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?

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