Clive James the webcaster.

In a Media Guardian interview  published today, the irrepressible Mr James tells readers why his webcast  Clive James: Talking in the Library, which features him sitting in the living-room of his London flat in discussion with some friends such as the playwright Michael Frayn, the novelist Julian Barns, the theatre director Jonathan Miller and the actor and biographer Simon Callow,  is going to be transmitted on Sky BskB’s Artsworld channel.  The bulk of the money he gets from a deal he’s done with Artsworld and Slate, a magazine owned by the Washington Post, will mostly go towards funding the webcasting.

“So with Artsworld I’ve insured myself against the cost of production. And Slate is carrying the burden of transmission. Theoretically, all I’m contributing is my time and energy …” He interrupts himself. “Actually I have a few other bills to pay, my assistant for one thing, well, I’m going broke.” A peal of shoulder-quaking laughter follows. “I would do this anyway, but I would like to do it without getting stopped by the fact that I simply ran out of dough.”

Of course, Clive James being the man he is, readily admits to what really motivates him in the enterprise.

“Finally, everything is ego,” says James. “It’s a pyramid. It’ll be there after I’m gone. If I select enough of the right people [his site also features work by others, ranging from Australian poet Les Murray to an article on Buffy by Zoe Williams], people might not even notice that I’ve gone. I’ll be in the middle of a glittering galaxy. I’m a firm believer that the web is indeed a jungle and that you have to build clearings in the jungle because young people starting out in their creative lives need somewhere to come”.

As someone who has long believed that while Clive James could probably afford to fund his webcasting and the publication  of the other material (a “treasure trove” a friend of mine, James Doherty, calls it) that is to be found on site out of his own pocket, what he couldn’t do was show other people do not have his financial resources that they can do the same. This venture, I believe,  goes somewhere towards showing just how they might go about doing it. 

Of course, it has to be said that Clive James can tap into funding sources more easily than most because his reputation – a reputation built up though publishing and broadcasting in the mainstream media – opens the right doors and gets him access to the right kinds of people, but this leaves the leaves the writer or broadcaster who has no track-record with the problem of how to go about gaining the kind reputation that will open the right doors.


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