Sunday, 15 April 2012

Leave the Valleys, MTV

MTV – The Valleys is a planned reality TV Show in the vein of The Only Way is Essex, which will seek to perpetuate negative stereotypes of Wales and its’ residents. I have discussed in detail below why I think this is the case. If you too object to True North Production Company creating MTV – The Valleys; please sign this petition and share it – you will really help to raise awareness of opinion. Likewise, please follow this Twitter account, and there is a Facebook page in the making which would be great to share far and wide. For more details read on…

MTV -The Valleys is described by its makers as, “The Only Way is Essex, Geordie Shore and Made In Chelsea - but Welsh”. The definition points toward another fake tan and stereotype saturated TV show in which combinations of individuals are purposefully plucked to maximise cohabitation catastrophe, outrageous behaviour and headlines grabbed in low brow publications. Or, as True North, the company commissioned to produce this programme state, “The True North team love what they do - they respect the people they work with and they put money on screen.”

I had the displeasure of watching an episode of Geordie Shore at a friend’s house. It was not pretty. Drunkenness, vomiting, ridiculous conversation, nudity and sex, no doubt edited to reveal ‘the best bits.’ Is this the content of a respectful TV company’s product? The quote, “they put money on screen” is the answer. Anyone else thinking money shot? The filmic term refers to the most expensive clip to produce or the most money making – particularly synonymous with climatic moments in pornography. So in reality TV, the money on the screen must be the most scandalous, the most pitiful, that which causes the most media furore, and is the most expensive to the individual unwittingly making money for the company. Perhaps he or she will pay with their dignity, their privacy, their pride.

True North - responsible for previous high-brow docu-gems such as My Fake Baby and My Mums Used To Be Men - want to put money on the screen from South Wales in this instance. The programme’s Twitter feed announces their late night presence in towns such as Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Blackwood, Abertillery, and Bridgend. Potential show members are flattered with hand delivered postcards which read, ‘You’ve Been Spotted.’ This looks-based selection process taps into the idea that being a Cheryl or Ashley-Cole-Alike is a viable and aspirational goal. This is accentuated by the show’s aim of putting eight young people into a house in Cardiff for five weeks and allowing them to “work in any field they like.” Social work, teaching, journalism, engineering, molecular biology then? Nope. Not any field. “We're looking at the more glitzy, fun industries - fashion, music, modelling, events, promotions, acting, singing, etc.” All of these professions are valid in their own right - but they will be used in this programme to create spectacles of those involved, and fit in with the "glitzy" image of the show. I don't suppose it would be as justifiable to film a scientist in a bikini as it would a model.

Not only is the show advancing the empty ambition of celebrity, rather than championing the values of self-worth, skills and education amongst young people, it misunderstands and will no doubt misrepresent The Valleys. It is moving participants twenty miles along the A470, to a city the majority already frequent. Will they suggest people who live in Welsh towns and villages rarely leave them? This is true for some people – but I suspect they will press on with this generalised image regardless of individuals’ experiences as it fits with their premise.

The show’s Executive Producer Fiona O’Sullivan, who held the same role in TOWIE for Lime Productions said: “The Valleys is very exciting - I’m in no doubt looking at the casting for the series that the kids from the Welsh Valleys are huge reality stars in the making. It’s a fantastic little known world and will make a brilliant setting for a constructed reality show." Patronising, yes? “Huge reality stars in the making” smacks of a cannibal who has discovered a fresh batch of human flesh in a hitherto undiscovered pocket of civilisation. I bet O’ Sullivan is salivating over her incisors as I type. South Wales is a little known world in terms of ‘reality TV’ and it would be nice to keep it that way. The Valleys are scenically beautiful and abound with vibrant, welcoming, witty people. This programme, as the others in whose likeness it has been created, will not be looking for well rounded good news stories however.

The South Wales Valleys experience high levels of unemployment as a legacy of the mining industry closure, which created cyclical social problems such as low levels of educational attainment and high teenage pregnancy rates. There are many organisations working with communities in these areas to change this social landscape and correct the consistently negative press received. Colleagues of mine who work in Merthyr Tydfil Community Projects regularly receive calls from broadcasters asking for programme fodder. The answer is always no, the staff want to help improve and change, not exploit and exacerbate problems. On-screen coverage of South Wales often features the most run-down areas, opinions gleaned from the least broad minded, cumulatively leading to a negative, skewed vision of the area by those outside.

There is a surfeit of successful, highly educated, hardworking and eloquent people of all ages in and from the South Wales Valleys, who do not parade cleavage or chests and would not wish to appear drunk or naked on national TV. They aren’t the ones who will appear. The vulnerable or misguided will appear. They will have been creepily conscripted and cold-bloodedly cast by True North Production Company to make money and increase ratings. The South Wales Valley stereotype will be perpetuated. The Welsh stereotype will be propagated. The idea of vanity and fame as a career path will be given a helping hand, potentially inspiring a whole host of Welsh youngsters to avoid academia and concentrate on hair extensions instead.

Stripped down, MTV -The Valleys is about business people manipulating and exploiting human beings – and a nation - in order to make money – how can this be allowed to take place?

If you are approached by MTV - The Valleys, please realise what the invite to take part actually entails, and rely on your self-worth, hard work and talent to make you successful instead.

Anyone who objects to True North creating MTV - The Valleys, please sign this petition and share it – you will really help to raise awareness of opinion.

Thanks for your support.


  1. I support your campaign. I saw it in Wales on Sunday just now and have been thinking about how we can take it to the next level.

    Here's one thing. I have a few different blogs. Can you produce a small banner graphic that I can put in the sidebars please? Something like 'No to MTV - The Valleys'. I would like a Welsh version too 'Na i MTV yn y Cymoedd', preferably monolingual.

    It would then link to your campaign blog/website/petition. If a lot of us embed it in our sidebars I'm sure the cumulative number of viewers for it is quite high.

  2. Thanks very much for getting in touch Carl, I really appreciate your support and your idea is great.

    I've never produced a sidebar graphic before so I've asked a friend who is far more techy than I am. I'll keep you posted as to how we get on.

    If you have any other ideas, they'll be very welcome! Cheers, Lisa.

  3. Hi Carl, I sent you a tweet a while back, not sure whether you recieved it? I'm sorry for my delayed reply, I study part time and had heaps of uni work to finish! I'm back in essay-free world now. Could you let me know where's best to e-mail the sidebar graphics? Cheers, Lisa.

  4. The selected valley group were lording it up in the VIP room in Glam last Saturday. Let's just say their demeanour is everything you would expect for a contemporary freak show.

  5. I saw the piece in this week's Rhondda Leader where you were mentioned and agree with everything you've said. I have signed your petition and commented:

    I have moved to the Valley from Essex, where TOWIE has made Essex people, and women in particular, the butt of even more pathetic jokes. Essex women are nothing like the fake tit, fake tan fools on TOWIE and neither are Valleys women like this. Why not choose Valleys women for their skills and intellect instead of picking those resembling porn wannabes? Haven't we had enough of this already? These bimbos misrepresent the vast majority, dumb down perceptions and will lead to Valleys people being subjected to the same negativity, stereotyping and "jokes" that those from Essex have to endure.