The first, and still the longest running deaf programme in the whole world. I know that’s not three words, but I like to bend the rules from time to time…
Sebastian Cunliffe - Director:
Innovative, inclusive, iconic.
Erika Jones - Researcher:
Unique, diverse and life-changing.
WM - We don’t have a big budget. We don’t have a big team. The one thing we DO have, though, is an amazing group of people who really care about the programme and want to do the best they can to make it as good as they possibly can. You can’t put a price on that, can you?
SC - Our audience is so diverse! The biggest challenge is to find something that will appeal to everyone and at the same time, make great-looking programmes that raise the bar with original content. It’s a permanent balancing act- there are so many great stories out there. It’s a huge responsibility. We’re lucky though as there’s always something interesting going on in the Deaf community!
EJ - Trying to answer these questions!
WM - Mark Thompson, one of the previous Director-Generals of the BBC, once described See Hear as ‘the jewel in the BBC’s public service crown’. He was right, I think. The BBC is still at its heart a public service broadcaster which has to inform, educate and entertain. It also has a duty to represent minorities and different cultures on screen.
SC - If you look at the history of See Hear, it speaks for itself- See Hear has evolved with the times. See Hear back in 1981 (that’s well before I was born!!) is a snapshot of what the Deaf community was like back then- and equally so now. Back then, See Hear was filmed with deaf and hearing presenters, communicating in spoken Sign Supported English. Now it’s presented by Deaf, BSL-using presenters and our in-vision signers are BSL users too. It’s a reflection of the continued empowerment of deaf people. Television has got better- so has See Hear! It continues to be interesting, relevant and informative and I think it always will.
EJ - It’s one of longest running BBC programmes and the longest running deaf TV programme in the world. It is the only topical magazine programme made specifically for deaf and hard of hearing people on one of the biggest mainstream channels. There is nothing else like that - I cannot describe how much it means to the Deaf community to have it. As part of the BBC Charter, it’s the BBC’s duty to represent diversity and cultural minorities both on the screen and behind the scenes.
WM - The one programme I remember most fondly was the one I produced for the 25th Anniversary – The 1981 House. See Hear started in 1981 – so we celebrated that by recreating a house as it would have been in 1981, with no internet, only a few channels of TV, no mobile phones and only an old textphone – and asking a deaf family of five to live in there. It was great fun!
SC - I always really enjoy watching our Child of Our Time strand, in which See Hear follows the lives of 4 deaf children from a young age and revisits them every few years or so. I think this is what See Hear does best- reaching out to a diverse Deaf audience and keeping them engaged as they evolve throughout the years.
As a director, I really enjoyed making the See Hear Performance Special. We experimented using some lighting techniques and in the end it really worked out great.
EJ - There are too many favourites! One of my ideas for See Hear that I was involved in making was a programme highlighting the links between mainstream schools and mental health. This hadn’t been covered before and I knew it was a controversial topic to make, but I’m glad we made it and so many people have come to us afterwards to compliment us on the programme and to share their experiences and issues they’d faced themselves. It is heart-breaking – and something that needed to be brought into the open.
WM - I’m deaf. I was born deaf. If I’m completely honest, it’s never really been that much of a problem for me in life. However - I come from a relatively privileged background. I’ve had a lot of advantages in life through being born to a relatively well-off family who were able to give me the education and opportunities that helped me get to where I am today. Every week on See Hear I’m reminded that there are thousands upon thousands of deaf people out there whose first language is sign language, who feel isolated in a world which doesn’t fully understand them. They might come from a poor upbringing, or had a bad experience at school, or feel alienated at work. Until those deaf people are given the same rights as their hearing equivalents, we will still need programmes like See Hear.
SC - Anybody can achieve greatness if they put their minds to it- deaf people are no exception…
EJ - Never leave your camera alone with your runner! Once our camera got run over! Our runner was driving around to the next location with the camera kit and props whilst the rest of us were walking there and somehow the cameraman left the camera beside the car, so yes, you guessed it- our runner didn’t see it and ran it over!
WM - The ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It would make the long walk to work a bit more interesting each morning!
SC - I would choose to be able to bend time and space- like Hiro from ‘Heroes’- then I could do a sightseeing tour of the universe!
EJ - Teleportation- going anywhere I want, anytime I want, seeing anything I want. I could go to different countries every evening after work, every weekend…do I need to say more?
WM - You need to be really good. You need to have great ideas; a range of skills; a willingness to go above and beyond what’s expected of you; and most importantly a willingness to learn! It’s pretty tough, and there have been a lot of times when I’ve thought of walking away from television altogether. But right now, I’m so pleased I didn’t.
SC - Experiment with different things- researching, producing, directing, filming, editing. Get a strong understanding of all areas. Film and edit your own projects. There’s a lot of stuff online, watch tutorials, watch films, watch programmes, play around with equipment, software. Volunteer for projects, go for work experience, don’t be afraid to approach Deaf TV professionals for shadowing opportunities and ask for advice. Build a portfolio, network, keep going and it will happen.
EJ - Work hard; open your eyes and mind; learn as much as possible; develop a thick skin; never give up and always aim high!