Archive for the ‘tv’ Category

Stage Struck (Day 24)


It had to be done. Sitting on the stage of the legendary Theatre Royal in Stratford East. MacBook Air close at hand. My theatre chapter notes on me. Half an hour to spare. I began writing my chapter on Theatre starring Joan Littlewood and Joe Papp on the very boards where the Theatre Workshop was set up in East London by Joan and  her partner Gerry Raffles and where ground-breaking shows like Oh What A Lovely War came into the world.

I was there at the kind invitation of Stella Duffy, writer, novelist and performer, whom I first contacted after reading her Guardian blog about her project to revitalise and realise Joan and Cedric Price’s concept of the Fun Palace. She was running an Open Space to bring together all the potential partners in the 2014 project.

During the day I was privileged to meet a number of people who worked at this very theatre with Joan and collaborators both on and off stage including actor Murray Melvin and director Philip Hedley who kindly helped those gathered to understand where Joan and Cedric were coming from with their vision for Fun Palaces where theatre, arts and science could hang out together in the name of Fun and non-boring Learning.

I was energised simply on arriving in Stratford as this was my first time back since the closing sporting events of the Paralympics and was charged with happy memories of ten days volunteering down at London 2012 in the Media Centre/Press Office of the Olympic Park.

The theatre there is uniquely intimate, 450 seats but when you stand on the steeply raked stage every one of them seems within easy reach of your gaze and words. Acting has never really been my thing, I’ve always been happier behind the camera, but if I had to do it that’s a stage I’d like to give it my all from and the black bricks of the unusually deep stage (a depth created by acquiring the adjoining building at some opportunistic juncture) contain some essence of innovation and experiment which had me leave with fantasies of performing.

On my way out I bumped into a fellow Gee (no relation) whose path I’ve crossed on Facebook, partly through the random coincidence that her daughter and my grandmother share the same less than commonplace name. Lisa Gee is a published writer of books and journalism and during our enjoyable outdoor chat beside the Theatre Royal box office (where I took the opportunity to pick up tickets for the 50th anniversary revival of Oh What a Lovely War early next year) she was kind enough to share some insights into the publishing side of things.

Towards the end of the afternoon I had to head West again to attend a technical rehearsal in the bowels of Channel 4 for my Health Freaks commission which involves a live insert into a pre-recorded show which is technically tricky and needs split second timing. It was my first time back in C4 HQ since I started my sabbatical on 1st September. There were the best part of a dozen of us  in the small edit suite ranging from presenter Dr Pixie McKenna through the production manager of the TV show to the colleague making up the on-screen graphics. That ‘cosiness’ drove home how much of a work of collaboration and teamwork this kind of creativity is – a perfect note to end a Joan day (it was her birthday yesterday so the anniversary had been marked on the stage at the start of the day with some red flowers presented by Stella before a projected photo of Joan sitting on bombsite rubble in front of the Theatre Royal)  as Joan, for all her leadership, was a  tireless advocate of creative collaboration and collective creation.

Murray Melvin actor Theatre Royal Stratford view from stage Theatre Royal Stratford

Multiplatform metrics

Here’s a recent article from Broadcast summarising the emerging approach at Channel 4 to measuring the impact of TV-centric multiplatform projects for planning, monitoring and evaluation.


C4 spells out aims for multiplatform orders

By Balihar Khalsa

Channel 4 is implementing a new framework for measuring the success of multiplatform commissions.

The framework is made up of a handful of commissioning criteria and seven factors for multiplatform commissioners to consider when ordering a project. Work on the framework began after Richard Davidson-Houston was promoted to head of online in July.

Multiplatform commissions will be expected to increase TV viewing of the project they are related to, whether linear or on-demand. They will also be expected to have either public service or commercial value, or both, and generate rich data from consumers, as well as pushing convergence.

Alongside the criteria, multiplatform content will be expected to achieve one of seven aims. These are: Audience, Attention, Access, Action, Appreciation, Additions and Advocacy.

Commissioners must identify which of these aims they are primarily attempting to meet at the outset of each project.

