Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Serious Request for a Dutch Xmas

Those who know me, will know how little T.V. I actually watch. And just how much I dislike utterly and totally anything that smacks of Big Brother or talent style T.V. programmes. I came to this opinion a few years ago, realising that in the UK, the majority of participants are chosen expressly to clash and be unpleasant with each other, and that, just in case there isn't enough natural strife to entrance a prurient public, the producers set up situational traps which are designed to encourage argument, jealousy and spite.

The Dutch (who I seemed to think invented 'Big Brother' or at least adopted it in a big way) have their own special Xmas reality show which brings together pretty much every form of media out there. And this is one that I thoroughly approve of! It's called 'Serious Request', headlined by 3FM radio and every Xmas 3 DJ's are locked in a large glass box for a week, with no food, and only two specially cococted (and apparently not yum from the faces that they pull! ) fruit drinks a day.  This glass box gets moved to a different town square every year for the public to parade past and watch as these guys have to run a full time show non-stop for the week running up to Christmas Day, when they are finally let out. There are slot boxes around the box - not for the public to push bananas through, although it might be tempting after a while - but cash donations to the years chosen charity. There is  continuous live TV streaming, a live twitter feed, and live sms feed with the predictable koochi-koo and marry me statements rolling past .

The fun part for me is that the DJ's don't get to choose their music either - all of it is requested by the public - at the price of a donation to the cause - with the exception of one song an hour. That's given to an unsigned band to perform their soon-to-be famous single in - for a small donation of course!

And 100% of the money goes into providing the actual service the charity provides - not admin. Yep - 100%. Not 92% or 95% or anything. Which poses an interesting challenge to the radio station : they still have to pay royalties on the music played, and most stations royalty budget is based on x% top hits, y% b-class hit z% golden oldies and a smattering of unknown stuff. This takes any ability to forecast what they are going to pay completely out of their hands and puts it in the hands of the public - since the donations don't contribute.

There are also some interesting twists - the radio traffic reports during rushhours are judged on accuracy  after the fact  and for every kilometre of jam or delay they fail to report, the radio station donates a Euro. - Not big money, I grant you but certainly incentive to get it pretty accurate pretty fast since there is a nation of motorists on their mobiles waiting to jump in and report their failure.  There are famous singers and bands who donate their time to come in and do cameo time in the box to add some excitement for the public. There's a continuously running web-auction with goods and services donated by Dutch companies. In previous ( pre-Crisis) years the Dutch government matched the end donation - thus doubling the sum raised.

I love the fact that the Dutch have managed to take a media artform that the British have turned into something nasty, spiteful and mean in a scrooge sense (its all about profit) - and turn it into something that truly reflects the spirit of Xmas - thinking about those who live a life less fortunate than you and making a difference, instead of pouring all that money into a commercial bonanza. And yes, for a lot of people, the Xmas present is a donation to Serious Request ;)

So, for 2012 - in the words of 3FM's Serious Request  - 'let's hear it for the babies' - I hope they break the 10 million euro barrier this year.

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