Monday 18 November 2013

News/Current Affairs Blog 3: BBC Click

Another uni coursework piece! Actually found this a pretty interesting show.

BBC News: Click
24m 5s
First broadcast 1.30am Sat 16 November 2013

Click is the BBC’s flagship technology programme, presented by Spencer Kelly. It comprises current news features, as well as a section with tech headlines and Webscape, which features websites and smartphone apps that may be useful or entertaining.

In this episode, Kelly is on location in Tokyo. He begins the show with a feature about smart taxis.

The next feature is about technology that helps the elderly in Japan, reported on by Dan Simmons. First up is a robot suit that helps older people continue with agricultural work. As well as interviewing a Professor from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology to provide a sense of authority, the feature includes a more human angle. A 68-year old man is filmed using the suit and at home with his wife. I think this is really helpful in connecting viewers to technology. Without the personal angle it is easy to just think of a technological feature as something from the future that doesn’t have any practical applications.

The feature continues with more tech aimed at the elderly: a self-driving trolley and a seal robot. Another Professor of Technology is interviewed, as well as a care home resident. These interviewees provide authority and a human angle, as with the robot suit segment.

The show then cuts back to Kelly, who introduces the tech news. In a huge contrast to the feature about tech aimed at Japan’s ageing population, two of the stories are about social networks, while another is on a business venture of Justin Bieber’s. This seems strange to me, as I doubt people who are interested in hearing about Justin Bieber are going to want to watch a show that primarily concentrates on the elderly.

Next up is a feature about the launch of Sony’s Playstation 4, which I would say fits better with the interests of people who are interested in news related to social networks. Mark Cieslak appears in a studio set up to look like a living room to demonstrate some of the features of the console. For people who aren’t particularly enthusiastic about searching out technology news, this seems like quite a useful segment. Even as a tech enthusiast, I hadn’t had a chance to see what was new with the PS4, so I learnt a bit about the console by watching this feature.

We’re then back to Kelly, who shows off an underground bike storage system in Tokyo, which again fits with a younger audience who primarily cycle, as they may not be able to afford to drive.

Finally, Kate Russell presents Webscape, which includes information on some travel-related apps and a job hunting site.

Overall, this show seems very targeted at younger people who encounter technology in daily life but perhaps need to know a bit more about it, without feeling alienated by arcane details. Using a human angle in the most obscure section, which is about tech for elderly people, certainly helps to connect this demographic with the tech. The rest of the show features topics that are directly relevant to an audience of young professionals.

Monday 11 November 2013

News/Current Affairs Blog 2: BBC Click

Next post for my Journalism Writing module - I don't think C4 had another First Cut on this week so I went with this instead.#

BBC News: Click
24m 43s
First broadcast 1.30am Sat 9 November 2013

Click is the BBC’s flagship technology programme, presented by Spencer Kelly. It comprises current news features, as well as a section with tech headlines and Webscape, which features websites and smartphone apps that may be useful or entertaining.

The first feature is about the rise of file-sharing site Bit Torrent, and how the company is trying to shed its reputation for being a piracy haven. The most interesting technique used here is superimposing diagrams and graphs onto footage of Kelly. This means he can use gestures to help explain how torrenting works, which makes it a lot clearer. I think it’s a great use of a visual medium.

Some interview clips of the Director of Analysis of NetNames, the creator of Breaking Bad and two actors from Game of Thrones are used to provide different views on piracy. The TV show interviewees are against backgrounds that feature a poster of their respective shows. David Price of NetNames first appears in front of a map of the world, which presumably shows piracy activity, although this is not made clear. The second time he is shown, a bright, messy background that quite frankly distracting is used. It really doesn’t add anything and just looks hideous.

The feature is concluded with a reporter interviewing Bit Torrent founder, Bram Cohen. The reporter is included in this interview, which could be for a few reasons. It seems more natural to feature this as a conversation, since it is an extended take, rather than short clips. The reporter also offers explanations in layman’s terms and adds extra context to the interview, which is important to avoid the audience feeling detached from a technical subject.

The technology news section is a voiceover with some relevant clips on the screen. The headline for each news item is displayed throughout.

Kelly then introduces a feature on Game City, a video game festival in Nottingham. It seems odd that the way he talks about it is like it is a new event, but the feature reporter says it is the 8th annual Game City event. I would guess that Click is aimed at people who don’t know much about technology, so it is reasonable to expect that they have never heard of the event before.

The feature is reported on by Mark Cieslak, who is filmed in Nottingham and at the event, as well as providing voiceover for clips of the event. Some developers are interviewed, with footage of their games appearing on screen.

