Thursday, July 22, 2010

First TV review

On initial viewing, First TV, which officially began Internet broadcasting last Friday 16 July, seemed quite a success. One difference between First TV and Newsround was that teens were not sidelined - in fact they were possibly too central to the presentation and the content. This is more a magazine-type programme than a news programme; probably more of a rival to CBBC's Blue Peter than to Newsround.

After a while I started to think a little more carefully about the show, and further doubts entered my mind.

Items on the 35 minute-long programme included:

01 Introductory section
02 Twin presenters Fran & Nic interview Jedward
03 studio chat
04 Jack Brockbank from Guinness World Records
05 Barney walking on water
06 Piers Morgan interview
07 Viewers' competition
08 Chef Ben Ebbrell
09 News
10 Twins Fran & Nic visit Xscape, Milton Keynes
11 Guest Jason Bradbury from The Gadget Show on Five
12 Studio goodbyes

This Blog is never slow to point out CBBC's problem with inclusiveness and diversity. And, on reflection, that could be a problem on First TV too. Look at the presenters - none from ethnic backgrounds. That's not necessarily a problem in itself. But now look at the content as well. How many black or Asian people were interviewed or appeared in stories, or even in the studio audience? If things don't change, and pretty quickly, this project will seem to be targeted only at a limited section of society.

First TV kicked off with introduction from presenters Emma, Charlie, and twins Nic & Fran. We heard a little about the presenters themselves, plus reading out a few letters and jokes they'd received.

In Item 2 twins Fran and Nic met up with Jedward. The main topic for discussion was whether twins have any special psychic link.

Back in the studio Fran and Nic talked about the experience of meeting John and Edward. After that Charlie attempted a world record of typing the alphabet into an iPad in the fastest time ever. After three attempts Charlie managed to achieve a time of 6.31 seconds - a world record according to Guinness adjudicator Jack Brockbank, who immediately went on to present First TV with the award certificate.

First TV gets Guinness World Record award
The next item was the first of their 'viewer reports' from Barney in Spain, who showed us how to walk on water in a giant plastic ball.

Former editor of the Daily Mirror, Britain's Got Talent judge and all-round 'living legend' Piers Morgan was interviewed by Emma and Charlie. Piers is also the man behind the First News and First TV ventures.

Excerpt from interview

Piers Morgan: What I love about First News is that, when I was a newspaper editor, the biggest challenge was to try and get young people to buy the paper. Because you know we're in a modern age where TV and the Internet has taken over from traditional newspapers, and young people just don't really read papers. So how do you get news to young people in a way that they're gonna find exciting? And we've done it with First News in the printed form, and I think through the TV form now, it's a really exciting new development where I think we're gonna get young people interested in news, and what we have to offer in the paper. And that's great.

Item 7 was a competition with two Razor 360's being given away as prizes.

Next chef Ben Ebbrell showed his recipe for broccoli and peanut butter soup. I did try this recipe and found it quite nice.

Eventually we came to the 'news' section. This began with a story about the Twilight Saga: Eclipse UK premiere, which had been reported on Newsround in early July. Next Henry Winkler talked about his Hank Zipzer books series. Henry and First News editor, Nicky Cox are touring the country to raise awareness for the First News My Way! campaign. The third 'news' piece was an interview with Logan Lerman, star of Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief.

Which is better, skiing or snowboarding? Sounds like something Harry Hill might ask, but it was a question Fran and Nic considered when they visited the SNOzone at Xscape in Milton Keynes.

Back to the studio, celebrity guest of the day was Jason Bradbury from The Gadget Show on Five.

So how does First TV compare with what's on offer on CBBC?

Apart from the issue with diversity and inclusiveness already mentioned, I think they have got a few good ideas. But there is plenty of room for improvement, especially if the channel is, as Piers Morgan suggested, intended to get young people interested in news. The next programme on First TV isn't due until 6 August, which means the channel updates are, at present, far too infrequent as a news source.

In contrast CBBC Newsround has scored very well recently, for instance with this report from Monday's programme and this report yesterday about Hayley's visit to Highfurlong School in Blackpool. More about this in my next blog.

Indications are that CBBC may have begun to take heed of the BBC Trust's remarks (blog 6 July 2010)

So First TV needs to urgently think through its format. Perhaps it could be more edgy? What about studio debates on news issues of the day? What about inviting the UK Children's Commissioners to have a say from time to time? First TV is just a bit too cosy. Shouldn't it challenge kids to think through issues, and how they can improve society for themselves and those around them. Out of date showbiz news doesn't really cut the mustard, does it?

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