Examples of what the seven A’s translate to:

1. Audience – number of visits to a page, how many visitors from the UK, how many times people come back.

2. Attention – how many pageviews they look at during the visit or the duration of the visit.

3. Access – looking at how much people register to gain access to content.

4. Action – something like the number of tests taken or games played or completed.

5. Appreciation– a satisfaction score or awards wins.

6. Additions – contributions, number of comments, number of comments each visitor leaves.

7. Advocacy – Twitter re-tweets, Facebook likes, number of Facebook likes per user.

Features and Factual Entertainment Multiplatform Commissioning Editor Adam Gee said the framework “reflects the changes at C4 in recent months. There is an emphasis on data and this framework for metrics is part of that”.

Gill Pritchard’s appointment as director of audience technologies and insight in January marked a first for the broadcaster. Pritchard, who reports directly to C4 chief executive David Abraham, is responsible for maximising audience interaction to create commercial opportunities.

Gee said: “We are conscious that we are working in a medium that can be measured in a much more defined way. When you can measure things better, it is a lot easier to express what their value is.”

Multiplatform commissioners now sit alongside genre commissioners, a change implemented by Abraham in a move to push the “multiplatform approach into the centre of the organisation, rather than leaving ‘new’ media in its own isolated silo”.

TV and Social Media

I spent an enjoyable morning courtesy of Broadcast the other week chewing the fat about the role of Social Media in relation to TV (and vice versa). They used the roundtable discussion as the basis of a feature which you can read here. Also involved, among others, were Deborah Rayner (Managing Editor, CNN, EMEA), Maz Nadjm (Head of Social Media, Ogilvy Group UK), Dan Patton (Director of Digital Media, MTV UK & Ireland) and Allan Blair (Director of Social at ad agency DDB), plus a few of my old muckers, namely James Kirkham (MD of Holler, who I worked with on Big Art Mob and Seven Days), Uktu Can (Creative Strategist at Mint Digital who’s helped recently with Quotables) and Rich Payne of Maverick TV (who I last toiled with on Embarrassing Bodies: Live). All fluently chaired by Lisa Campbell the Editor of Broadcast and observed by Conor Dignam (Group Editor, Broadcast). Here’s how the discussion was framed, followed by the stuff that flowed out of my gob on the subject…

Social media is now an essential tool for attracting and retaining an audience, according to the industry experts at Broadcast’s roundtable. Suzy Bashford reports on how the new technology is being used.

Social media is the buzzword of the moment. It has even overtaken porn as the most popular activity on the web, and the term is being bandied about as a catch-all phrase to sum up everything broadcasters do online. But what is it? Is it anything that allows the viewer to leave a comment on a website? Is it a marketing tool, as in Holler’s work around Skins? Or an entertainment in its own right, such as Bebo’s Kate Modern? A complementary addition to a TV show, as in Living’s Four Weddings? Or, as WPP boss Martin Sorrell said recently, is social media simply “advanced letter writing”?

AG: Social media has got different modes: the talking mode, the listening mode, the talking and listening mode, the collaboration mode. That means it’s difficult to co-ordinate in an organisation.

For the people listening to conversations in Channel 4’s Research & Insight department, social media is fantastic, free audience research of the best kind, because it’s unprompted and spontaneous. We’ve got other people using social media for customer service and showing that we’re listening and improving because of what our customers are telling us. Then we’ve got people using social media in talking mode, for promotion and marketing.

For me, social media is about collaboration, participation and storytelling. What is most exciting about social media in our industry is that it now enables a two-way conversation.

How well are organisations integrating these different modes?

AG: It feels chaotic for plenty of organisations because they haven’t really sat down and analysed who is doing what and why. We’re conscious of the different ways we are using social media and we’re thinking about different strategies for co-ordinating it, so we don’t dampen the energy but ensure we’re all moving in the same direction.

What have you learned from experience about leveraging social media?

AG: As a broadcaster you’ve got to constantly ask: ‘What am I bringing to the party?’ People will have these conversations in their own spaces, in their own ways. So what we’ve been doing with a lot of commissioning is thinking how social media can impact the editorial. Take Surgery Live – people could ask a question via social media to the surgeon who’s working live on TV, and within 90 seconds they could hear their question being put by the presenter to the surgeon. Only the broadcaster can bring that to the party. With Embarrassing Bodies Online, we gave up editorial control entirely to the users.

