Archive for the ‘public service media’ Category

The Great British Property Scandal

So here’s what it’s all about:

After just over 24 hours more than 52,000 have joined the campaign

Our Intrepid Leader (George 'Homeboy' Clarke)

It’s been a pretty tough project but that backing plus the following have made it worth the blood, sweat and tears: before the season even started transmitting this multiplatform commission prompted a debate about the senseless waste of empty homes in the House of Commons. I’m just back from an event in Parliament with George Clarke fronting our C4 delegation to rally more MPs behind the initiative, including the committed Lib-Dem Andrew Stunell and the shadow minister for Housing Jack Dromey.

George with The Great British Property Scandal literally on his mind

Here’s the extract from Hansard:

29 Nov 2011:

Empty Homes

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): It is an honour to have secured this Adjournment debate on empty homes. It is an issue that I and many Members on both sides of the Chamber have raised in recent weeks and months. Indeed, only last week, three Members asked about empty homes during the ministerial statement on housing.

I became involved in the issue of empty homes because of my deep concern about overdevelopment in my Colne Valley constituency in west Yorkshire. It is home to the lovely towns of Slaithwaite, Marsden, Holmfirth, Honley, the Huddersfield suburbs of Lindley and Birchencliffe and many more beautiful areas. I was concerned that our beautiful Pennine countryside was set to be dug up for new identikit homes.

The idea of green fields being developed is bad enough, but it defies all logic to be doing it while thousands of existing empty properties are being left to rot. In fact, my local council, Kirklees, has just voted for a local development framework that will impose 22,470 new homes in the district over the next 15 years, with some going on green belt. I say, bring Britain’s empty homes back into use first.

There is a groundswell of support for the empty homes campaign. I have to admit that I am a big fan of Channel 4 shows such as “Grand Designs” and “Restoration Man”. The presenter of the latter show, George Clarke, will be telling the nation about the scandal of Britain’s empty homes in a forthcoming series on Channel 4 next Monday and Tuesday evening—that is the plug out of the way.

What is an empty home? Homes are left empty for a number of reasons—for example, when they are between tenants, being refurbished, in probate or when the owner is in care or hospital. For the purposes of this campaign and this debate, however, we are primarily talking about long-term empty homes. These are properties that are stuck empty, and I believe that getting those houses back into use could be a quick and relatively inexpensive way of providing more housing.

7.17 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Andrew Stunell): Like my hon. Friend, I have been in contact with George Clarke and Channel 4, and I am happy to add a second endorsement of the programme on empty homes that they are developing. He, I and they are appalled at the scandal that 250,000 properties [see how the Government manage to make 100,000 disappear - just like that?] are empty when millions of people are on waiting lists, anxiously looking for homes and unable to find them. As well as being eyesores and as well as easily falling into disrepair, empty homes are often an expensive menace to communities and public services, attracting antisocial behaviour, squatting and vandalism.

The Government know very well that we need to build more homes, more quickly, and the housing strategy statement made in the House by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government last Monday shows real earnest intent. At the same time, we have to make better use of our existing homes, as that is better for communities, for the environment and for the families who have the new home to live in. We have been working on ways to bring empty homes back into use, and tackling those homes is one of the key pledges that we made in the housing strategy.

Add your name to the campaign to fill Britain’s empty homes here

Here’s the season trail:

Update 8/12/11:

It’s Thursday night now, 72 hours on, and we have over 91,000 signed-up supporters on the site. Way beyond my expectations. 100,000 is a key number as that enables a parliamentary debate to be triggered. Turn, little counter, turn.

Embarrassing Bodies: Kids

Here’s an article from this week’s Broadcast. Embarrassing Bodies: Kids starts tonight at 9pm on Channel 4.

Embarrassing Bodies extends site to tackle children’s health

29 April, 2010 | By Robin Parker

Live & kicking

Channel 4 has unveiled yet another brand extension for the Embarrassing Bodies franchise: a website devoted to children’s health.

The site, to be hosted at channel4.com/kids, will feature exclusive videos and applications featuring the doctors from the main show and the four-part Embarrassing Bodies: Kids, which begins this week.

Producer Maverick has worked with Dr Dawn Harper to create the Development Milestones application, which enables parents to plot their child’s development and receive detailed advice on what to do if this process shows up
any abnormalities.

Parents will receive reminders as children hit further milestones and when they require immunisations and health checks.

A Kids Lifestyle Checker application analyses a child’s lifestyle and calculates risk levels for 13 key conditions, and offers personalised advice on making positive changes.

Dr Christian Jessen is fronting a series of videos billed as Should We Be Worried?, in which he explains the symptoms and remedies for more than 80 of the most common childhood illnesses.

The site will span health issues affecting children of all ages – from babies and toddlers to older kids – and will be integrated with government-funded health advice site NHS Choices.

C4 cross-platform commissioner Adam Gee said the site was launched to address the lack of high-quality video on the web tackling children’s health issues, with older kids particularly under-served.

Embarrassing Bodies’ established website, at channel4.com/ bodies, has been used by 6 million people to date and has attracted more than 6.5 million video views.

It is now in the running for a Bafta TV Craft award, opposite The Apprentice’s Predictor game, which was developed by Monterosa with Talkack Thames and the BBC; Objective Productions’ and Illumina Digital’s C4 education
project Science of Scams; and Who Killed Summer?, a web teen drama produced by Bigballs Films, MWorks and Hideous Productions.

The children’s website will go live next week, and on 14 May the established live web show Embarrassing Bodies Live will focus on children’s health.

Last month, Maverick unveiled a 4 x 60-minute extension to the brand, Embarrassing Fat Bodies, and won an 18-part recommission of the main show. Last year, it produced a special edition centred on old people.

[This article is reproduced courtesy of Broadcast.]

Sparking the imagination

Here are some extracts from an article on Creation Interactive which illustrates how Embarrassing Bodies is getting the healthcare industry to rethink how it communicates with patients and the public…

TV & Online: What can TV’s Embarrassing Bodies teach the healthcare industry?

With an outstanding level of online engagement during and after each programme, Embarrassing Bodies shows a strong correlation between relevant and challenging content and behaviour change.

A serious medical condition can make for uncomfortable discussions between friends and family.  But what if you suffer from an embarrassing illness, one you can’t share with your aunt, your workmates or you may even be too ashamed to speak to a medical professional about it?

In the UK, a television show has sparked the imagination of TV and internet viewers by getting people to talk about, share and understand medical and body conditions that some people might think are obscure, freakish or disgusting.

With over 4 million TV viewers and an outstanding level of online engagement during and after each programme, Embarrassing Bodies illustrates that:

  • Consumers are interested in everyday health, sickness and wellbeing
  • Engaging content can make difficult health subjects accessible through everyday language
  • People are willing to talk about personal and embarrasing health issues online
  • Access to senior physicians provides a platform for stimulating response
  • There is a strong correlation between relevant and challenging content and behaviour change

Embarrassing bodies TV series

Embarrassing Bodies was commissioned by Channel 4 as part of their public service remit to explore difficult personal medical issues. Since 2007 the factual entertainment series and website, produced by Maverick Television, has delivered on-screen diagnosis by the team’s professional medical presenters who explain complex medical conditions in an engaging way. They follow patients through their decisions and operations, showing life-changing stories as sufferers are relieved of burdens from illness they have lived with sometimes for many years.  Participants trust the show’s talented experts, who include Doctors Christian Jessen, Pixie McKenna and Dawn Harper who have become role models for General Practitioners.

The heart-rendering Charlotte’s Story told the journey of a child who’s ugly verrucas were diagnosed as a symptom of a life-threatening bone marrow condition. The broadcast had an incredible response: The Antony Nolan Trust saw a 5,000% rise in requests for information on Bone Marrow Transplant the day after transmission.

Embarrasing BodiesTV content from Charlotte’s Story includes close-up detail of surgery

The power of the web experience

The secret to the show’s success is its engaging web and interactive experience.  The website generated the highest ever web and mobile viewing figures for a Channel 4 show, garnering 1.2 million page views within 24 hours of a May 2008 broadcast. The show regularly attracts 150,000 viewers who engage during or after each episode.

Viewers respond to a powerful call-to-action from the TV broadcast to visit the website where they can explore the issues raised.  An Autism-Spectrum Test was accessed 38,000 times in less than a minute.

The show encourages viewers to take further action to safeguard their health by performing checks on their skin, breast and testicles, providing web resources for self-diagnosis.  The website regularly receives comments from those who have been motivated to act, like a woman who discovered a lump in her breast:

“Because I found it in very early stages, it hadn’t spread and my outlook is fabulous. Thank you for your clear way of showing people like me how to potentially save our own lives!”

The show has a presence in selected networks: through the TV broadcast, the website, and a Facebook group (which has 147,000 fans) which feeds key stories and links from the show’s main website.  The #embarrasingbodies hashtag is used by thousands of Twitter viewers during the show, although the show has no official Twitter presence.



Channel 4’s Cross Platform Commissioner Adam Gee believes the key to the series’ success is in combining talent and honesty in an entertaining and engaging form.

“If you want to talk about lactose intolerance, get their attention by talking about farting as a way into it.  Health information doesn’t need to be po-faced. It’s a good engaging route into ‘meat and two veg’ healthcare issues. The show’s very open, non-judgemental tone and human language creates a huge sense of reassurance that people aren’t alone, and also a sense of hope.”

Embarrasing Bodies

Embarrassing Bodies uses straight-talking everyday language to engage people about their health

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies targeting difficult-to-reach teenagers, generated a flood of 11,000 website comments showing confidence and changed attitudes. During the evening of the broadcast, 99,000 people took an online STI risk checker – engagement you would be unlikely to ever find in a sex education lesson at school.  This show generated many mobile downloads, suggesting that teenagers are more likely to access this type of content in private on mobile devices than on computers.

The website allows for anonymous interactions: users do not have to pre-register to submit their photos or questions or to comment, however, the team have launched a new strand with real identities, Embarrassing Bodies: Kids for worried parents that have a common interest in the welfare of the children.  Channel 4 have used the programme as a model for supporting the preventative public health agenda and experimenting with online interactivity.  They are currently developing a buddying system for people who suffer from the same chronic illness to support one another and share first hand experiences.

Embarrassing Bodies Live

This year the broadcaster took TV-to-web interactivity to the next level with Embarrassing Bodies Live – a web-only show directly after the TV broadcast. 42,000 viewers logged on to the site to pose questions to the team’s medical presenters. The live show aimed to do things that linear TV or a radio phone-in could not: responding directly to viewers questions and rewarding interaction through shaping the editorial.  Viewers submitted photos and questions anonymously then anyone could vote on those they wanted to be discussed, directly affecting the editorial in real time.  It took the conversations that were already happening on Twitter and spring-boarded them into a wider conversation.  #embarrassingbodies was the biggest trending topic on Twitter in the UK that night.

Developing Communities

Embarrassing Bodies has developed a sizeable community of interest, but it’s a transient rather than sticky community.  Adam Gee explains:

“You have to think carefully about what you’re doing with a community and not do the default thing to say let’s make a social network because they’re all the rage.  What kind of social network would be build around embarrassing illnesses except one of hypochondriacs? People don’t come with a common interest to a site like this: it’s a lot of small, temporary communities.  They arrive in a just-in-time, task-oriented way, looking for the condition they are worried about. They then hang out in the community just long enough to find which is the best support group or other help to plug into.

“The series has always connected to profession bodies, encouraging viewers to visit their General Practitioners and linking to the UK’s National Health Service Choices website. The destination sites are a stark contrast from the rich, engaging Embarrassing Bodies space. Suddenly, you’re in this white, stripped environment.  They are two poles of public service health – we need to recognise that it is one continuum: on one end are health professionals, on the other are communication professionals.  We spend all day finding ways to entertain and engage people, and they spend all day thinking about what is the correct medical procedure.”

