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Archived Feature Articles: C4 Experiment

Following on from my previous posts, please find below one of the previous features I wrote very early on. More to follow :

Supervised Boys and Girls learn to fend in Channel 4 experiment

Channel 4 has been criticised when, on Tuesday 3rd February, the broadcaster aired a programme called ‘Boys and Girls Alone.’ This show presented trait similarities to the adult show, ‘Big Brother’ in that willing individuals were chosen and put into an enclosure, filmed for our entertainment or lack thereof. In this particular series, the show centres around ten young girls and ten young boys separated by gender in a village setting. The programme sees children ranging from the ages of eight to twelve learning to deal ‘without parental supervision’ for two weeks. Having aired on the third, episode one was due to be the beginning of a four part series, but given audience reaction and the resultant Ofcom intervention, it is unknown at this point whether the show will get to see its own finale.

Ofcom, compelled to investigate as result of a ‘barrage of complaints’ from viewers upset with the content of the show, which features scenes of bullying and wanton destruction, commented that “there are rules to protect under-18s, regardless of the parents’ or the child’s consent.”

That being the case, comments from the Commissioning Editor for the show, Dominique Walker, should suffice in easing the minds, so to speak, of both Ofcom and the affronted viewers that the children were under full protection when she made the following statement: “Many parents, like me, wonder if our children are growing up too quickly, or if we wrap them in cotton wool. So the idea for Boys and Girls Alone appealed at once. Channel 4 could create a safe environment where children could decide how to live…Our first concern was for the kids so chaperones ensured their safety. Parents could watch it all on monitors, speak to their children when they wanted, or remove them,” as evidenced by onlooking parents featuring in the show and their having to intervene when it was deemed a particular situation had gone out of control and was thus a necessity to step in.

One such example was where reckless 10 year old, Adetoro, threatened fellow house member with a knife, to which cameramen had to ‘defuse’ the situation and Adetoro was made to leave the house. This episode will not be screened.

In addition to parental supervision, Channel 4 explained a clinical psychologist was on hand to ensure the children were not being put in emotional danger.

Despite the measures Channel 4 are said to have put in place, reviews of the opening episode have been for the most part, negative. The series is being perceived as having displayed scenes of cruelty, Channel 4, ‘exploitative,’ and the show “little more than corporate child abuse,” as quoted as by Forensic psychologist, Melanie Gill to paper, The Daily Mail.

Despite concerns for the children’s wellbeing, in the development of the series – and according to statements by the children themselves – whilst admittedly they found the situation to be daunting and at times frightening, the parents and participants gave overall support to the outcomes and to Channel 4. This includes Madeleine Maclaine-Freeman, one of the individuals who experienced bullying during her two-week stint who said, “It was like a dream come true at first, we were allowed to stay up late, eat sweets all day and do whatever we wanted. When it became a reality, it was very hard to cope with. I really respect my mum now for doing all those things for me.” Madeleine’s mother, Simone Freeman also supported Channel 4 in saying, “I was there every day watching what was going on and if at any point the kids were upset and said they wanted their parents, then they were pulled out and allowed to see their mums and dads. I understand why people say the show is dangerous but it was very well run and the children’s safety always came first.”

The children created mini-societies, often banding together to help one another and found they could feed, clothe and bathe themselves. At the end of it all, hopefully rather than being outraged, audiences will see that the programme provided a chance for children and adults alike to witness the capability of young people when they are given such an opportunity.

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