A short, bespectacled, dynamic New Yorker with a boyish grin, Rosenblum was a producer for CBS News. But, he says, he hated the 'fraudulence' of conventional television, especially the fact that most American presenters, or 'anchors' as they are known, have little or no journalistic experience.
'These people are basically actors,' he says. 'All the work is already done for them. They fly into the crisis area on the last day of filming, get their make-up done, scan the script, do the piece to camera, and boom] straight back to the Hilton for dinner and fly home first-class next morning. They don't even know what country they're in sometimes.'
Disillusioned, Rosenblum left his job six years ago, bought himself one of the new Hi-8 cameras that had just appeared on the market, and went to live on the Gaza Strip. He filmed the intifada and life in the Palestinian refugee camps, and edited the footage with his own commentary - a project that satisfied a previously unrecognised creative urge. 'Up to that point I had worked on network TV for five years, I had won two Emmys, and yet I had never touched a video camera. That's how far I was removed from the means of production. Crazy.' He sold his Palestinian reports to the McNeil-Lehrer Newshour, a prime-time news slot on American TV, for dollars 30,000 ('not bad for a month's work'). Video-journalism was born.
Rosenblum realised that the new Hi-8 technology would revolutionise the television news industry, eliminating the need for cameramen, soundmen, producers and correspondents - not to mention the vastly overpaid anchors.
Instead of dispatching a five-man crew to cover a news story on another continent, a single locally based video-journalist, familiar with the area and fluent in the language, could arrive at the scene, conduct interviews, write and record a script, edit the piece and relay it back via satellite - all before the five-man crew had arrived.
This is the theory behind Video News International, Rosenblum's global news- gathering service. VNI employs 30 video-journalists around the world, from Peking to Mexico City, all of them fluent in the native language, all equipped and trained to work in this way. VNI sells programming to all the leading American networks, as well as European and Asian companies.
Rosenblum believes that one day all television will be made his way. This visionary fervour has already found some validation in the success of NY1, the New York-based 24-hour cable news channel that he set up for Time-Warner. This, in turn, has led to numerous lucrative consultancies in Zurich, Tokyo, Peking, Seoul and Amsterdam, as he flies around the world helping to establish the local cable channels.
At the moment he is in London, training a team of 30 raw recruits for Channel One, the 24-hour cable news franchise owned by Associated Newspapers that is due to start broadcasting by the end of the year. Rosenblum is one of life's natural teachers. Having sat in on a seminar, I can report that his trainee video-journalists, mostly television novices, were producing quality news reports within three weeks.
But Rosenblum is not even slightly surprised. 'Any idiot can make TV, we're all video- literate, we all know, if only subconsciously, the conventions of TV. And my undying passion is to break the back of the cabal that controls TV and video, and to open it up to people.' With the emergence of more and more cable channels worldwide, he says, audiences will fragment into smaller and more specialised sub-groups, leading in turn to smaller budgets and fewer restrictions concerning the 'means of production'; what he calls the 'democratisation of TV'.
The conventional argument against deregulation - that it will lead to a terminal decline in broadcasting standards - is dismissed by Rosenblum as a scare story, fabricated by the industry 'priesthood' in order to protect their turf: 'For better or worse, television is the most powerful medium in the world, and everyone should have right of access to it.'
The change is being driven by technology, says Rosenblum, who sees a historical precedent in the invention of movable type. 'Five hundred years ago, if I wanted to write a book, I had to become a monk, work my way through the hierarchy, and eventually I'd be allowed to illustrate a manuscript, and one day I might write my book. But along came Gutenburg who said, 'Watch this.' And tap, tap, tap, a book] And all the scholars said, 'Look at those crude letters, they're awful. No gold leaf. No coloured inks.
No one will ever read this.' But within 100 years Europe was revolutionised, due to technology.
'Remember,' he says, wagging a finger, 'the King of France at that time, Henry IV, was illiterate. And no one gave a f---. A century later, that was unthinkable.'
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