Archive for January 20th, 2007

Royale with Cheese : My first week at Channel 4

But you know what the funniest thing about Channel 4 is?
It’s the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here, they got there, but there they’re a little different.

first day at the new school
Well that’s my first week at Channel 4 under my belt. What follows is part ‘how it went’, but also ‘things that are different’ to the BBC while it’s all still fresh. It’s also the right of every ex-employee to bitch a little about his previous employer, it’s part of the healing process…

Monday 15th January, 9:30am, Victoria station, and my head’s spinning. That’s right, I came down with a bad cough, temperature and fever. Now it’s just not on to call in sick on your first day is it, especially when that day is your induction day. You just can’t do that unless you’re at Death’s door, so I staggered into work.

The induction day is fairly straight forward, history of the channel, silly yet serious video talking about the channel’s goals and direction hosted by Avid Merrion, sorting out your pass (Your photo covers the whole pass and get this, you can bring your own!), tour of the building including a stop off at the phallus, and in the afternoon; IT training, health and safety and ergonomic desk use.

Working environment: This is the biggest difference I think between the BBC and Channel 4. I sit in an open plan office two desks away from the director of C4 new media, who’s desk is the same as mine. No one’s in an office, no one has glass shields or their own little sofa or arm chair. There’s a real sense of togetherness. The floor facilities are better, staff are trusted with an urn that give you hot water! A Health & Safety no-no at the Broadcast Centre – 2 years or lukewarm tea… There’s still water and carbonated on tap and full range of teas and coffee’s – like I said, it’s the little things you notice. The New Media dept fit on one floor, you can walk around and chat to other people, it’s soooo much easier to get stuff done because f2f is a better clearer form of communication. I sometimes think ideas and direction are subject to the inverse square law. So that the further you have send these ideas, the longer you spend adminstrating the idea, the less effective it is.

Location. I think a huge part of the BBC’s perceived aloofness and isolation by the rest of the industry is in part due to geography. It’s no secret that I hated being in West London. I found it a depressing, uninspiring, dirty windswept hinterland that by the end felt less like a thriving hive of the country’s best media creatives and more like an under construction remand centre on the M4 corridor. The commute, and the environment when I got there, were killing me and it was an instrumental part of my decision to leave. And two five floor football pitch sized buildings do not make a ‘village’.

The BBC’s always enjoyed playing Monopoly with it’s property portfolio, what it loves is building new Jerusalem’s on cheap land outside major towns. TVC begat White City which begat the twin Broadcast and Media centres. It will do the same in Salford if it can find the cash. The artist renderings all look ace, but the reality sucks. It’s also bad for business, Perhaps that’s why the refurb of Broadcasting House to house News is taking place? This is because most newsy people, and especially politicians, won’t set foot out of zone 1. They’ve just not got the time. Being near competitors and other media companies keeps you on your toes; it’s easier to have meetings, to attend talks and workshops and see what they’re up to. The Powerhouse at the back of the broadcast centre was supposed to be let to another media or production company “come out here and be with us” the BBC asked “What between you at the housing estate? You must be joking” said the industry, it remains un let and stands empty to this day. Other large organisations manage to be nearer town, educational ones like UCL and LSE and major hospitals for example have large campuses and buildings in London. It’s no surprise that Radio and Music who do (in my opinion) some of the best work in BBC new media are based at Broadcasting House, they can pop out to music shops, and see bands and do PR things etc. But this is the digital age… we can be anywhere right? Well yes, like Sky for example based out in Isleworth, or 3 in Maidenhead, however W11 is the worst of both worlds, neither out in the sticks or in town. The effect, and you can see this at lunchtime, people walking round the ‘exercise compound’ or eating at there desk playing solitaire because there’s just nothing else to do. To sum up for those BBC staff who were at Bush House when New Media was there, being at Channel 4 is a bit like a futuristic version of that.

Projects: The speed at which stuff can be turned around at C4 is far faster and more like a normal company. People realise who owns what very quickly and their trusted to get on with their jobs. And if they’re not making money, they’re canned, not strung out on a tiny budget to die slowly. There’s some very similar UGC projects on the go, such as:Comedy Soup vs 4 Laughs and Film Network vs FourDocs

The other interesting thing that’s happened this week is the Big Brother racism debate. That had staff huddled round pod TVs to hear Andy Duncan’s statement. So should Jade Goody have been thrown to the wolves and faced a mob, both for and against her, when she came out of the house? It would have been ultimate car crash TV, but in the end I guess it came down to the public’s safety as much as hers, and ensuring the event wasn’t highjacked by any extreme groups. Wonder who the booer was who made it into the studio?

She looked shocked when the VT edit of the news coverage was played out to her. She knew full well what she’d done. I think she needs to take a very long hard look at herself, no doubt vicars and clergymen up and down the land are rewriting this Sunday’s sermon on the nature of forgiveness and tolerance. She offered her apology, and i think it was genuine. She’s probably crying herself to sleep this evening. Did we get closure? Was it enough? That probably depends on who you ask? I think Jade was the loudest, but the stupidest of the three. I think far more venom and malice came from Jo and Danielle. Still, Maybe the Avenue Q song is true?

So, quite a week.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
January 2007
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