On Sunday Carte Blanche celebrated 22 years on air by using social media in a bold experiment to involve its audience in the directing of a live show. This combination of social media and live television was a first for South African TV.
“I can tell you I have a few worried-looking editors in the control room. This is an experiment and it’s up to you to make it work. George, Peter and Jessica are monitoring suggestions – they’re hyper-ventilating a bit – so help them by becoming part of our team and tell me what’s going where after the ad break,” said anchor Derek Watts at the start of the broadcast.
Eight stories were promoted on Carte Blanche’s Facebook page and viewers were invited to choose four by ‘liking’ the inserts they wanted to see.
“The story with the most Likes will go out first and the four with the least won’t go out at all,” said Watts.
Viewers selected the following four stories: Cannabis & Schizophrenia (564 Likes), Forensics (549 Likes), Mercury Rising (521 Likes), and Mandela Photographers (404 Likes). The four stories with the lowest votes were automatically disqualified.
For the first time in South African television history, viewers were empowered to act as gatekeepers – effectively given the choice to determine what they got to watch. Over 60% of the fan base participated – pointing to the huge success of this campaign.
To encourage participation in the interactive experience, four weekends away at The Thornybush Collection were on offer and viewers could win by coming up with intro and outro links that showed effort, initiative and understanding of the issues.
“If you’re a scriptwriter par excellence, go to our Facebook page… I’m going to sit back and relax, because you are directing the show,” said Watts.
Watts, who normally writes his own script, was fed his lines as they became available – a technical feat for a show operating in a live environment.
The birthday broadcast gave viewers a more intimate experience of the country’s longest running current affairs show, with crossings to the control room during the broadcast, live comments from the three editors in studio, and Derek explaining the connection between the studio and the control room by showing his ear piece.
George Mazarakis, Executive Producer, while announcing Mercury Rising as the next story chosen by the audience added: “What is interesting to us is that the viewers are going for more serious stories when we’d given them several lighter options.”
Derek also quizzed Carte Blanche’s Interactive Editor as to why the show was embracing social media in this way.
“It is just about bringing our audience closer to the show. It is probably the closest they’ve ever been to live TV in South Africa’s history,” said Peter Griffiths.