teenage and youth programming

teenage and youth programming
   The 1950s saw the need for broadcasters to programme specific shows to cater for the burgeoning teenage market. Shows like Oh Boy! and Thank Your Lucky Stars gave mainstream popular music its first real television exposure. Recording artists would appear weekly, promoting their latest record. The zenith of these shows came with the introduction of the BBC’s Top of the Pops in 1964, that became both a byword for pop music television, and the longest running show of its kind in the world. Other markets were catered for with programmes like The Old Grey Whistle Test (for rock and progressive music), and a British version of the US show Soul Train, dedicated to the promotion of black music in the UK. Channel 4’s The Tube, which began broadcasting on the station’s inaugural night, is seen as the high-point of the genre. Featuring both live performances and pop videos, the show was shambolically produced and presented and frequently had technical problems, all adding to the excitement of a live pop music experience. Channel 4’s brief for youth programming extended the boundaries of what was required for young (16–25) audiences. No longer would plain pop music suffice for what was now a highly educated, demanding audience. The introduction of a Sunday lunchtime show on the station turned the notion of youth programming on its head, and created what is now termed ‘yoof television. Produced by Janet Street-Porter, Network 7 was the first current affairs and entertainment news programme aimed at the youth market. Its quirky camera angles, young reporters, no-nonsense interviewing style and rough production created a style that dominated the genre for the next decade. Street-Porter then moved to the BBC (whose previous efforts at programming had proved both critically and commercially inadequate), creating programmes including Reportage, Rough Guide and Standing Room Only, all of which dealt with issues crucial to the youth market.
   Street-Porter’s appointment gave the BBC a range of classy, intelligent and popular programmes with which Channel 4 found difficult to compete. With media accusations of ‘dumbing down’, Channel 4 commissioned new programmes to vie with the BBC, the most (in)famous being The Word. The antithesis of the pseudo-serious BBC, The Word was accused of many crimes, including bad taste, blasphemy, sexism and perversity. Catering for the post-pub Friday night audience, the show drew viewing figures in the millions and became the most discussed television programme in decades. Following its demise, there have been efforts to create a new format for youth programming, none quite as successful as the previous incarnations.
   Further reading
    Lury, K.E. (1997) ‘Cynicism and Enchantment: British Youth Television in the 1980s and 1990s’, Liverpool University, unpublished Ph.D. thesis.
   SAM JOHNSTONE

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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