Lessons for the healthcare industry

The website benefits exponentially from its springboard from a popular TV brand which regularly attracts up to four million television viewers. The challenge for the healthcare industry is to create its own springboards based on highly engaging content.

Embarrassing Bodies shows that rich media and interactivity can lead to deeper levels of engagement and changes in behaviour. Jonnie Turpie believes:

“Now that broadband accessibility and video steaming on the web is accessible to wider audiences there are increasing opportunities to make engaging interactive content and services. This enables digital media producers to deliver valuable health engagement, rather than simply health information, which may lead to greater prevention of illness.”



To make the most of digital engagement opportunities, television and online video should create a call-to-action to move audiences online and provide more in-depth information and medical solutions.  Embarrassing Bodies shows that promoting illness, no matter how difficult to discuss, in an approachable and human way and providing value for the user to progress their understanding, can capture attention and imagination, forming a first step in creating patient engagement.

[These extracts are reproduced courtesy of Creation Interactive. You can read the full article written by Susi O'Neill here.]

Embarrassing Bodies Live initial results

From Broadcast today
Embarrassing_Bodies_Live

Embarrassing Bodies live web show draws 42,000

12 February, 2010 | By Robin Parker

Channel 4’s first live interactive web show drew 42,000 viewers this week – putting it almost on a par with UKTV’s Watch.

Embarrassing Bodies Live enjoyed a strong lead-in at 10pm on Wednesday night, with its established non-live counterpart watched by 3.5m viewers in its closing minutes.

At 10pm, 42,000 viewers logged on to the site and C4 new media commissioning editor Adam Gee said there was “very little tail-off”.

In the opening ten minutes, this figure was in line with Watch, which had 44,700 people watching Dalzeil and Pascoe.

Viewers were directed to the website to discuss issues raised with the show’s presenters and upload comments and images relating to their own medical conditions.

C4 and Maverick Television received hundreds of questions and more than 100 images over the course of the interactive show, which ran for 28 minutes.

Every individual question and image that made it onto the live show received hundreds of votes to get it on screen.

The Twitter hashtag #embarrassingbodies was the biggest trending topic in the UK on the nitght.

On the same night, Embarrassing Bodies’ established website received 30,000 visits and 420,000 page views between 9pm and midnight.

The interactive show will be available to view online retrospectively from today. C4 plans two further live spin-offs of the show, to air in April and May.

[Article reproduced courtesy of Broadcast]

We all scream for Two Screen

Today’s Broadcast exploring Two-Screen Experiences with reference to Surgery Live and Embarrassing Bodies Live

Two-screen TV: terms of engagement

11 February, 2010 | By Robin Parker

Broadcasters are finding new ways of attracting the growing number of people who surf the web while they watch TV. Robin Parker taps into the world of two-screen entertainment.

Broadcasters and producers looking to hold on to the communal experience of TV are increasingly turning to the very threat most readily associated with fragmenting audiences.

The web is fast becoming the place to bring an extra dimension to, and make money from, live TV viewing by capitalising on many viewers’ habit of peering at the set over their laptops.

Reasoning that viewers are talking with their peers on social networks and Googling shows, broadcasters want to own the space – and find ways of harnessing this conversation to inform the content of their programmes.

To date, ‘two-screen’, as the trend is known, has been dominated by live web chats to support ITV franchises such as Dancing On Ice and The X Factor, which attract up to 20,000 people a time, and play-along games for shows such as The Apprentice and Four Weddings.

But players in this field forecast an acceleration of interest this year and expect the forthcoming General Election and football World Cup to take the trend to new heights.

Last week saw former ITV exec Jeff Henry launch an ambitious ‘live linking’ service that sent viewers of Five’s US drama Num3rs to 160 websites featuring material relevant to the unfolding narrative.

This week, Channel 4 takes this development to its next logical step with its first ‘one-screen’ interactive experience: a live web show spin-off of Embarrassing Bodies.

Some might argue that enabling a web audience to interact with the show by asking questions and to vote in polls is merely a 21st-century extension of radio and TV phone-ins, but C4 crossplatform commissioner Adam Gee argues that this is reductive.

