Should we be surprised by the cynicism of Channel 4?

I was interested to listen to Nick Clegg on question time express surprise on Question Time last night at his fellow panel members consensus on the fact that the events in the Big Brother house (especially the diary entry from Shilpa Shetty that she didn't believe that she was a victim of racism) was being orchestrated and manipulated by the producers and editors of Big Brother!

I'm afraid I'm going to have to weigh in here because although I very rarely watch reality TV, unless you count Strictly Come Dancing, I have been a participant / contestant on some a long, long time ago. Well, 2001, to be exact, but it feels a long, long time ago and reality TV has moved on a lot since my experience.

I took part in a programme called (and I'm almost cringing as I write this) 'The Heat is On', the follow up to Castaway 2000. It was filmed at the same time as the first 'Survivor' series was on and at the time we filmed only one series of BB had aired.

I have lots of stories and anecdotes and experiences form my two weeks survival training up in western Scotland and made two very, very good friends from the other participants; it was a unique experience which I would not have been without but one I went into extremely naively.

If there was one thing that I learnt very quickly out there in the wet, rain and with a very empty stomach was that however friendly the production team were to you, they weren't your friends at all.

Some of the participants were fame wannabe's but I don't know what possessed some of the others not realise that every single separate sentence could be used against them out of context to carry on like they did! The production team didn't like the word reality TV and preferred to use 'constructed documentary' - I don't know which is the more honest but I do know that they attempted to manipulate, bring discord and disharmony at every point.

I also came away quite convinced that the production team, whilst they would never pro-actively hawk their grandmother around, would if required sell her to get a good bit of TV.

I saw fellow participants edited into complete caricatures of themselves whilst other people were presented as absolute angels. There were a few characters there but the editor's knife is the most enormous bit of manipulation. That is not to excuse those being manipulated on CBB7 but to illustrate that C4 is complicit in it.

I have to admit I clammed up in front of the cameras pretty quickly, as I never, ever forgot a) that my Mum would be watching b) that anybody I said anything about would eventually hear me saying it and c) that some of the cameraman had had careers in war journalism that I was completely in awe of and wasn't about to shame myself in front of people I respected!

It meant I gave them very little to go on and consequently did not play a starring role in the final edit! I'm quite grateful for that now!

The aim of the first half of the programme was to undertake survival training and earn your place on 'an adventure' in an unspecified place but we were being taught a few words of spanish, swahili and malay, so whatever it was going to be exotic and I was up for it!! So up for it, I was the only person who never expressed anything but a complete desire to go on...which in my continuing naivety I didn't realise was sealing my failure..why on earth would they want to see me achieve my aim? Where was the television in that?

And it worked perfectly. I don't always need 2 weeks of near starvation rations, no sleep and utter exhaustion and a failure to achieve my goal to make me cry but it sure did help! I was the first person in over two weeks to have both camera crews filming me at the same time; on the final edit my tears were shown in slow motion! I had finally provided them with TV worth watching. Oh dear! I laugh at it now but the flurry of calls by friends and family on the night that it was aired was very welcome.

I don't mind really, that was all part of the deal, I guess. But it taught me a lot about the relationship between the media and anybody wanting to court it.

Where there's muck there's brass; the producers are doing what they're paid to do and produce TV that everybody wants to watch. If it looks like it's getting a bit hairy, financially then they will go in and sort it out and that was what Shilpa's diary room visit was about yesterday; to diffuse the potential row so that C4 could continue raking in the money. Is that responsible or not? Probably not, but they're not paid to be responsible.

Look out south east London, here we come!

I have just finished writing up the Events and Fund-raising Plan for the new Lewisham & Beckenham North Local Party and I’m exhausted already! It is quite an ambitious plan with something going on almost every week of the next year. My next job is to somehow replace my name as key contact on the vast majority of those events; otherwise I can forget finding the time to blog!

Actually, I am very excited about what's in store for the next year and very excited about the new local party that my patch of London now belongs to. The events calendar we have planned is busy but Lewisham & Beckenham North can rise to the challenge, I’m sure. We have for starters, the intriguingly named Blackheath Supper Club which this month has Lord Tim Garden as Guest Speaker. Then there’s a monthly pizza and politics and what I’m really looking forward to: 3 Quiz Nights!!! I’m hoping to get some local non Lib Dem friends along to that and need to make sure I’m not the question master as I would not be able to resist answering my own questions!

I’m the fundraising and events bod on the local party Exec and am very aware that we need to up our fundraising game like never before as knowing that we have two very promising seats raring to go and the local membership has a finite pot of money to dip into. But I hope, by having some events that will be as enjoyable as they will be functional, their cost will feel less of a donation and more like the price of a good value night out will help!

It is a challenge but being able to raise money is the sign of success and commitment and whilst I am happy for individual donations being capped, I do not agree with the taxpayer funding the political parties - even if it would get me off the hook. Reform of the House of Lords will deal with the cash for peerages issue, capping individual donations will deal with undue influence and well, if the political parties can’t raise the money themselves, well, they shouldn’t spend the money in the first place!!

Trying to be good

I am trying to be good, honest.

Although I am busy walking when I would have driven and even bought a bike this summer, I do still need a car and my lease on my little buzz box is up in a few months and I will need to replace it.

So, in order to put my money where my mouth is, I have decided that my next car will be the dull, dull but relatively clean Toyota Prius. If you are not fussed by cars then you'll not understand it, but I love cars. I love especially fast, sporty cars. Yes, if you're a man and you're driving a Porsche (preferably Carrera) then I may well find you more attractive than if you're not driving one. I wait with impatience for the day they bring out the environmentally friendly Mercedes SLK, as that's what I'd like to be going to order if it wasn't so smelly. A metallic oyster beige one, with cream leather seats, just in case you are wondering - not that I've thought about it much!!

Anyway, until they bring out the SLKe for environmental, I am doing what everybody who can afford it should be and reducing the CO2 emissions of those journeys that I will still make by car.

If Toyota are prepared to sell me a one, that is.

I booked via the internet a test drive for this morning. Turned up on time, introduced myself so that they would know that I was there and sat down. After a 20 minute wait I went up and reminded them I'd made an appointment and had been waiting 20 minutes. In fact, I had to say this twice to get the young man (oh goodness, I must be getting old) to actually apologise for asking me to wait for the only man of the four in the showroom who seemed to be able to sell a customer a car.

After 30 minutes, the man who was meant to be showing me the car and taking me for a test drive finally made his way up to me; I asked him if he had been expecting me (which he had been) and then thanked him for wasting an hour of my time (if you include time to get to the showroom) and told him how I was now going to buy my Toyota from someone else!

Very satisfying!

Anyway, my flounce seemed to have done the trick as the boss man from Bromley Toyota has been leaving apologetic messages on my phone.

This has been a useful learning experience for me; I think if I had done the same with the men in my life (especially the Porsche driving ones) then I may have got them leaving apologetic messages on my phone as well and who knows where I'd be now!

p.s. I love fast, sporty cars....I hate, hate, hate SUVs!!

Back to Home Back to Top Jo Christie-Smith. Theme ligneous by Bloggerized by Chica Blogger.