by Matthew Magill
"Open your brain to non-toxic content"
When were you radicalised?
Was it at school, when studying for your history exams or talking to the resident punk between
Was it at home, in the early hours of some forgotten night, watching a questionable action film?
Was it over that one family dinner, when an older relative talked down to you, saying that money made the world go round and why are you still asking questions about it and have you got enough gravy?
For Nick Haynes, co-founder of Means TV, he was watching the 2016 election results on television, waiting for Hillary to make her speech. Nick explains how that moment started his journey towards Marxism and ultimately how it led to creating Means of Production with co-founder Naomi Burton.
A video production company, Means of Production entered the spotlight in 2018 with a viral campaign video that launched Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from outliner to political celebrity. Following its success, they later purchased Sara June’s YouTube channel (the creator of Nyan Cat) and started advertising their non-profit streaming service MeansTV: an anti-profit, anticapitalist alternative to services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
It’s worker-owned by both its employees and its filmmakers, and utilises a co-operative decisionmaking structure - rather than a top-down model of network executives and boardrooms. Their programmes champion ideas from independent and politically astute creatives that more conservative outlets wouldn’t normally give the light of day, and gives them a voice.
With its recent expansion into Means Interactive and its release of the videogame Tonight We Riot, MeansTV is quickly transitioning into fully-fledged platform media.. A radio streaming service is on the cards, and there’s even rumours of a reality show further down the line.
Even a quick glance through the Means TV catalogue will show that the majority of work has a clear political dimension. Nick says they keep programming simple, with two key criteria in mind: “First, is it entertaining?” and, secondly, if the message is “punching up or punching down”.
The themes of dismantling power structures and ‘punching up’ through their programming is clear - from alternative current affairs show Means Morning News to the children’s animation Wrinkles & Sprinkles about two Marxist cats. (Nick recommends new viewers check out The Rankin File and Sarasota Half in Dream, and claims Good White People makes him, “cry every time.”)
Despite this impressive content, some have questioned the company about the pricing of their service. Although an ironic question for “the world’s first worker-owned, post-capitalist streaming service”, the $10 (£8.08) monthly subscription is high. In comparison, an Amazon Prime or Netflix (Basic only) subscription is £5.99.
On the flipside, the money for MeansTV goes directly into the product. There are no ads and no big corporate supporters. For just over an additional £2 per month, Nick really sells the service as not only having “twenty-two feature length films that you can’t get anywhere else” and access to the regular Means Morning News, but providing you with the chance to, “open your brain to non-toxic content”.
How did they get here? Following the success of the AOC campaign, Nick explains, they simply “lucked the fuck out”. His and Naomi’s specific combination of experience, connections, and “know- how”, aligned with their apparent good luck, is why they are where they are today. Ultimately, he wants to create a leftist structure where they can employ young people who are depressed at their situation and want to build a radical alternative to the mass media. Whether they can achieve that, only time will tell.
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Matthew Magill is one of the L