Sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, copyright infringement, physical threats and starvation pay are just some of the conditions that have been rampant at Channel Awesome. This is all according to a 70 page memo issued on line by numerous people formerly associated with the upstart internet company. That’s right seventy pages documenting these abuses.
This is disappointing and shocking to those of us who loved watching the shows on Channel Awesome. From the outside, Channel Awesome appeared to be such a fun place to work, where everyone got along and everyone shared in whatever small profits were to be made. We even posted a story called 6 Reasons Why Channel Awesome Is Great.
In fact, Channel Awesome was started as an alternative to the internet giant YouTube (which is owned by Google). Contributors to YouTube complain that it is almost impossible to make much money uploading videos, no matter how many hits they receive. As a near monopoly, Google gets almost all the money, and sets all the terms. YouTube also takes down videos that receive even the slightest complaint of copyright infringement, even if the complaint is totally ridiculous. As a contributor to YouTube, you are basically considered guilty with no right to appeal other than a cumbersome and costly fight.
However, behind the scenes, Channel Awesome was not the YouTube-alternative paradise it appeared. Most of the criticism revolves around CEO Michael Michaud, who allegedly is a truly terrible person. Like all great scandals, the Michael Michaud scandal involves sex, violence and money. Michaud is accused of sexually harassing almost every woman who ever worked for Channel Awesome. He also has a violent temper and goes into rages against employees and contributors (those who upload videos to Channel Awesome).
Reportedly Michael Michaud fired the head of H.R. Holly Brown, since she was 15 minutes late for a Skype call. He then made physical threats against her to the point where she had to hide in a “safe house”.
The money controversy revolves around how much contributors get for their product. Contributors are the people who have their videos on Channel Awesome. Without them Channel Awesome cannot exist. They complain that Channel Awesome became every bit as bad as YouTube, with the contributors doing all the work and Channel Awesome taking almost all the money. It is tempting to say that maybe this is just a few malcontents complaining. However, the statistics show otherwise. Contributors to Channel Awesome have been leafing in droves. One year ago there were 41 regular contributors to Channel Awesome. Today there are 10.
Looking at the evolution of Channel Awesome, we are reminded of the George Orwell book Animal Farm. The animals take over the farm, but by the end the new farm is just as corrupt and evil as the old farm. The Animal Farm line “some animals are more equal than others” applies perfectly to Channel Awesome. There is a lot of money being made, however, it is being horded by a small few at the top.
There is a lot of debate as to how much blame to attribute to Doug Walker, whose brand names are The Nostalgia Critic and That Guy With Glasses. His show is great,and he seems like such a nice guy in the videos. So far, the has been completely silent surrounding the controversies at Channel Awesome. However, that is the problem. He is too big a star at the station to not take sides. Many say he is committing what Roman Catholics would call Sins Of Omission. Critics say Doug Walker is a defacto part of management and must take responsibility.
Doug Walker has a real money problem. He does not own the rights to the internet character The Nostalgia Critic. Somehow Michael Michaud was able to get control of that. If Doug Walker leaves Channel Awesome, he has to start over with a completely new character and rebuild followers from scratch. Does he have the courage to walk away from the money to do what is morally right?
However, others say Doug Walker is more directly involved in the problem, especially when it comes to the fun spoof “movies” that Channel Awesome makes. Most of the actors in these films got paid nothing other than airfare. However, Channel Awesome and Doug Walker made lots of money selling DVSs of these movies. The other people involved did not even get a free DVD of the film.
Lindsay Ellis, formerly known as the Nostalgia Chick on Channel Awesome has come out strongly on the side of those criticizing Channel Awesome. This make a difference, as Lindsay Ellis is one of the smartest and most respected people on the internet. Anything she posts or says is fact-based and well researched. If she says something at Channel smells, that you can believe it stinks.
Will Channel Awesome die? In effect, it already has. Even if the company does not go bankrupt, the dream of a place where creators of unique and fun videos would be treated with respect is already dead. The internet continues to be a place where the creators of content are the lowest people on the Totem Pole. On the internet, budding writers, film makers, video producers and actors make pennies while huge profits go to the the corporations using their work. Maybe someday a new platform will come along to accomplish what Channel Awesome could not.