Archive for the ‘empty homes’ Tag

Empties are like chewing gum on pavements

Here’s a telly review from The Observer last weekend which pretty much represents the reception of The Great British Property Scandal. I particularly liked the last line.

The Observer, Sunday 11 December 2011

There’s too little time and space to get into the intricate successfulnesses of (Restoration Man) George Clarke’s two programmes on The Great British Property Scandal but, trust me, he is now doing for empty homes what Jamie has been trying to do for food. National Low-Cost Loan Fund might not sound the foxiest soundbite in the den, but it’s his answer, and it would work, by getting government and councils to let absent landlords (not all ill-intentioned) borrow £1,300 bloody quid and do up their empty homes to a lettable standard.

The angrier he got, the angrier I, and I hope you, got. The government/council lunacy of having families cooped in damp, rat-infested, poke-holes possessed of staggeringly dubious electrical safety, while round the corner lies a perfectly good “empty” which the owners, what with no one lending anything, can’t afford to twitch up to a lettable standard, hurts in that very bad way that happens when your mind hears stupidity.

Clarke managed, eventually, to show how even a little money can turn it around: the family needing not to live in squalor did up the house themselves, more than willingly and actually rather tastefully; the nice owners/landlords got some rent rather than a crippling mortgage for emptiness and a whole family was newly happy. Simples? I have already joined the website which allows you to help in your own area, or at least find out who in charge locally is helping/ unhelping. Empties are like chewing gum on pavements. We never noticed them: now we do.

{published courtesy of The Observer}

And here’s how the project was mentioned last week in the Scottish Parliament:

Motion S4M-01551: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/12/2011

That the Parliament welcomes the Channel 4 series,
The Great British Property Scandal, which, it believes, highlights the problem of long-term empty homes; understands that there are 25,000 long-term empty homes in Scotland; welcomes the Scottish Government’s funding for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is hosted by Shelter Scotland, and further welcomes the Scottish Government’s ongoing consultation on extending council tax charges for such homes, with the intention that additional revenue raised is re-invested in affordable homes, including the re-use of empty homes.

Supported by: Adam Ingram, Sandra White, Fiona McLeod, Annabelle Ewing, Gil Paterson, Chic Brodie, James Dornan, Bill Kidd, Dennis Robertson, Margaret McDougall, John Mason, Marco Biagi, Margaret Burgess, Richard Lyle, John Finnie, Mike MacKenzie, Paul Wheelhouse, Mark McDonald, Colin Keir, Kevin Stewart, Drew Smith, David Torrance, Gordon MacDonald

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.

Channel 4 Multiplatform

There was a useful article in this week’s Broadcast about Channel 4’s Multiplatform commissioning and its direction of travel, based on an interview with the Multiplatform Lead, Louise Brown. Here are a few extracts [with a few annotations from me]:

The Great British Property Scandal - starts Mon 5th Dec on C4 at 9:00pm

C4’s multiplatform commissioning lead has been charged with finding innovative ways to get viewers involved in its campaigns [it's not limited to campaigns] through apps and online projects.
Multiplatform and convergence have been two key messages coming out of Channel 4 over the past 18 months, and Louise Brown is heading the team charged with innovation [including me whose focus is features and factual entertainment].
As multiplatform commissioning lead, Brown works with five commissioning editors tasked with working on two-screen projects that create meaningful dialogue.
George Clarke’s The Great British Property Scandal is the latest campaign to be getting the full 360-degree treatment, with a season of programmes supported by a range of multiplatform activity including an iPhone app and an online tool for members of the public to identify where there are empty homes, via mapping technology. The key activity is an online petition.
“It’s calling for a change in the law around long-term empty homes being made available for ordinary people to use, as well as setting up a low-interest loan fund,” Brown explains.
The information will be used by democracy project My Society [MySociety made the tools and app, they don't use the information, the tools pass it on securely] and passed on to the local authorities. Taking lessons from last January’s Hugh’s Fish Fight, which harnessed the mass-TV audience to make a tangible change to policy, Brown is hoping to get more than 10,000 signatures on the petition.
“In multiplatform overall, we are constantly learning; the team’s remit is really to innovate,” she says.
Adam Gee, multiplatform features and fact ent commissioner, has worked on campaigns for both Hugh’s Fish Fight and The Great British Property Scandal. Brown believes his experience can lead to more powerful campaigns in future.

