Thursday, December 20, 2007

Think Politics- Can MTV show the networks how to engage youth?

Any psephologist, actually anyone that follows wrestling may be able to recount the amazing story of professional wrestler turned politician Jesse Ventura, elected Governor of Minnesota in 1999.

Jesse snuck up from behind all the favourites and pollsters by mobilising the unhidden 1000s of wrestling fans who would vote for him.

At the time of his win, at a Freedom Forum seminar in the UK, I recall marveling with John Owen, the then Director of The Freedom Forum U.K, and Adam Clayton Powell III at the significance.

Jesse is widely acknowledged as the first person to use the net to reach out to voters.

It would take a few more years before the likes of Howard Dean or John Kerry would touch the net flame and even then you could argue no one's quite replicated Jesse's theme.

Youth Politics UK
If you want to count the youth vote and the net in the UK, then you'd do better 'duck feeding'.

Election upon election, candidates face the perennial problem of failing to capture the youth vote; the youth turned off, face down from the collective mores and didacticism.

In the 2001 election as one of the producers for ITN (UK) Channel 4's flagship political programme, Powerhouse, during the election we barely, if ever, touched youth issues.

So MTV's initiative, in which 51 young multimedia reporters cover the 2008 US elections nationwide with with regular short videos and blogs makes for an interesting read and experiment.

A number of questions come to mind.

  • Can the youth vote have any real impact on the body politiks of the election?
  • Could the Net truly come into its own confounding anyone but the youth?
  • Could it be the youth who get the killer question in that might turn politicians' on song message sour.

    A case of be careful what you say to the guy in the baseball cap who looks eight, cuz he may well have you on national TV.

    Anything, anything that engages the youth with politicians has to be given merit.

    But the underlying reason why the youth tune out is still there, so MTV may have to reinvent the wheel in political reportage to avoid playing only to the classroom swot.

    In the UK, many moons back, a BBC youth current affairs programme Reportage had a modicum of success; their issue-led films were good, often picked up by the nationals.

    But you often felt politicans spoke to the programme to appeal to mums and dads in an attempt to convey the missive: "we care about family values".

    If MTV can get the politicans to be accountable to them, as the block swing vote, then we might just rest Jesse's accomplishment's to rest, for the mean time.

    And with green issues and the environment looming large that might not be a feat too far.


    In 2001 I ran a summer programme, Postcode for young people becoming film makers. We toyed with the idea of politics, but felt we couldn't reach the audience.
    Perhaps that times now caught up with us
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