With Seven Days, working with Holler, we brought another relationship into play, giving viewers the ability to influence documentary contributors in real life. We created a site that became the focus of where the characters actually interact. Viewers can influence contributors’ thinking by going to the site. We’ve ended up creating strange new interactions between media and real life. Again, that’s the joy of being a broadcaster – you can bring something special to the party and really add value.

What happens to your social media strategy around a programme when you’re not on air?

AG: That’s one of the great functions of social media, it helps you deal with the troughs between broadcast periods, particularly when you’ve got something popular and returning such as Skins.

What pitfalls should you watch out for in social media?

AG: I was in a cab during one of the election live TV debates and was following it on Twitter. What struck me was how incredibly sheepish the behaviour was. The same was evident in the recent immigration discussion online on The X Factor. You see people piling into a Facebook group that then does nothing. So you have to bear in mind that social media can at times be amazingly superficial and sometimes, ultimately, meaningless.

Seven Days ChatNav in Broadcast

Here’s the Leader in this week’s Broadcast by Lisa Campbell

A new vision of reality TV | 7 October, 2010 | By Lisa Campbell

Seven Days isn’t rating, but its interactivity makes compelling viewing.

“People never know what is wrong with them and other people see it right away.” Just one of the many poignant lines in the current series of BBC4’s Mad Men, but one which could so easily have been written for Seven Days, which launched that same evening on Channel 4.

It sums up just what’s so compelling about the new reality show – the fact that participants see themselves through the eyes of others and are forced to challenge perceptions of the self.

So far, so Big Brother, you might say, but unlike BB, the outside world is allowed in, with members of the public giving direct feedback on actions and behaviour. What’s interesting is the immediate and discernible impact this has on the subsequent behaviour of those involved. As far as social experimentation goes, it makes Big Brother look more like Watch With Mother.

Yes, the first episode was dull, but it was about establishing the characters. The second episode was when the genius emerged. From the bizarre walk-on-part of a member of the public in the opening café scene (initially, it felt like a set-up, but anyone hanging around Notting Hill can be captured by the cameras) to the public as puppet-master, it’s a concept that messes with the mind.

The ‘chatnav’ social media element of the project makes for a fascinating, often surreal watch. So, for example, you’re on a laptop reading comments while watching the show, watching a character on the show on their laptop responding to those comments (still with me?).

It’s intriguing to see how the contestants respond to the scrutiny; how bizarre it is, for instance, to watch an obviously ‘smug’ character relay her shock at being described as such. Or how amusing to watch those facing criticism suddenly trot out the sob stories – an echo of the cynical ploys adopted by real-life celebrities.

C4 is bound to be disappointed with the ratings after marketing the hell out of the show, and while it’s far from perfect (a location outside London might have been nice), it should be applauded for having the guts to experiment, to learn lessons from it and to continue trying to push the boundaries of cross-platform content.

Lisa Campbell is editor of Broadcast

{courtesy of Broadcast}

Seven Days trail

Seven Days in the press

Here’s a couple of articles about Seven Days from this week – one from Broadcast, the other from New Media Age…

C4 to use ‘Chat Nav’ on Seven Days doc {courtesy of Broadcast}

9 September, 2010 | By Robin Parker

Channel 4 is to launch a ‘ChatNav’ website for upcoming documentary series Seven Days, which will collate social media conversations about the show and help determine which of the on-screen characters the producers prioritise.

The initiative aims to influence the show, which is filmed in Notting Hill in the week prior to transmission, by illustrating which of its characters the viewers are engaging with. The site will represent this by giving the people who generate the most buzz the biggest image.

Contributors, who remain under wraps until its launch on 22 September, could be scaled back or even dropped during the series’ eight-week run if audiences do not seem to be engaging with them.

As well as feeding in comments from Twitter and Facebook, the site will encourage users to help the characters make personal, social and work decisions, with their involvement ranging from yes/no answers to direct advice.

C4 new media factual commissioning editor Adam Gee said that rather than applying a ruthless “Truman Show approach”, the aim was to establish a “collective wisdom”.

“For the first time, it will enable the audience to have an influence in a documentary context, not by giving them editorial control, but by establishing a constructive exchange with contributors,” he said.

Viewers will also be able to ask a team of reporters based in Notting Hill to go deeper into stories.

The show’s site will also offer unedited rushes and cut sequences. Digital agency Holler is producing the web content with series producer Studio Lambert.

* * *

Mock-up of ChatNav screen

Mock-up of Seven Days ChatNav screen

Channel 4 gives viewers a say in how new reality show develops {courtesy of New Media Age}

Wed, 8 Sep 2010 | By Jessica Davies

Channel 4 is launching a major cross-platform initiative for new reality show Seven Days, with the storyline influenced by its online audience.

The show will follow the lives of around two dozen people living in Notting Hill, and will be shot and edited in the week of transmission.

Adam Gee, commissioning editor of cross-platform at Channel 4, said the show’s format indicates the kind of projects Channel 4 is likely to develop post-Big Brother, and represents a new approach for documentary and reality programming.

“That gap left by Big Brother gives Channel 4 the opportunity to rethink its whole approach and try out new things,” he said, adding that the show is “in the spirit of experimentation”.

The show’s format supports the broadcaster’s strategy of rewarding its audience for engaging.

“As a broadcaster, one of the main things you can give your audience as a payoff that no one else can is an impact on editorial,” said Gee.

A site,, will go live on 22 September to coincide with the TV broadcast. It will feature a function called Seven Days ChatNav, which lets viewers interact directly with the cast members, giving them advice and answering questions posed by the latter.

Channel 4 will monitor which characters prompt the most interest and discussion online, and this will influence which stories will be focused on in the subsequent episode.

People can use the site to catch up with what’s happening with the characters who aren’t featured in the TV show, along with videos of the show’s rushes. The site will also include full scenes which may have been dropped from the linear broadcast at the last minute.

A team of three called Eyes on the Ground will be on site and will post videos and blogs. Gee said, “They’re available for the online audience, who can ask them to fill in the gaps between shows, following up storylines that aren’t covered on TV.”

He also said the show and site have been designed for sponsorship, and Channel 4 is in advanced talks with brands over sponsorship tie-ups.

It worked with agency Holler on the cross-platform format, and Studio Lambert on the TV production.

A new reality

This is what is consuming most of my waking hours at the moment…

Here’s how it’s billed:

Follow the interwoven lives of some of Notting Hill’s most colourful characters – in the documentary series where what you see has only just happened.

An outspoken hairdresser, a budding rapper, two glamorous models, a single mother, a student, two pet therapists, a flamboyant restaurateur and many more, all with stories to tell and decisions to make.  What have they been doing in the last seven days?

A once-in-a-lifetime digital/TV opportunity

On Location Reporter/Interactive Producer x 2

Do you have a talent for telling people’s stories? Can you get the best out of an interview? Can you get it online in a clip of under three minutes? And then get as many eyeballs on it as possible?

The role

We are looking for 2 reporters/online writers to act as our ‘eyes on the ground’ for a new, ambitious program on Channel 4, tracking the lives of a number of engaging members of the public for 8 or more weekly episodes. The programme, Notting Hill (w/t), will be screened the week it is filmed so characters will be seen discussing the main issues and events of the week. The reporter will be required to shadow/be embedded with the crew for Notting Hill and expand upon the stories that are developing throughout the series to engage the online audience for the show using Twitter updates, a regular blog, photos, flip cam video, etc. – all of which will be uploaded to the central hub on for publishing on the site. Reporters will be required to attend daily morning production meetings, liaise very closely with the TV editorial team and will be required to be available throughout the duration of the production schedule for the series, covering a wide range of hours between the team of three (2 reporters and a Channel 4 online producer).

