In the last couple of weeks BBC3’s KKK: The Fight for White Supremacy and Is Britain Racist? (both part of the channel’s Race season) have almost doubled the ratings in their respective slots. Even more tellingly Is Britain Racist? trended on Twitter across the globe (no 4 in Bandung, Malaysia!), with extremely heated debate in the UK about its central question.
With a similarly controversial season on gender coming up in November, BBC3 must be hoping that these ‘hot button’ topic shows continue to rate amongst their millennial audience – suggesting a new level of engagement with current affairs that is spreading throughout the UK TV landscape.
Current affairs’ new willingness to borrow devices and storytelling techniques from other genres is putting it right at the forefront of innovative, watercooler TV.
What’s interesting is how current affairs’ new willingness to borrow devices and storytelling techniques from other genres is putting it right at the forefront of innovative, watercooler TV.
The BBC3 Gender season will include Britain’s Biggest Sexists – a countdown of the nation’s most notorious offenders, judged and decided by a panel of comedians. Is This Rape? Sex on Trial presents a cross-section of British teenagers with a drama and court case about a party rape, and asks them to debate the verdict. A live viewer vote then follows.
Meanwhile the BBC must be hoping that the early controversy about Britain’s Hardest Grafter (now retitled The Factory) comes down on the side of ‘valuable experiment’ rather than exploitative reality show.
When real life presents us with heart-stoppingly dramatic stories, the usual constructed reality set-ups seem tame.
When real life presents us with such heart-stoppingly dramatic stories as the journeys of countless migrants across Europe, the usual constructed reality set-ups seem tame. This summer Keo gave camera phones to hundreds of them to capture their stories first-hand – how they weave those life-and-death POVs together could make the false jeopardy of (even a highly regarded) survival reality show like Alone pale by comparison.
Thanks to the craze for social experiment, the rise of the Twitterstorm and a bit of judicious borrowing from other genres, it seems that current affairs is suddenly sexy again.
Clare Thompson is an independent TV development consultant and non exec board director for K7 Media.