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Rapture tempts teens with televisual ecstasy;Video and Media

A quick look at any television listings magazine suggests that the youth market is well served. So why set up a new cable channel aimed exclusively at teenagers?

Adam Stanhope, a founding director of Rapture TV that is dedicated to this age group explains: "Teenagers were being ignored. Suddenly they become 11 and nobody wants to know them anymore."

Rapture broadcasts for 20 hours each week on the Telewest cable network, between 10am and 8pm on Saturdays and Sundays. "We've focused all our efforts in relatively few hours so that we can produce thoughtful, clever television," Stanhope explains.

Reaching just half a million homes, Rapture is the UK's smallest channel, but he says: "We don't have a problem with that. You can only get to be an oak tree by being an acorn."

He believes that with the possible exception of MTV no broadcaster provides an exclusive service for the 13-19 age group. The reason, Stanhope thinks, is that other cable and satellite channels are largely built on archive or imported material. "You can't do that with teenagers," he asserts. "You've got to go out and create new and original programmes."

So Rapture makes all its own programmes, each aimed at a different part of the audience. "Teenagers are not a homo-genous mass," Stanhope says. "We're like a whole rack of teenage magazines."

As examples he cites Crush, targeted at 14 to 15-year-old girls; Trainspotting, a club culture programme aimed at 17 to 19-year-olds; and The Alternative Perspective that gives prospective students an insight into what university life is really like.

"Everything that runs through the channel is about empowerment," Stanhope says. "We are trying to enable people to think."

Rapture started broadcasting in November 1997, and is young in more ways than one. The majority of staff are in their early 20s - many in their first job.

At 37 Stanhope says he is "about the oldest person in the company", but points out there is no shortage of experienced staff. "We are not just a load of young people running about not knowing what we are doing."

Twenty-one year old Paul Moore is typical of the channel's young crew. A researcher in the arts and education department, he also presents the arts programme Space.

In spite of the team's youthfulness, he says there is no undue interference from the station's founder directors (all of whom have programme making, advertising or marketing backgrounds), nor its backer, United News and Media. "There's the freedom for us to be able to chase things," he enthuses, "without chasing after ratings or making stuff that's tried and tested. We do have the room to experiment."

Moore believes the station will succeed as long as it does not become self-indulgent, but adds in a reference to cable television: "You're constantly aware of the fact you're not broadcasting to somebody who's only got four other channels to choose from."

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