“C4 prides itself on having really impactful programmes. When you have been stirred by a programme, you need to do something with that. That is what is so exciting about having multiplatform at the heart of things now,” she says.
One of the key lessons from the campaigns is that people need to have a variety of access points to do something that is achievable, she says.
Campaigns are not the only area in which C4 is looking to invest. All of its programmes have a web presence, but the level of interactivity will vary, says Brown. “In terms of resources, I would rather have the focus on a few standout, compelling experiences around really appropriate subject matter than try to make everything a little bit multiplatform,” she says.
Brown points to the range demonstrated by The Million Pound Drop Live playalong game, Comedy Blaps, Hippo: Wild Feast Live and forthcoming gameshow Bank Job.
In the ambitious Hippo: Wild Feast Live, a dead hippo was placed on a river and C4 attempted to let the audience watch almost every stage of the animal’s body being consumed as its energy was passed down the food chain. “It came together quite quickly,” she reflects. “Natural history is another area where I really hope we are going to see some more events or experiences. If we get the right subject matter and the right approach, it makes it a uniquely C4 experience. Not everything worked, but if everything is going right, we are not pushing hard enough.”
Despite some technical glitches, the project attracted an audience that was willing to spend time on the website – one of the factors Brown considers when looking at a project’s success.
The starting point when assessing how well a project has done is the number of visits to the site, followed by the number of minutes people spend on the site, and then the number of return visits. On the Hippo project, viewers spent an average of 19 minutes watching a live stream, which culminated in 6,500 hours of live-action views.
Those are the overall markers of success. But each genre should be approached differently as each has its own potential for multiplatform. In scripted content such as drama and comedy, the key thing is talent, says Brown.

Ideas machine

C4 has just ordered 14 developments from 200 pitches submitted after its first ever online briefing. The plan now is to increase the frequency of briefings and the number of commissions. “The total focus of my team is finding new talented companies. Sometimes they are content companies and sometimes they are technology companies,” she explains.
“At next year’s briefings, I would like to see more TV companies interested in multiplatform commissioning. We have some of the best digital companies, who come along with really brilliant thinkers, and I would like some of those TV thinkers to come along and meet with them.”
C4’s strategy of two-screen commissioning revolves around the TV, but over the coming year, we can expect to see a more fluid use of ideas. “I would be gobsmacked if an online idea doesn’t migrate onto TV next year. There are ideas we are considering already. There is already a case where it is has gone into a strand for a show. It is absolutely what we think and know will happen,” she says.
Ultimately, C4’s aim of pushing the boundaries in convergence and two-screen has led to a change in the way it commissions and the type of content it is working with, and a deeper understanding of audience behaviour. The next year will only see it building on that foundation.

How to pitch
Do
•    Know why your idea is perfect for Channel 4
•    Come to our briefings
•    Keep up with our current Multiplatform commissions – what you can learn, where you might overlap
Don’t
•    Overthink it – commissioners want to input/help
•    Assume the involvement of existing C4 talent
•    Pitch comedy or drama without a writer

Cash and Burn

Channel 4 multiplatform: 
A broad development slate
Channel 4 multiplatform commissioners have ordered 14 developments since the online summer briefing.
There’s a non-linear narrative drama and factual-based projects looking at topics such as international finance and food waste, while an entertainment format looks at the depth of friendships online.
Adam Gee has ordered a development looking at international finance. The project, from Cardiff ’s Cube Interactive and Twofour, aims to offer an experience of how international finance works and promises the unusual spectacle of a City trader, a bookie, a housewife and a monkey pitted against each other.
The idea is seen as having potential to translate to TV and could potentially be stripped over a number of days. Ten Alps’ Wasted, another Adam Gee order, focuses on a new chef who promotes how to avoid wasting food. The format will show people how to use their food by the end of the week rather than throw it away.

Intimate Exchanges uses Alan Ayckbourn’s 1982 play to explore the concept of non-linear drama. Multiplatform drama commissioner Hilary Perkins ordered the project from Tern in Glasgow.
A number of potential interactive treatments are being developed based on the themes of the original play. The idea is based on examining how decisions can be made both in a local environment, such as the living room, and how that might compare with regional and national decisions.
An in-depth knowledge of digital culture is the basis for The Network, which is being worked on by Nerd TV. The development, an entertainment format commissioned by Jody Smith, looks at how well people’s online friends really know them, and is another development earmarked as a possible TV transfer.

Reproduced courtesy of Broadcast. The full article can be read here (subscription only).

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