Upon returning home last Friday, it caught my attention that a surprising number of people were being genuinely complimentary of something being aired by BBC Three, this being the repeat of the first installment of a three-part series originally shown in April of this year: Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia.
Episode one being titled Far Right and Proud, it sees Yates travel to Moscow to meet a variety of people pertaining to the country’s nationalist movement, ranging from “knife-wielding far right nationalists” to those who have been on the receiving end of the ideology – immigrants. It can be viewed HERE on the BBC iPlayer or alternatively on a YouTube video embedded at the bottom of this post.
There’s been a mixed response ever since it was announced earlier in the year that the channel was to be dropped from TV in favour of a move to being exclusively online. The decision was made by the BBC Trust, who concluded upon research that not only were its ratings flailing, but that their target audience (those aged 16-34) are steadily consuming more and more of their media via the internet, and that it is a calculated move in anticipation of this trend continuing as much as anything else.
In fact opinion on BBC Three is divided in general. Some are of the viewpoint that it serves a purpose, to act as the wacky little brother of its accompanying channels that are often more formal in tone by providing lighter entertainment such as Family Guy, as well as offering more easily-consumable depictions of social issues (like when would-be wives allow their would-be husbands to plan their entire wedding without any interference. Because that’s a thing that both happens AND matters).
On the opposing side of the coin you have those that…have the same perception, except interpret this to be a negative. That attempts at humour courtesy of Lee Nelson, or informative documentaries like “woman goes to poverty-stricken country to take a serious, sympathetic (read: patronising) look into Ebola” don’t meet the BBC’s remit to inform, educate and entertain to the requisite standard, thus making it it disposable.
I feel as though I would inherently err on the side of the latter for the most part, based almost solely on what I’ve seen in passing as to my knowledge I’ve never consciously sought out anything broadcast by Three, and as such I went into Yates’ programme with a relatively neutral albeit slightly sceptical mindset.
One would be forgiven for having these same pre-conceived notions of Yates himself, as despite never coming across as anything other than affable – presenting Top Of The Pops and kids TV shows doesn’t seem the most organic of starting points for one who is to jump right into the epicentre of Russian nationalist marches.
(Image from: bbc.co.uk)
It actuality what he showed was tremendously courageous journalism and an impressive follow-up from last year’s Extreme South Africa series, which also received muted acclaim.
The tone is strangely quite genial at times, and despite its serious subject matter doesn’t veer too far away from Three’s identity. This is largely down to Yates, who is almost amiable to a fault in certain scenarios, from laughing and smiling his way out of legitimate intimidation from admitted fascists to describing young Russians fervent support of president Vladimir Putin as simply “pretty weird”.
Though this doesn’t detract from the documentary as a whole, as Yates blends his cordiality with journalistic integrity and a genuine curiosity for the issue he’s exploring, which all told results in a genuinely interesting finished product that I’d recommend watching.
Ultimately what I took from watching as much as anything else was the impression that were this the precedent for the type of content BBC Three consistently produced, there’d be far more opposition to the motion to drop it from television. It’s a rarity that they’ve managed to find the necessary blend of informative-yet-quirky, but under the guidance of Yates I feel as though they struck it here.
(video uploaded by: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNu9QAjeH0QuvoALwj5XvRQ)