Not so long in the toof

That Eighties' phenomenon, Yoof, has made way for more innovative TV. Steven Poole tunes in
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The Independent Culture
a successful magazine programme for young people has long been the televisual Holy Grail for the more adventurous executives in tubeland - a prize the more precious for its evasiveness. The slew of style-obsessed programmes of the Eighties, which reached its nadir in the abominable Network Seven and the BBC's gigglesome Def II, so crushed the ideals of producers that The Word seemed the only way to go. The main problem was that the moguls doing "yoof" were themselves too long in the toof - dyed hair and a ridiculous drawl won't fool a four-year-old, let alone a discerning young adult.

So here's an idea: why not let hip twentysomethings make their own TV - and then maybe their contemporaries will watch it. Step up then, Shift, the brainchild of Managing Director of Carlton UK, Paul Jackson. It's a presenter-free hour a week of short films, made by seven talented young film-school graduates on any subject they like: interviews with Hollywood actors; the lives of DJs and bouncers; "Crap Stage", a performers' collective for the ungifted; skydiving with an aerial photographer (above). The programme's editor and Carlton's Head of Community Programmes, Peter Lowe, says his charges can go out and make drama, documentary or comedy: "It's exploration in television for the youngsters and for the audience too - and that's like no other programme in the country."

Having germinated in the fecund soil of ITV's graveyard schedule for the past four months, Shift is now about to move to the slightly more amenable time of 1.40am every Thursday, and it deserves to be watched - not least for its very cool linking titles. But Nicola Key's recent piece on reactions to the Criminal Justice Bill also showcased Shift's sense of purpose. Surprisingly little "studenty" trickery, and eloquent argument from government targets: a raver, a hunt saboteur, a squatter and an anti-motorway protester made for an arresting argument. While shooting the mass trespass at Windsor, Key also found that her minimal two-person crew - "multi-skilling" is a favourite phrase among Shifters - made for better film. "We got some great footage because the police thought we were just a couple of kids with a camcorder - they didn't realise we were a news crew."

Shift's eclectic menu offers just about everything, apart from Magenta De Vine-style narcissistic vapidity. So there's no reason why it couldn't be a cult hit. But perhaps you're suprised at Carlton's altruism. What's in it for them, letting these callow youths loose on the latest non-linear editing suites? Peter Lowe explains that the industry has been too closed for too long. "Talented people not getting through is, in the long term, bad for our company. We need to bring them in, and it's no good bringing them in just to make the tea." It won't be all a bed of roses, of course. "I want them to go out and fail," Lowe says starkly. "But they learn from their failures and they go out and succeed the day after." A paradigm- shift in programming may be about to be born.

`Shift' broadcasts from Thur 4 May 1.40am ITV

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