Timed to the February 4th PBS Independent Lens rebroadcast of his award-winning documentary As Goes Janesville, Brad Lichtenstein is launching BizVizz, the first mobile iPhone app to make corporate behavior transparent. Just snap a picture of a brand’s logo and a simple graphic screen instantly displays essential facts about America’s largest corporations. Do they pay their taxes? How much money do they get in government subsidies? To whom do they give their political donations? BizVizz currently has 300 companies and over 900 brands with plans to expand.
Filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein says he created the app after filming a company in his movie obtaining taxpayer dollars without even so much as a public hearing. “I watched the democratic process being subverted and felt that we should do something on a grander scale to make corporate behavior more transparent; especially when we’re all called on to do our part during these tough economic times.” The Independent Television Service, funded by the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, backed BizVizz to extend the movie’s impact.
Seeking a wider audience for BizVizz, Lichtenstein teamed up with fellow Reel Economy filmmakers, Vicky Bruce and Karin Hayes, whose 2012 Sundance film We’re Not Broke exposes how US multinational companies offshore profits to avoid paying taxes. Together they are working with non-profits including the Tax Justice Network-USA, US PIRG, the F.A.C.T. coalition, and others to expose corporations’ all too often bad behavior.
We think BizVizz will appeal to consumers who prefer to “shop their values”, citizens and activists concerned with corporate accountability, and reporters on the economics beat. With this new app, a walk down the shopping aisle can reveal how most brands are owned by only a few companies. Users can discover that Boeing received over $450,000,000 from South Carolina in subsidies to help build their now grounded Dreamliner; that Wells Fargo, recipient of at least $25 billion in bailout funds, paid negative tax; or that the fiscal cliff deal actually extended a tax break that will allow GE to once again file for a refund instead of paying tax in 2013. “This is public information,” says Lichtenstein. “We’re just making it visible.”
Watch a demo of the app here:
Great to see this innovative use of technology, film, and good old activism.