As Embarrassing Bodies Live unfolds, the studio feed will be dictated by the volume and nature of viewers’ questions, photos and comments. “Our one rule of thumb is that if the interactive element could be done on a digital channel or a radio phone-in, it’s out,” he says. “Those are not networked conversations and they’re not personalised.

“What separates the men from the boys is to take an existing behaviour, such as on Twitter, and spring-board off that into a conversation that has impact on the editorial.”

The web show is the culmination of 18 months of experimentation conducted by Gee, much of it involving Twitter. The highest-profile case, Surgery Live (see box below), became Twitter’s number one trending topic when it aired last May. Another, Alone In The Wild, was, says Gee, an “asynchronous” two-screen experience that opened up the production process before the show aired. It enabled a networked conversation – but one that excluded Ed Wardle, the isolated figure in the series.

Gee believes simplicity is best and thinks two-screen is effective for shows with “a certain wallpaper quality”. He adds: “If Big Brother were starting now, it would totally be in this territory.”

Where it goes wrong, he says, is when too much “unmoderated noise” renders the content incoherent, citing Bad Movie Club, a Twitter experiment backed by the likes of Graham Linehan and Phill Jupitus, in which followers watched the same movie and tweeted their thoughts as it played.

Thirst for information

In the spirit of DVD audio and text commentaries, Henry’s TellyLinks.com is the latest way to feed viewers’ thirst for more information. At launch, it acts like a micro-Google, connecting viewers with external links providing everything from information on an actor to background news stories and details of a show’s setting.

In time, it hopes to sell these links, enabling an advertiser to reach some viewers of regular shows such as the BBC’s Top Gear. Last week’s launch saw the site crash under what Henry says was “overwhelming demand”, which his team is trying to address.

Similarly, Maverick recently provided a Twitter commentary to HBO Iraq war drama Generation Kill as it played out on C4, in which followers of the hashtag #gk were offered definitions of about 60 technical military terms per episode, plus background context on the war that linked through to sites such as Channel 4 News.

The idea came to Maverick’s head of new media, Dan Jones, when he watched the show in the US. “While I loved it, it was hard to follow all the dialogue and I was looking up stuff online after each episode,” he says. “We designed a glossary that you could, if you chose, ignore most of, but you could look whenever you wanted to check something.”

The audience for this was in the mere hundreds but they were, he says, “really engaged”.

Maverick has also started working with talent on this, using Kirstie Allsopp’s love of Twitter to get the presenter to link to craft courses and contributors’ sites during the transmission of Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas.

Financial incentives

“It’s low cost and this casual engagement becomes financially worthwhile as you’re directing people to advertising-supported sites like C4’s 4homes. com,” Jones adds.

Meanwhile, having pioneered simple play-a-long tools for The Apprentice, Come Dine With Me and Living shows such as Four Weddings, digital specialist Monterosa is also eyeing the commercial opportunities.

“Some of the biggest brands are measuring their marketing spend by engagement,” managing director Tom McDonnell says. “In shows with commercial breaks, there’s a huge opportunity to reach people waiting for shows – and games – to come back on.”

He believes the games reward viewer loyalty and help a pre-recorded show feel ‘live’. While less than 1% of the audience played along, as much as 80% of these watched every episode. Moreover, he says, “it’s about giving the broadcaster an authoritative role in viewers’ behaviour. Channels like Living have to feel interactive.”

Mint Digital has, under its own steam, developed its own play-a-long game – a fantasy football variant called Football 3s – and is now discussing with ITV how to exploit it for the World Cup.

Product manager Utku Can Akyuz believes the tournament, along with the election, will be the testing ground for two-screen, but feels it will remain a minority interest in the short term.

“I don’t want to go down the path where the only way to watch a show is with a second screen,” he says. “It’s a challenge for writers and producers to create hooks for it without being too overt.”

Another challenge, he says, will be adapting the experience for timeshifted viewing. Mint is prototyping a debate tool that time-indexes each comment made through a broadcast, then overlays them on a show on a catch-up site such as iPlayer so that viewers watching later can get a sense of the experience.

