Making television a teen effort

Norwich is an unlikely candidate for centre of cool. Yet the city which gave us `Sale of the Century' and Alan Partridge is back on the media map thanks, writes Meg Carter, to it being home to Rapture - Britain's first cable channel dedicated to teen TV.

Appearances can be deceptive. Behind the staid facade of Anglia Television's city centre headquarters - at various times an agricultural hall, museum and post office - an intrepid team, many of whom are barely older than the audience they hope to serve, are working round-the-clock to produce 11 hours of original youth TV programming a week. It's a modest start, but Rapture has big ambitions. And so does its enthusiastic production team.

Take 22-year-old Licia Graves who, armed with a media performance degree from Salford University, landed a job as presenter and researcher when the fledgling channel launched three months ago. "I want to produce, I want to present and I want to make my own shows," she declares. "I don't just want to do what other people tell me to."

Sitting opposite her in Rapture's bustling production office is Esther Dixon, at 26 a relative old-timer who studied drama at Middlesex University and worked unpaid as a runner before persuading Virgin Radio to let her produce and present entertainment news. Now a presenter on Rapture, she also mucks in as researcher, writer, editor and floor manager.

"Obviously I'd heard of multi-skilling - it's the way things are going. But I didn't quite realise it would literally mean I would be doing everything," she admits. The youthful production teams work closely with "old hands" brought in from Anglia - surely a recipe for culture clash? Not at all, Ms Dixon breezily explains: "They're great to learn from, and not fogeyish at all." (And this despite one executive likening the early days to a scene from the movie Cocoon.) "It may be a cheap way of making TV," she adds, "but it gives you much more control if you are presenting but also know how to hold a camera, or what happens in the edit."

Empowerment is a buzz word at Rapture. The young programme-makers know they're making TV on the cheap - starting salaries are around pounds 8,000 a year and production budgets a mere pounds 2,500 per half hour - but they're fearsomely ambitious. Which suits the bosses extremely well. "Today's teens are into content, not glitzy presentation, which works well for our limited budgets," says founding director Adam Stanhope.

"This is the future of multi channel television," he believes, "a channel catering for an audience poorly served by other broadcasters." It's all original programming - no US imports or re-runs. And it's totally in tune with its audience. "As we make the shows in-house, our teams are out talking to teenagers every day about what they think, like and do which comes straight back into the core of the company. No-one can accuse us of being out of touch."

Stanhope and his co-directors Robert Ditcham, Debbie Mason and Stephen Garrett, the ex-Channel 4 youth TV head who gave us The Word, conceived Rapture three years ago. They secured backing last April from United News & Media who's TV interests include HTV and Anglia, hence the Norwich link. In August they signed their first cable deal - to be part of the basic channel package available to Telewest's 650,000 cable TV subscribers. By November, the 45-strong team was on air.

There was an obvious gap in the market for a teenage TV channel, Debbie Mason believes. "Just look at the popularity of teen magazines. These are people eager to find out more about themselves and the world around them," she says. "There was a clear need for someone to address their full range of interests, not just music and football. Variety was the key - something they weren't getting on BBC 2 or Channel 4."

Despite the early rash of "yoof TV" shows fuelled by the success of Network 7 in the Eighties, teen programmes today remain marginalised - focusing on entertainment and banished to the edges of peak time so as not to alienate mainstream audiences. Shows with greatest youth appeal are now those aimed at a wider audience: Have I Got News for You, TFI Friday and anything starring Vic and Bob.

"Teenage audiences want to watch people who behave just as they are - they are no longer prepared to swallow celebrity whole," explains Siobhan Bia, senior researcher at youth market consultancy Informer. "The real danger is targeting teenagers too overtly so that they feel pigeonholed. At a time when you are trying to understand yourself, the last thing you want is people telling you who you are."

Jane Hewland, originator of Network 7 who's more recent series include Gamesmaster and Sky One drama Dream Team, agrees. "I don't think youth programmes exist any more," she says, pointing out that Channel 4's teen soap, Hollyoaks, put in a poor showing against Eastenders and Friends in a recent Smash Hits poll. "Youth's become a state of mind rather than an age group. You can't programme for teenagers, you must programme stuff that caters for different interests. There is a difference."

Rapture, however, is confident there's demand for a TV channel that reflects teenagers' everyday lives. It does, however, face a delicate balancing act. As any teenage magazine publisher knows, actual readership is always younger than target audience as teens aspire upwards - which is why most J17 readers, for example, are 12 or 13. Also, it must meet the approval of parents - the people who foot the cable TV bill.

So, the channel's programme schedule blends arts, entertainment, lifestyle and current affairs. It's fun and educational, Mason insists, but the education has more to do with inspiring than traditional teaching.

Discussion shows have addressed Aids, cannabis and the age of consent. Teenage arts show Space has reviewed books and art including the Royal Academy's controversial "Sensation" exhibition. Crush focuses on teenage relationships. Cash on Demand is a teenage finance show. Trainspotters, the obligatory music slot, includes club and DJ reviews plus a slot for unsigned bands.

For the time being, Rapture's availability remains patchy - Scotland, the north east and north west, Birmingham and the Midlands, Bristol and the west, Essex, the Thames Estuary and south west London. However, negotiations with other cable companies are underway and the directors are keeping a watchful eye on the approach of digital broadcasting.

"The idea is we will start broadcasting seven days a week when we can go digital, keeping weekend broadcasts in analogue as a taster and offer the full seven days as a subscription service," Stanhope explains. It's a gamble - but one Rapture, UN&M and Telewest are willing to take as they lay the foundations for survival in tomorrow's multi channel, digital TV world.

Which suits Licia, Esther and their colleagues just fine.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
ebookAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    (Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

    Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Principle Geotechnical Engineer

    £55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

    Day In a Page

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup