After 5 series one of the best programmes on the BBC, Toughest Place to be a, will shortly come to an end. A one off return featuring the London cabbie Mason McQueen heading back to the chaotic streets of Mumbai is currently being filmed. However, after that the executive producer at the BBC in charge of Toughest, Sam Bagnall, has confirmed that no more will be commissioned.
The programme which took a bus driver, binman, fireman, nurse and a fisherman among other professions to do their job in a developing country under some of the toughest conditions in the world was compulsive viewing. It was also one of the few programmes on the BBC showing what life is like for really poor people, many of whom exist on less than 2 dollars a day. You can see some memorable clips from the series here.
When I met Sam last month he confirmed that the BBC are now looking for a new programme which will be a worthy successor to Toughest. To help in this process Sam, who also produces This World and the wonderful Simon Reeve travelogues, has asked people to send him ideas for a new TV format.
Speaking at an International Broadcasting Trust event in London he told me “Working on Toughest Place to be a was a great experience. It also really helped to highlight the plight of poor people living under very difficult conditions. I was particularly proud of the programme we made about overfishing in Sierra Leone. As a result a patrol vessel was donated by the Isle of Man and the scourge of illegal fishing there has been almost eradicated, transforming the lives of local fishermen . I would welcome ideas on a new format which would work for us. Showing what life is really like for poor people around the world in a way which is both informative but also entertaining is challenging but I’m determined to do it ”.
To help people come up with a format which works I’ve put together a few criteria which I’ve run by Sam
- Like Toughest Place To Be has got to make good television (think Reithian principles to entertain, inform and educate in that order)
- Needs to be documentary based with very strong human interest stories (some of the most innovative recent formats have been reality TV)
- Can’t be too expensive: it’s the BBC after all!
- Needs to be a format a mechanic or solicitor would enjoy, not just someone interested in development issues
- Has got to deal with the big issues but from a surprising and different angle
- Ideally it would show developing countries in transition or challenge a stereotype we have about them
If you have an idea for a new TV format which meets these criteria I would be delighted to send it directly to Sam.
Have you ever wanted to write for newspapers or magazines? I’m an environmental scientist by training but I’ve also been a freelance journalist for over 10 years. I started writing letters, then wrote articles, did some news reporting for Daily Telegraph and I now write for the Guardian. Over the years I’ve had articles published in most of the national newspapers and a wide range of magazines. I write about what I know best: the environment, community relations and the history of world war two.
So over the next ten weeks I’m going to be taking an evening course in writing for publication at my local college in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The course will cover a wide range of subjects including generating ideas, what makes a good article, writing for an online audience, interviewing, developing a specialism, editing, pitching and most importantly getting paid! Interested? Drop me or the college an email.
In a month’s time on 7th September the eyes of the world will once again be on the Maldives. The second Presidential election will be a test not just of the islands young democracy but also the statesmanship of its politicians. How they behave and whether they are magnanimous in victory or defeat will be crucial to the Maldives status as a tourist destination and its standing in the world.
As a journalist I have had the privilege of visiting the islands over the last decade and have witnessed their transition from a dictatorship to a democracy and their struggles since to make that democracy work. In 2008 I reported on the first Presidential election for the international press and still remember the euphoria on the streets of Male which greeted the election of former President Nasheed and his coalition government. It was a great time to be a Maldivian because the country was filled with hope and optimism for the future. READ MORE
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