He also wants to finesse the feel of two-screen. “We’re looking at how to design it for peripheral vision – using colours or sounds so you can see things change, but you can decide whether or not to look down at your laptop.”

Which begs a bigger question: with Project Canvas on the horizon, bringing interactivity to the TV set, will two-screen have had its day? Players in this space think not, arguing that the peculiar mix of a personal and shared experience will live on.

“A lot of TV viewing is done with more than one person in the room,” says McDonnell. “Wouldn’t it be pretty annoying if dad was obscuring the TV just to play a game?”

SURGERY LIVE
C4 OPENS THE DEBATE

Windfall Films’ week-long Channel 4 series Surgery Live, which covered live operations from a surgical theatre, was the first significant and deliberate attempt by a UK broadcaster to involve Twitter and Facebook in shaping the editorial. Backed by a Wellcome Trust grant for online development, it asked viewers to become virtual students and tweet the questions and comments they would give if they were in the room with the doctors.

“It was a digital media literacy opportunity,” says C4 cross-platform commissioner Adam Gee. “We couldn’t assume people knew how to use Twitter, and this helped get them acquainted.”

More than 10,000 questions and comments arrived via Twitter and Facebook over the course of the week and the best got to the surgeon within two minutes. By the final night, it was Twitter’s biggest trending topic in the world and the Facebook group counted 5,000 members. Given that the show itself was only accessible in the UK, this was no mean feat and Gee counted surgical students, doctors and health charities among the interested audience who continue to discuss the issue online nine months on.

“It was a great opportunity to experiment,” Gee concludes. “It amplified what was going on and we took some real steps forward by initiating a broad range of debates on medical issues with a community that developed in a completely organic way.”

[Article reproduced courtesy of Broadcast]

Life Begins

Here’s Broadcast on the first of my two launches this week…

C4 site to share birth stories

9 February, 2010 | By Robin Parker

Channel 4 has launched a site featuring video feeds from 40 cameras fixed within a maternity ward to support documentary series One Born Every Minute.

The site, Life Begins, features video shot over the course of a month that can be explored in narrative sequence, thematically, by location or by contributor.

The site, www.channel4.com/born, also hosts a real-time map tracking births across the globe as they are announced on Twitter, a ‘midwife of the month’ and testimonies from couples before and after the births, including tales of babies born in unexpected places.

The site is produced by Airlock and features video shot by Dragonfly, the indie behind the eight-part TV series.

The project was commissioned by C4 cross-platform commissioner Adam Gee, who said: ”Anyone who’s had a baby knows how nerve-wracking the prospect of giving birth can be and how difficult it is to get an honest, balanced view of what it’s really like giving birth.

“We wanted to demystify it and give a glimpse into those spaces in the hospital you don’t normally see in action until you’re there for real. The footage on the site is wonderfully moving but, more importantly, captures the reality. I don’t think there’s anything more valuable we could offer parents-to-be.”

One Born Every Minute starts tonight [Tues 9th Feb 21:00] on Channel 4.

[Article reproduced courtesy of Broadcast]

Bodies is back with a bang

embarrassing bodiesEmbarrassing Bodies came back for a new series last night with a fabulous show covering everything from lactose intolerance to autism. Big up to the Maverick team!

And online it’s been an incredible 24 hours…

  • We had over 198,000 visits in the first day
  • 38,000 viewers came online in just one minute! (in response to the autism item)
  • There were over 637,000 pageviews within two hours of broadcast – over 1.21M for the day
  • We trended #2  on Twitter (UK)

The stampede online was to try out Professor Simon Baron-Cohen‘s Autism-Spectrum Quotient or AQ Test. We’d had over 50,000 results reported back by the time I left the orifice this evening. Simon told me EB was “very original” – sounds like that could be euphemistic. He was a Big Boy when I was at school and I hung out with his younger brother Ash, now a guerilla/out-there film-maker in LA.

