By Yasmine Jackson
Two highly successful practitioners in the television industry have been left stunned to find that young people are not watching documentaries.
The successful Broadcasting Today format at Middlesex University returned for its final episode of 2013 featuring Roger Graef, one of Britain’s leading television documentary-makers and Magnus Temple, documentary director responsible for making 24 Hours in A&E amongst many other films.
During the 45-minute interview with Professor Kurt Barling, Graef was disappointed to find that there was an astonishingly low amount of students in the audience who had seen top documentaries such as Great Ormond Street and One Born Every Minute.
From then, he continued to lecture the audience, made up of Middlesex students and staff, to engage in documentaries in order to ‘have a common language with each other’. The pair criticised reality television, a modern TV interest especially enjoyed and view by young people, by branding it as ‘manipulative’ and ‘false intimacy’, arguing that documentaries are the key to ‘reframing reality from the clichés that nobody questions.’
Barling then posed the argument that young people ‘cannot follow documentaries because it takes too much effort’. Graef agreed that there was an ‘awful lot of demand on people’s attention’, accepting that nowadays there was a wide variety of channels and box-sets available, but the correct way to watch a documentary, he explained, was to take away any source of possible distraction and engage from the beginning to end, taking notes. ‘People watch TV randomly; you think you’ve watched the programme, but you’ve only watched some of it.’ Temple responded that ‘pre-titled teases’ is a recent but useful tool used to engage and set the audience up with the idea of the documentary so the audience are not being ‘thrown’ into something without any knowledge or perception prior.
When asked if they see documentary lasting for another 50 years as a powerful instrument for change, Graef and Temple appeared confident, telling the audience that they were a ‘cheap way to deliver compelling stories’.