I liked and trusted my instincts. I had hired good people to work for me. I had learnt that if I couldn’t do something then I had to find someone good who could complement me. “It can’t be that hard to make decent, interesting television programmes” I added. I thought about it some more. “I could easily come up with plenty of programmes. I could start a satellite channel in the UK, I am sure people would watch it.” The mineral water was beginning to talk enthusiastically.

The next day we hiked into the hills behind the hotel where we were staying. Something was definitely brewing in me. The more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it. Soon after we arrived back in England I made some enquires and discovered that to start a proper Satellite channel was going to cost getting on for
£500,000 a year and that was just to rent the satellite space and the programme listing space. It didn't include the cost of making any programme, or the overhead costs. That was definitely a step too far. I also talked over the idea with various friends; they thought combining all my different interests wasn’t going to work. “The channel would be too diverse, you would confuse people,” most of them commented. “Why don’t you focus on the consciousness side? No one else is doing that and there is plenty of football and music on TV already.” Life went on, but the idea lingered and often surfaced in my mind. I lowered my sights a little. Maybe I could piggy back on someone else’s channel and just show a few hours of programmes a week. That seemed much more realistic. I found out that this was called a micro channel and other people were doing it. I had a few meetings but I still felt it was working out too expensive. I was happy to spend money, but I wanted to spend it effectively.

It was now late in 2007 and Internet TV was just beginning to be established. By this time I had thought up a name, conscious.tv. I liked it, registered it and decided to make some programmes. I rang a few TV studios and couldn’t find anything under about £3,000 a day; and then, of course, there were editing costs afterwards. That was still too much. My music company had started in 1978 and was born out of the first wave of punk music. Punk was a revolution; it quickly turned a boring stagnant music industry upside down. It wasn’t just about the music, it was also about the way the music was sold, promoted and marketed. Records that cost very little to make started to sell in decent quantities. People were ready for something new. The music industry was stuck in a groove and needed a kick. I felt television was the same. People were spending fortunes making programmes that just weren’t very good, in my eyes anyway. Persisting, I found a TV studio in Acton, in West London that would do me a deal for a day and they would record the programmes as if they were live and I could pretty much walk out with the finished programmes. This was more like it. This was what I was used to. Something that was more instant.

On 2nd November 2007 I made four programmes. I was the interviewer as I didn't have anyone else to do it. None of the programmes were very good (and I have taken them all down now). But I was determined to learn fast. Three weeks later I was back in the studio for another full day of making programmes. I had coached myself and was much better as an interviewer this time and I felt I was getting somewhere. And I had also remembered a spiritual retreat that I had attended a few months earlier. We had spent four days listening to everyone else’s life stories. That was seventy stories in four days. It was an extraordinarily powerful few days. I had known all those people for twelve or thirteen years and to hear the detail of their lives was a revelation. It was very moving and touching at times.

I realised that with conscious.tv I wanted to create something similar. I wanted people to learn, to be stimulated, to be encouraged and to be touched. I was also enjoying the challenge. I liked creating something from nothing and seeing where it could go. I would book the studio for an eight hour day, 11.00am to 7.00pm and then invite five or six people to interview. To start with it was mainly friends and people I already knew as I didn’t feel confident enough yet to invite people I hadn’t met. Conscious.tv was a free service and I wasn’t in a position to pay any fees or expenses, so I was really asking people to take part in an experiment in a new form of TV, making programmes cheaply that were for a niche viewing audience. Having said that, I felt technically the programmes were reasonable enough. We had three cameras in a proper studio and the director would switch from one to the other so it gave the feel of a proper programme, which of course it was. I was learning a lot, and fast.

By April 2008 I felt I had enough interviews to launch the channel on the Internet. People’s response was slow to start with, but I wasn’t going to do any marketing as such. The phrase ‘build it and they will come’ was rooted in me. I felt what I was doing was interesting and different. The word would slowly get out there. For the first few months I didn’t even check how many people were viewing the programmes. I didn’t want to depress myself if they were very low. I just wanted to keep going. I was enjoying the project and felt the programmes were getting better and better. And then four months or so after we started, three e-mails came in one week from people I didn’t know who had found the channel and enjoyed it. Something was starting to happen...

Around this time I was talking with an old friend, Kate Parker, “You should make some programmes on Non-Duality” she suggested. “You should talk to Julian Noyce at Non-Duality Press, he’ll have some idea of who, amongst the authors that he publishes, might be willing to be interviewed.”

I called Julian and explained my idea. “Hmmmmm” he mused for several seconds before suggesting Jeff Foster and Richard Sylvester. And so Jeff and Richard came along to the studio in Acton one afternoon and the Non-Duality section was born. Within a few months it became the most popular section. Renate started to help me by doing some interviews herself. People seemed to like our style, something was now quickly building. We were soon receiving e-mails daily from people who had suggestions of people to interview or indeed, people who wanted to be interviewed themselves. Although our interview style may look casual, we actually do a fair amount research for most of our interviews, and that takes time. We quickly learnt that we needed to be pretty selective about who appears on conscious.tv. We soon decided the solution was simply to only interview people we personally find interesting. People would sometimes object, “You should interview so and so; lots of people will watch it. You will find more viewers.” But we weren’t to be swayed. Conscious.tv is an integral part of our own personal journey and all the interviews in this book have been important for us.

As I write this now at the beginning of 2011, more than two years later we have made over 200 programmes. Apart from being available on Conscious tv all the programmes are available on YouTube and we now get thousands of programmes watched each day on the Internet. We also have our micro channel on Satellite TV in the UK with programmes broadcast daily. Our adventure is ongoing, and while we still enjoy it we will continue.

Iain McNay
Oxfordshire, UK 2011

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