Yesterday I met another Big Boy from school days – Pete Bradshaw, now the film critic of The Guardian. We were judging the Single Drama award at the RTS (Royal Telly Society). My abiding memory of him is playing (very well) Thomas Becket in TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral. After watching 30 hours of TV drama over the last couple of days I reckon my AQ should be soaring right now…

Update 5.ii.10:

Another Big Boy back in the day was Mark Kermode (back then Mark Fairey), co-star of the always amusing Radio 5 weekly film review show and a regular on Film4. He’s doing a gig next week (Friday 12th at 7.45) at the Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley (where we’re still trying to raise the last bit of cash to pay for our centenary restoration this year) talking about his life in cinema which should be a good way to kick off your weekend. He was the one who got kicked out of Cannes for heckling in bad schoolboy French.

From 2-screen to 1-screen

Embarrassing Bodies

Opening up possibilities...

Off shortly to a gathering at Maverick TV to prepare for our ground-breaking live switchover show on 10th Feb. The significance of this experiment is that it is taking pioneering 2-screen televisual experiences like Surgery Live and streamlining them to a single screen containing both the video and interactivity (see screenshot in my last post  Bodies Live).

Here’s how it was reported this week in New Media Age:

Channel 4 spins off live web show from Embarrassing Bodies series

21 January 2010 | By Charlotte McEleny

Channel 4 is broadcasting an interactive live web show as part of the
Embarrassing Bodies series.

The broadcaster and production company Maverick TV will stream a live
programme directly after the TV show allowing viewers to influence the
content. Channel 4 said 150,000 people already engage online during or after
the episodes.

The content of Embarrassing Bodies: Live will come from the viewers, who can
comment, vote, submit content and have their health problems diagnosed live.

Each show will also feature a live health check to follow at home, such as a
breast or testicle examination.

Adam Gee, cross-platform commissioner at Channel 4, said, “We wanted to do
something that took complete advantage of being on the web, so anything that
has gone into the show shouldn’t be possible to do on linear digital TV.”

Users can interact in real time via the channel4.co.uk/bodies site but also through
social networks including Twitter and Facebook.

The web show will start after the second episode of the current series, which
airs on 10 February.

Dreaming the Dream

the dream by jaume plensa

The Dream Realised (courtesy of me)

Some great news just in at Channel 4 HQ – the Big 4 sculpture on the doorstep of the Richard Rogers designed home of C4 has been given an extension of 5 years by the planning department of Westminster City Council.

The public artwork – a 50-foot-high metal ’4′ – was originally constructed in 2007 to celebrate both the Channel’s 25th anniversary year and the launch of the Big Art Project and was granted planning permission for one year, during which 4 artists were to decorate it. The installation is based on the Channel’s on-air identity, with metal bars forming the logo only when viewed from a particular angle and distance. It is basically a framework over which to date photographer Nick Knight, Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner, Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui and recent art graduate Stephanie Imbeau have added a skin.

Nick Knight, known for his work with Kate Moss and Bjork among many others in the realm of fashion & music, covered it with bare chest skin of various hues, adding the sound of a beating heart at its core. I recently did an Amazonimpulse and bought Knight’s new book, imaginatively entitled ‘Nick Knight’ – at £32.50 one of the most expensive tomes I’ve ever shelled out on. From an Allen Jones-like Suede album cover to exquisite nude shots of Kate Moss, it’s a lively spectacle.

Mark Titchner skinned the Big 4 with panels inspired by trade union banners and advertising, the slogans questioning the on-going role of television: Find Your World in Ours, Find Our World in Yours. He came in one lunch time to talk to C4folk about his work, shades of The Waterboys’ Mike Scott about him. My second encounter with him was a great rum cocktail-fueled chat with at the Tate Summer Party this year. Guardian photographer Vicki Couchman took a top class photo of me in front of Mark’s Big 4 for a Guardian piece on the inaugural Media Guardian Innovation Awards in 2007 (which Big Art Mob won).

El Anatsui paneled the 4 with metallic newspaper colour printing plates. What I remember most about when El (as he’s known to his friends) came in to chat about his career in The Drum, the basement space beneath the Big 4, was his generous championing of young, emerging artistic talent from Africa like Nnenne Okore.