Finally, the show returns to Kelly in the studio, where he introduces the Webscape segment. This is presented by Kate Russell. Clips of apps/websites are shown with a frame designed to look like a web browser. The address bar has the website/name of the app in, which is useful. Russell explains what the apps are for, and after screenshots are displayed, she is shown next to a screen in a studio. This stops the show from seeming too impersonal. I think it’s important to have the presenters and reporters on screen from time to time, to keep up engagement with the audience.

For such a short programme, they actually manage to fit a fair amount in. The Bit Torrent feature was around 10 minutes long, taking up just under half of the airtime. This seems like a reasonable amount of time to spend on a feature, especially as there was a range of interviewees included, as well as some technical information.

The Game City feature was also interesting, although as mentioned before, I take issue with the fact it was introduced as a brand new event. The tech headlines are good to include, but I feel that Webscape isn’t best suited to television. It would work a lot better online, with links to the content. However, it could be argued that showcasing features like Webscape on TV allows the BBC to reach a more diverse audience - people who watch Click aren't necessarily trying to seek out information on technology. I imagine people stumble across this show when watching BBC News and it has to be interesting and entertaining to hold their attention. This is evident from the opening, which is a visual joke in which Kelly has failed to load due to a bandwidth error.

Saturday 2 November 2013

News/Current Affairs Blog 1: C4 How to Find the Perfect Flatmate

For my Journalism Writing unit, I have to blog about a few current affairs/news programmes, so here's the first one!

Channel 4: How to Find the Perfect Flatmate
46m 29s
First broadcast 10.45pm Wed 23 October 2013

This programme comes from the First Cut strand of C4 factual programming, which aims to give new directors a visible slot on C4. The C4 commissioning advice for this strand states “At 11pm the subject, tone and title should demand to be seen and feel like a treat rather than homework to watch.” This is fairly evident within the first thirty seconds or so of the show, in which strong language is used. This sets an informal tone for the next 40 minutes.
The introduction, formed of clips from later on in the show, is narrated by an unseen reporter. This style continues throughout. The reporter is more of a narrator figure. She does not actually ask questions of the people featured; her exposition of the topic frames clips of the programme’s subjects.
The topic of this show is the rising numbers of people in their mid-20s and beyond who have to flatshare (termed ‘Generation Rent’). This has been reported on in the news recently, making it a good subject to expand upon in a feature. The show intends to give viewers advice on finding a flatmate, with the programme being broken up into sections concerning the “Rules of Finding the Perfect Flatmate”.

Filming took place in London, which is where the issue of people not being able to find somewhere to live is most common. This gives the producers plenty of fodder in terms of interviewees. The medium of television is appropriate as it allows people’s emotions and views to come across visually, engaging the audience more. Some statistics are provided sporadically throughout the programme. This means viewers aren’t overloaded with information that is difficult to digest.

There are five main people/groups of people that are featured in this programme. Only one of these is actually someone looking for a room, which may seem like the show is imbalanced, but there are plenty more interviewees included throughout. Around 20 people between the ages of 20 and 40 have been interviewed about their experiences flat-hunting. These people have been shot against a plain white background – presumably so we cannot make any judgments about them beyond their appearance. We don’t necessarily need any more context, such as their occupation, just the fact that they have experienced the issue covered by the documentary. In contrast, more details is given the main subjects of the show e.g. Naomi is filmed in the financial district of London when her search for a flatmate is introduced.

Soundbites from the unnamed interviewees are inserted into the programme, in the middle of segments about the main subjects of the show. This is a good way for the makers of the programme to inject alternative opinions into viewers’ minds. For example, comments about “weird” flatmates interject the sections about landlord Gerald. I personally feel that this seems like they are trying to cast him as a bit of an oddball, which may not be fair. This view is not explicitly expressed, but the juxtaposition of Gerald scenes and the rules for finding a flatmate definitely more than hint at painting him as the awkward landlord who is having trouble in his tenant search because of his “less professional” approach.

I quite enjoyed the show - it gave some insight into websites that help people find places to rent and the idea of speed-flatmating, as well as being fairly entertaining. However, I do feel a bit like the producers tried to select people who conformed to some sort of stereotype: Scott as the openly gay male, Gerald as an unusual loner and Max/Jay as lads on the prowl. This makes it more obvious that they have found a range of people to feature in the show, but it does make me feel somewhat uncomfortable as they may have played up these aspects of the subjects purely for some kind of entertainment purpose, by selecting clips that conform to these roles. In particular, I feel like the narrator is somewhat judgmental – not overtly offering a view, but making sardonic comments such as “wine at 11.15am” – seemingly leaving it up to the viewers to make a judgment while steering them in a particular direction.

Interestingly, the programme conclusion reveals that none of the people followed in the programme actually find a flatmate. This raises a question – if there is such a problem with people finding somewhere to live, why is it so hard for these people to fill their spare rooms?