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Adjusting the picture of educational shows

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TO hamish1

THE face of TV has transformed. The surge of reality shows, high-definition programming and storytelling that defies convention has made the industry a very competitive market So where does this leave “educational” channels such as National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild?

That is the challenge that Hamish Mykura (pictured), the executive vice-president and head of international content for National Geographic, has taken on and is hell-bent on adjusting.

Mykura said: “I joined in March. It has been a time of great change. We relocated the commis-sioning hub for programming in the UK. And also worldwide program-mes are going to have a different sensibility.

“I think it is necessary for it to become a bit more entertaining and to have more long-running series. It also becomes easier [for viewers] to become accustomed to it. The problem with short series, even if you enjoy them, the next time you look, they’re no longer there.”

The programming is more character-driven – as opposed to the traditional voice-over narration.

“When I say entertainment, it is within the parameters of what National Geographic is. I think there are certain subject areas, whether it is founded on the environment or set in a subculture backdrop, you can take these key areas and you can make them lively and great characters rather than old-fashioned documentaries. We can be true but very inventive to ensure the kind of shows we are making are fresh and new.”

On some of the content coming up, he revealed: “National Geo-graphic has always been keen on exploring tribal and sub-cultures. Following that logic, we have come up with Doomsday Preppers. It focuses on quite a large community who believe the world is facing annihilation. So we follow their beliefs, with them building underground bunkers. It is a very authentic documentary. They are truly a modern sub-culture. For that reason, the show is very at home on the National Geographic channel.”

Other National Geographic documentaries emerging from the same revolutionised stable include American Gypsies (December 6), which focuses on the Johns and their struggle to uphold their standing in their community while continuing to grow their psychic shop empire. That’s not forgetting the accompanying family strife.

Given the fascination with the Mayan prophecies, Paul Merton travels to the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of El Mirador in central America to gain a better under-standing of the 2012 doomsday predictions in Mayan Apocalypse (December 14).

On the Nat Geo Wild front, The Big Cat Week returns in February and fascinating doccies such as Freaks and Creeps, Dangerous Encounters: Shark Bite, Caught in the Act and Great Migrations are on the entertainment bill.

Meanwhile, Hannah Demidowicz, the National Geographic commissioning executive and head of programmes Europe, added: “We haven’t offi-cially commissioned anything yet. But in the next week, we are about to green-light our first African production. It will be shot in Africa and will complement the outlook of the channel.”

With these two channels getting a facelift while staying true to their essence, it can only make for better viewing. For now, the gripping content certainly gets a massive thumbs-up.


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