Stephanie Imbeau won a competition to provide what was to have been the final iteration. Her Shelter saw the Big 4 fleshed out with umbrellas of a myriad colours. This is the version currently in place – it’s best viewed at night when it is illuminated from within [see below]. The umbrellas all come from London Transport Lost Property Office so no pissing away of public money there then.

The Big Art Project from which the Big 4 sprang started life as a regular, if very ambitious, TV documentary series. In the original visually rich proposal for the project from Carbon Media a space was left for the cross-platform treatment. Into that space went the Big Art Mob and a bunch of interactive ideas I put together inspired by the wonderful public art works that punctuated the proposal. The Big Art Mob was born of my messing about for 18 months with Moblog‘s mobile picture blogging software after an initial encounter with Alfie Dennen in the basement of Zero-One in Soho. I was on the look-out for the right project to which to apply Moblog and Paint Britain which evolved into the Big Art Project proved the one – the first use of moblogging by a broadcaster and one of the first uses of Creative Commons licensing by a UK broadcaster (the first use was PixNMix, a VJ project I commissioned in 2004).

Besides the TV, web and mobile stuff, at the core of the Big Art Project was the creation of six actual works of public art, seed funded by Channel 4 and the partners we gathered. One of these was Dream by renowned Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, located high up on the site of the old Sutton Manor colliery overlooking St Helens, a 20-metre-high north-western rival to Gormley’s Angel on the opposite side of the country. It is the head of a nine year old Catalan girl with her eyes closed (I found that out by asking Plensa directly at the capping off ceremony, he was very cagey about who she was and reluctant to reveal much in that particular respect). Dream was Plensa’s response to a brief developed through conversations with ex-miners and other members of the local community. Initially he came up with a huge miner’s lamp but the miners themselves pushed him out of his comfort zone or at least nearer his true self

Dream most deservedly has recently picked up a couple of major prizes. Last month it won the prestigious annual Marsh Award for Public Sculpture which is given to a work of permanent public sculpture erected in the UK or Ireland. The definition of public sculpture is loose, but the location must be openly visible to the public without having to enter a building or gain prior permission. The award was presented at the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Plensa also picked up the British Creativity in Concrete Award for 2009 for Dream at a special ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. This award is presented each year to an architect, designer or artist in recognition of a particular achievement for the creative use of precast concrete. It’s difficult to convey the photograph-like subtlety of the face, no more than a pale reflection in photos like above.

The moment I walked round the corner of a forest path and first saw Dream in April was one of the high points of this year and indeed of my career at Channel 4, and made every second spent on the Big Art Project over the 5 year lead up worth it. It was a moment shared with my former colleague Jan Younghusband (ex-Commissioning Editor of Arts at C4, now Head of Music at BBC) who proved so open to the multiplatform dimension. It was indeed a dream come true.

stephanie imbeau

Night Shelter (courtesy of Tom Powell)

More on Big Art:

The launch

The mobile dimension

Mark Titchner’s iteration

It’s not (only) TV – Italian Documentary Screenings cross-platform workshop

The Medicine Men (and friend) on Channel 4

The Medicine Men (and friend) on Channel 4

Here are the references for the Cross-platform workshop at Trento:

My Commissions:

Osama Loves – a participative journey
Embarrassing Bodies – a popular health show
Empire’s Children – capturing people’s stories of the end of empire
Big Art Mob – documenting public art across the UK and beyond
Surgery Live – using Twitter to enhance live TV
Alone In The Wild – another experiment in using Twitter with TV
Landshare – linking people who want to grow their own food with space to grow it (derived from a factual format – River Cottage)
Sexperience – sex education through people’s first-hand experience
Adoption Experience – all about adoption from people’s direct experience
Picture This – a friendly place to improve your photography, integrated with an arts series
Medicine Chest – capturing people’s stories about traditional approaches to health

Other Channel 4 Commissions:

Bow Street Runner – a history game about the founding of the British police force
1066 – another history game about the Norman Conquest

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