The X-philes make themselves heard

6th September 1996 at 01:00
Despite assurances from broadcasters that the views of the public are constantly sought and taken into account, few chances exist for children and teenagers to make their voices heard. So it was encouraging to find that the Edinburgh International Television Festival afforded such opportunities.

At the Television and Young People event, a group of 17 to 21-year-olds took part in a programme of workshops and lectures from leading figures in the broadcasting business. As part of the event, Andrea Oliver (from Badass TV) hosted the Television and Young People TV Awards with on-screen feedback from the target audience themselves.

Their views on a wide range of television were offered: "999 is too 'in your face'"; "I hate canned laughter - I don't need to be told when to laugh"; "The Girlie Show bugs me - it's so patronising".

Shooting Stars, Modern Times, Friends, The X Files, Cracker and Eurotrash were winning favourites, while The Shane Ritchie Experience, How do they do that?, Saved by the Bell, Heartbeat and The Girlie Show were offered up at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Later, three leading children's television producers were invited to pitch for new programmes to a group of children aged eight to 15 - and their mothers.

First came the views of the youngsters. "Patronising presenters" was how one 15-year-old described Blue Peter - an unfortunate appraisal, since the session was chaired by Stuart Miles, one of its presenters. While a Muslim boy from Glasgow confessed to liking The X Files "because it gives me a scare". His mother, on the other hand, was concerned about what her family of six were allowed to watch. "We watch the programmes to see if they're acceptable in Islamic terms."

The three producers then had to face the panel - offering a 10-minute description of their latest idea, followed by questions from their potential audience.

Former Magpie and Freetime presenter Mick Robertson offered a series in which youngsters would perform consumer tests on toys, games, sweets and clothes. Sandra Hastie from Richmond Films (which makes Press Gang) held the judges spellbound as she described a new fantasy drama series that sounded like a cross between Quantum Leap and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Although when pressed on whether she would commission it, BBC head of children's programmes Anna Home declined to comment.

"Now I know what it's like to be in the Eurovision Song Contest," said producer Richard Wolfe, after waiting nervously before making his pitch for "an expectation series" in which selected viewers would be invited to see their wildest dreams come true.

As it turned out, the voting at the end came out as a dead heat, with each of the mothers choosing a different show and the children split equally. It neatly underlined the fact that all viewers all have different tastes, and that in general the television business caters for most of them.

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