On September 24 this year Global Village will screen its 2000th episode. As you may be aware we are giving viewers a chance to vote for their favourite episodes that we'll screen in the week of the 2000th episode.
Since 2000 episodes on-air is quite a milestone in this industry I thought I'd look back to the beginning of this series over the next few weeks and go over things leading up to this event and ask how is it that a series such as Global Village, without any multi-million dollar budget or media-hype or Marketing push, has lasted so long?
In 1998 the SBS Director of Programming asked me whether I'd like to present and post produce as series that is likely to be on air for a number for years, two or three at the outset, and not only that but on air each week-night! I would be also required to re-record the narration on each one into English. It turned out that SBS had acquired hundreds of short documentaries from France but filmed all around the world by a consortium of producers over a number of years.
The series, FARAWAY PEOPLE dealt exactly with that, people in far off lands their lifestyles, cultures and traditions. It looked at everyday people in, at times, extraordinary circumstances. It looked at the wonder of human endeavour. And it looked at things that make people tick, keep people happy, give them hope and a sense of their own identity.
Unlike so-called 'Reality Television' where everything is manufactured and scripted to maximum effect to maximise the advertiser's (and in turn, the broadcaster's) profit, Global Village WAS reality TV, real people in real circumstances not scripted to maximise its effect or profit. The profit for France TV came from other broadcasters buying their series.
And in case anyone forgot, SBS is still a public broadcaster, funded mostly from Canberra, (i.e. the taxpayer) and Global Village not only satisfies the SBS charter by providing multicultural content but it does so in the public interest and not the advertiser's interest. If it did the latter, Global Village as it is now would be a vastly different kettle of fish. This in turn gets to the core of why commercial and public broadcasters exist. Simple - commercial television exists for profit, only. Public broadcasting exists for the public interest, as an antidote to commercial television. This is not a criticism but a fact.
The first episode of Global Village went to air on 30 November 1998. Over the decade plus of its life it has built up a steady and loyal following. A 6pm timeslot on television is a very difficult time to fill and Global Village had some pretty stiff competition. Over the years it had to run against, The Simpsons, MASH, Brian Henderson's NEWS and other news programs. But we're still here and it is all thanks to you the viewers who've stayed with the series even through the repeats!
Viewers regularly write in to tell us what they think of the series and maybe there lies the key to its longevity. EG: "It's so wonderful to see this beautiful, clean simple show...I have never been overseas so you bring overseas to me and many othersâ€¦I pray that this show goes on as it is very different and special".
One I particularly like, as I feel it touches on the essence of the series states:
"I enjoy the series very much, finding its theme of Global Community compatible with the aims of unity in diversity - that is one world, one God one Humankind."
Why did I choose the 20 stories for you to choose from out of a range of over 1600 documentaries? I'll tell you next week.