I’m generally not too concerned with developments in television beyond the explosion of content targeted at specialist interests, the growth in delivery channels and media convergence. But today’s launch of a new TV channel from British terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4 has piqued my attention.
Channel 4seven has a simple and quite innovative premise. Its mission is to listen and build schedules around which of its programmes have created the most buzz across social media, bloggers, critics and from viewers. A montage of comments will be aired before each programme starts.
Interesting, yes. Brave, definitely. Foolish, possibly.
So which programmes will we be seeing on Channel 4seven I wonder? The mass market dross of programmes such as Embarrassing Bodies where you can gawk from the safety of your own living room at other peoples’ genital deformities, or endless repeats of Gordon Ramsey swearing at people in kitchens?
Will I Watch It?
I’m beginning to think I’m a mind-reader. You may not believe this, but after writing the previous sentence I checked the published schedule for the Channel 4seven launch and, yes, there is Embarrassing Bodies Live at 8pm, followed by Gordon Behind Bars, where Ramsey probably gets the chance to swear at prisoners.
Let’s think about this. I can watch Channel 4 live. I can watch it with an hour’s delay on Channel 4+1, or I can watch at my leisure by recording programmes or on demand online. Do I need this as well. Probably not.
I’m a bit old school when it comes to my viewing choices. Unsurprisingly, given my news background, I love good documentaries, investigative journalism and factual programming. Well crafted British contemporary drama as opposed to period pieces, classic programmes from the past and innovative comedy also appeal. As for sport, I would love to watch more, but as a subscription TV refusenik I seldom have the chance unless I pop down the pub for a beer.
Mass market populist stuff such as reality TV bores me, soaps hold no interest, panel shows with the same old comedians are tiresome, and as for the disposable so-called “celebrity” culture that washes through society, I really don’t care. Shopping channels, games channels or porn chat channels will also never get my attention.
I suppose, then, I’m quite old-fashioned.
If the schedulers at Channel 4seven do their job well and are guided by social media, what happens to editorial judgement? Social media is tremendously powerful. What happens if there are mischievous attempts to subvert the scheduling by getting the worst or most mundane shows re-aired through Twitter campaigns? I mean, would you like to see last week’s weather bulletin again? I suppose social media could also be harnessed to promote worthy causes, or drive attention to political causes or even extremist views.
Is it a recipe to manipulate viewing schedules? Or will it result in the TV equivalent of watching paint dry? Whichever way you look at it, Channel 4 is trying something quite interesting.