BattleSeen: Soldiers video uncensored

BattleSeen is a new ‘soldier generated video’ site being backed by Andy McNab, the former SAS soldier turned best-selling author, and London-based webcasting firm Spoken. The site launches this week and will be mentioned on The Sun newspaper’s web site (which reminds of a story I heard during the dotcom boom, of which more later).

BattleSeen will allow anyone – but specifically the military, journalists and NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organisations) – to upload and share video content from conflicts around the world. As McNab says on the site: “Everyone can search and watch videos on BattleSeen and people can see first hand accounts of the experiences soldiers face before, during and after battle without interference and censorship from the media.” BattleSeen will “show modern-day warfare as it really is and as it has never been seen before; through the eyes of the soldiers who are fighting it.”

The site has been created by the UK’s Spoken, a company which more commonly offers audio and video online broadcasting to corporates, but which also has it’s own Flash player product. One of their clients is The Sun newspaper, so it’s no surprise BattleSeen launches with them this week. A spokesman at Spoken also tells me the company is also looking at allowing soldiers to upload written accounts of their experiences on the front line. It looks like the content will be free to air, ad-supported (there is a job advert for the Army on the site). However, realistically speaking these are going to be niche advertisers against what will no doubt be very raw content.

Quite clearly BattleSeen hopes to capitalise on the large amounts of video coming out of the conflict Iraq, among others. Here’s one of a soldier who seems intent on filming his experience of being shot at by insurgents in Iraq. (Perhaps watching this stuff back in the mess hall later on creates some kind of catharsis for these guys? Who knows. I guess soldiers have as much right to document their lives online as any nose-picking teenager in front of a webcam in their bedroom).

There is no word at all so far about what copyright users will have when they upload video. It feels to me like a simple re-application of the company’s existing video flash player product. But it’s quite clearly Andy MacNab’s vision.

Allowing soldiers to share their video “without interference and censorship from the media” sounds pretty high-minded, ‘citizen journalism’ stuff. Quite what they will do with the seedier side of military life when it turns up on the site remains to be seen. However, It should make interesting PR for MacNab’s next novel.

And the old story from the dotcom bubble? Way back in 2000 I recall a story about a guy who walked into a startup offering to film people fighting each-other to death.