COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Community Channel to broadcast health soap

The Community Channel is to broadcast a controversial soap opera funded by the Government to promote public health.

Kismet Road was produced on the back of a £340,000 grant from the Department of Health, which believed people were more likely to heed health messages in TV programmes than they are through traditional methods such as leaflets.

The 13-part series, which was filmed in 2001, was turned down by a string of broadcasters, including the BBC, Channel 4 and Five, prompting fears it would never be shown. In 2002, Shadow Health Secretary Liam Fox said it was a scandal that so much money had been spent on the programme.

Rod Natkiel, managing director of the programme maker Rod Natkiel Associates, denied there was any disappointment that the series was being only being shown by a digital broadcaster, rather than a mainstream terrestrial TV channel.

"It's an absolutely fantastic partnership for us," he said. "I never had a nanosecond's doubt that the programme would be broadcast. It was always about finding someone who would promote it in the way we wanted."

He added the majority of criticism had been "silly, uninformed and politically motivated".

Kismet Road was filmed in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where health officials feared local South Asian communities were missing out on health services because of the communication barrier.

The programme features more than 100 British Asian actors talking a mixture of English, Urdu and Punjabi. Described as a medical drama, it uses gritty, urban storylines to tell people how they can resolve health problems.

Transmission starts on March 14 in the peak 7.30pm viewing slot. Community Channel controller Jane Mote said: "There is no other UK TV channel that can offer space to pioneering projects like this."

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