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Home > Media

TVJism: The Community Channel

17 September 2004

What's the best way to address deep-seated social problems? Is it

A) Better education, well-funded social services and breaking the poverty trap with decent wages and affordable housing;

B) Build a motorbike track.

If you answered 'B', you're probably involved in the Community Channel (Sky 585).

The Community Channel is funded by a plethora of organisations including the Department for Education and Science and the Home Office. Also chipping in are God knows how many bodies with 'community' in their titles, plus a host of corporate and media sponsors, reinforcing their deep commitment to cost-effective PR.

As you might expect, the channel is full of balls-achingly worthy documentaries about disability and disease and community based activities to avert youth crime. Unfortunately, after watching a few shows like the oddly-titled Karrot, depicting various baseball capped youngsters building a motorcycle track, you rapidly find yourself wondering what the whole point of it all is.

Is spending thousands of pounds getting kids to set up motorcycle tracks the way forward? The activities keep some kids off the streets, sort of, along with staging fashion shows and forming crap bands, other favoured Community Channel activities. But none of these activities is really going to amount to much, unless the British nation has a sudden desire to own home-made clothes and records by mumbling 15-year-old 'MCs'. (Presumably there's a whole new generation of disaffected youths complaining 'There's nothing to do round here - except go to the motorcycle track or the fashion show'.)

The Community Channel also demonstrates that the community is an industry. Are you a photographer who's having difficulty cutting it in your chosen profession? Why not get on a community programme to teach basic photography skills to refugees? (An actual project.) Got some crap degree in dance? Teach a bunch of high street honeys to walk the catwalk.

So far, so earnest. But you soon start to worry about where your taxpayer's money is going when you see the adverts: back-to-back government information films.

Try this one: A couple are about to go on holiday. But just as they're about to set off, the police turn up on the doorstep. It turns out they sold their car some months ago, and now it's been involved in a serious accident. The police wrongly thought they were the current owners of the car, because they didn't completely fill out a form detailing ownership of the car. Now they can't go on holiday until they've found the form. The advert ends with the couple looking glum as hubbie sorts through his paperwork looking for the necessary documentation.

We've all been there, we're sure you'll agree. Unfortunately the Community Channel's adverts consist solely of this sort of tedious, earnest, patrician, moralistic, bureaucratic, nanny-state advertising.

The question is: why bother to make these adverts? Since the community channel ads are never seen on real TV (except in the 4am slot) and noone watches the community channel anyway, why bother to make the adverts in the first place? We actually suspect Whitehall bureaucrats like to commission ad agencies because they derive some misguided sense of glamour by proxy by talking to people in the glitzy world of advertising. We're not joking: we're sure that tragic mentality exists.

Then there are adverts for the London 2012 Olympic Games, as though they're definitely going ahead. All of this costs money - not much, in the grand scheme of things, admittedly - but you've got to wonder: is any of this serving the community or just the people involved in the Community Channel?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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