Political Promise

The 2011 elections and the peculiar absence of 10 O’Clock Live

In Garry Lee on May 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Garry Lee asks why 10 O’Clock Live’s first season ended right before the elections when it could have made a real impact.

As the Scottish elections have drawn to a close, there have been a number of interesting political developments. The number of seats obtained by the Scottish National Party in 2011 was previously said to be unobtainable by any single party in the Parliament; the AV referendum has been shunned by the majority of those who voted despite its initial widespread support; there have been claims that the Liberal Democrats lost two thirds of their seats due to the inability of voters to separate the perceived failures of the English Liberal Democrats from their Scottish counterparts, and finally, the leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats in Scotland have both quit their posts. One thing you might be inclined to ask is this: with all of these interesting political developments taking place, why isn’t this being covered by 10 O’Clock Live?

10 O’Clock Live is Channel 4’s weekly prime-time, Thursday night alternative to Newsnight, designed to appeal to the members of the public that desire their political and current affairs news to be brought to them in a series of gags and japes by informed comedians. The show’s ratings tanked from an initial 1.4 million viewers to just 630,000 in its final episode, which aired on the 28th of April 2011. Channel 4 have confirmed that the show has not been axed, so it’s bewildering as to why the show’s first season ended right before the election, when it would have had something worth covering. The show was initially commissioned after the successful Alternative Election Night 2010 that attracted 1.6 million viewers, so why did the executives at Channel 4 didn’t take the opportunity to replicate this success, and to amend the show’s dwindling ratings raises many questions. It certainly doesn’t suggest that the show’s future is necessarily guaranteed.

The lack of true political news coverage, to me, was the main problem with 10 O’Clock Live. While the interviews and the roundtable sections of the show with MPs and the educated, informed sides of the debates were lively, it was usually the topics of the debates themselves that were generally uninteresting, blatant ratings grabs. Speaking endlessly about the merits of tuition fees and what should be done to the bankers made viewing feel like an endless, intellectually insulting time loop that seemed to suggest to the politically uninformed that nothing else was happening in politics at this time. I understand that when the ratings of a show like this aren’t great that making the content more generally appealing might help to attract a larger amount of viewers, but by focusing so heavily on these two topics really suggested that the writers didn’t care at all about the people that wanted to care about the show.

At this point, I couldn’t care less if the show does come back for a second season, despite my being so initially positive about the opportunity the show had to get a new generation of apathetic teenagers and adults alike interested in politics. The nail in the coffin, for me, was seeing one of the show’s stars Charlie Brooker post a message on Twitter that said he, allegedly, was abroad and had forgotten to sort out a postal vote, so he wouldn’t be participating in the election or voting for the alternative vote like he had planned to. Is it any wonder why the general public have lost interest when those who occupy the lead roles in the show don’t really take that much of an interest in voting themselves?

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