Last autumn. S'l'V‘s Scottish Action team mounted their first and most controversial television series — a drink-driving campaign which. because of the list ofoffenders published on screen at the end of each programme. stimulated an enormous amount of discussion. 'l‘wo series have followed since then. one on alcohol abuse and one on crime. Neither attracted the same controversy. but. according to Scottish Action producer Denis Mooney. each was equally successful in a different way. ‘We were going for another kind of response on the alcohol abuse issue. It became very clear that the public‘s level of knowledge about alcohol — what it is and what it can do to you — was frighteningly low. From the five thousand requests we had for our information packs (when it was often women asking for information on behalf of their partners). it also became very clear that alcohol
54 The List 28 Oct — 10 Nov 1988
abusers don‘t just hurt themselves. there are enormous numbers of people whose lives are made wretched.‘
‘In the crime programmes we wanted to point out the indiscriminate horror that some people create around themselves. We tried to give a balanced view by showing that some people — like old people — are not as vulnerable to crime as the common perception might suggest. And we set out to show the reality ofprison.‘
A fourth series. about poverty in Scotland. is just about to take to the airwaves in Scottish Action‘s 6.30pm prime-time slot. In dealing with poverty. Scottish Action risks being accused ofcondescension or of capitalizing with high television ratings on people‘s misery.
Denis Mooney has no qualms about it. ‘We are conscious that we can be accused of being voyeuristic — that we observe but do nothing. So
we do try and supply full information on back-up support. We try to show constructive solutions. positive images. Scottish Action is a small team. And we are not mindless. We don‘t just go and get the juiciest story. But I do regard it as part of my job to ensure that we get good. informative stories that people are going to watch. We also make sure that we‘re not seen to be parasitic. feeding off other people‘s misery. We work very hard to try and do something about relieving that misery.‘
Mooney recognises the irony that many of the people who have participated in the programmes will never see them. However. he believes that at least a little ofthe isolation of the poor may be relieved just by having someone come and talk to them. A Scottish Action Line phone number will be broadcast at the end ofeach programme for those wanting advice and for those wanting
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Bob Iomlinson presents Scottish Action Go Poverty
BELOW THE POVERTY llNE
Kristina Woolnough speaks to two members of the Scottish Action team who believe that Scotland, by concentrating only on positive things like Glasgow’s regeneration, is sweeping its poverty under the carpet.
Scottish Action‘s presenter is campaigning journalist (although he hates the label) Bob 'l‘omlinson. His views on the purpose of the series are categorical: ‘I want Scottish Action on Poverty to let people throughout central Scotland realise that for all the hype we‘ve had. there are many people in Scotland in 1988 who are living in appalling conditions. We are unashamedly using television to say to our audience “look at these other people who need our help. who need caring. who need our attention.” ‘
The six programmes in the series will cover homelessness. housing. health. old people. young people and the voluntary sector who work with the poor. Research for the series has required great personal involvement from the team. who have gone out at all times of the day and night to meet people. rather than relying on agencies to supply