Your profile

A distinct tone and style is required for both of these roles, and they need to complement one another. The ideal candidates will have these attributes:

  • each needs to have a distinct voice on-line and they need to complement one another well
  • they must tread that fine line between being energetic and trying too hard – remaining on the right side of that line  is a great art and not a common ability
  • they need sound editorial judgment and to understand what makes C4 C4 – so they need to have the C4 edge yet know how far they can go
  • they need to be super-fluent in social media – how to use it successfully both editorially and technically
  • they need a good sense of where a tantalising titbit of content may lie – to be sharp, quick thinking and flexible
  • they need to understand the demands of making TV, especially in these pressurised circumstances, so they cannot get in the way of the TV team whilst still staying fully plugged in with them editorially
  • they need a good sense of tone and how to move from the fun to the serious without jarring
  • they need to have experience in live, real-time reporting
  • they need to be able to think on their feet and react to situations as they happen to capture relevant and interesting content
  • an active interest in TV, especially reality and entertainment programming, is desirable
  • experience of shooting and editing video is preferable

How to apply:

  • Please tell us in up to 140 characters why you’re the must-have person for this job
  • Send a URL of a social media account/presence you run which you feel is successful
  • Send a URL of a longer bit of content which captures your style well (e.g. a blog post, not a massive essay)
  • Send a link to a video of up to 2 minutes which captures how well you can interview someone (anyone interesting) – doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a talking head will do provided it captures the interest
  • Finish off with up to 300 words only on your relevant experience and skills, and why you’re The Right One
Based in Notting Hill
Initial contract – 10 weeks, may be extended – starts September
Deadline: 6pm Fri 23rd July

Application form is here
Send all applications to – Rescuing the God slot

Really enjoying working on this new project (Phase 1 launched yesterday, main site launches 13th September at First C4 programme to have URL as a title. It was great to read this initial reaction in The Guardian as they clearly get the idea…

Channel 4 rescues the God slot

The new Channel 4 series of religious and ethical meditations breathes life into a stale format

If last night’s is indicative of things to come, then there might yet be some hope for the God slots.

The new series of short films to be screened after Channel 4 News feature a single speaker who reflects on religious and ethical issues or aspects of their spiritual lives from their personal experience. Nothing particularly new there is would seem. But despite being considerably shorter, and generally more spacious with its script, it looks like being a lot grittier and down to earth than the platitudes which emerge during other pauses for thought such as Radio 4’s Thought for the Day.

The first offering to kick off the series was by Dr Gill Hicks, who lost her legs in the 7 July London bombings. In just a few powerful sentences, she reflected on her experience of God through those who helped her, but also the choice she felt she faced between life and death.

Usually God contributions are the preserve of the identifiably religious. Clergy, theologians, even thinktankers have been chosen as religious
“representatives”. This has predictably led to the debate about who should be “in” and who should be excluded from delivering their reflection, on the basis of whether their belief system is important, or relevant enough to qualify. With a few notable exceptions, the slots subsequently reflect back – in often bland monologue with a moral pay-off at the end – the values and perspectives of big religion.

It’s not the fault of the contributors so much as the way the slots are structured and the culture that surrounds them. Often devoid of attitude and original experience, the presentations can sound contrived, and meander aimlessly amidst the harder news output. Which is a shame, because space for reflection amongst the 24 hour news churn should be an important contrast to help the listener or viewer refocus and get a sense of perspective in a way that is accessible to all.

And there are many ways to do it if you are prepared to move beyond the old formula – as Channel 4 is now showing. In particular they seem to be reviving the idea of “testimony”. For their slot focuses on people’s lives and experiences as much as philosophical or doctrinal concepts. Gritty, difficult, uncomfortable issues and ideas that haven’t been packaged into a neat formula can emerge more easily when the focus is what has happened to a person, rather than a more abstract tradition of thought.

There is of course huge value in philosophy, theology and the wisdom that has developed over centuries. But there is merit too in stepping away from it, and listening to the experiences to those who would not immediately be identified as religious. In many ways it makes perfect sense. If you want a reflection on exclusion, then listen to the excluded. If you want to hear about poverty, then listen to those who live with it on a day to day basis. And if you want a new angle on the old, tired debate about whether God exists, and if so why there is so much suffering, then listen to someone who has survived the carnage of a bomb blast. They may just have some powerful and thought provoking reflections on whether God was there or not.

[Article reproduced courtesy of The Guardian]

Role in the Hay

A couple of snaps from last week’s Hay Festival gig courtesy of Saint John Walker

Hay Festival 2010

L to R: Adam Boulton (Sky News), Euros Lyn (Dr Who, Torchwood), Frances Donovan (ITV Wales News/Sports), Yours Truly, John Denton (BBC)

Hay Festival 2010

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