Cater's Choice

TV: As we grapple with social concerns about crime and young people, is there anything less useful than a former politician who fails to appreciate that he is well past his sell-by date popping up on TV to pontificate on an entertainment show dressed up as a documentary, complete with the usual claims to be "hard-hitting" and "a unique experiment"?

We are now deep into yet another variant on this theme as twice-sacked David Blunkett explores crime and punishment with a group of bad lads of 16 or 17. In the programme, they get the chance to experience the prison cells they will no doubt occupy unless diverted from the wrong path, and meet old lags who have already wasted much of their lives in jail.

But what are they and we learning in Banged Up on Five on Mondays (repeated Tuesdays on digital channel Fiver)? That prison is unpleasant, costly and often pointless, if not counter-productive? That some of these kids are so damaged that even a mere 10 days is too much for whoever watches out for their welfare on a programme like this? That DB loves the sound of his own opinions?

We already knew all that. How we keep young people from crime, gangs and weapons, and how we pull someone back from criminal self-destruction, is not quite so clear. As soon as we look at the world through the television, especially the problems that charities address, the view is suddenly obscured.

Having foisted the disability beauty parade on us with Britain's Missing Top Model, BBC Three is now at least allowing some ordinary disabled people access to the world of television through its Be on TV initiative.

The Beeb wants disabled viewers to "share their creativity, humour and talent" by submitting videos either introducing BMTM in 15 seconds "in their own inimitable style" or offering their views on media representation of disabled people, fashion, beauty and more in clips of no more than 45 seconds. Details can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/missingmodel/beontv.

For contrast, check out the Community Channel's Define Normal on Sunday, in which six people with disabilities, not immediately apparent on screen, offer a commentary on their lives.

- Contact Nick Cater at catercharity@yahoo.co.uk.

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