The Revolution Will Be Televised: The BBC needs to keep investing in young people and taking risks

Satirical pranksters Jolyon Rubinstein and Heydon Prowse take the coalition government to task tonight - but they're optimistic about the future of politics and BBC3

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Jolyon Rubinstein and Heydon Prowse owe everything to BBC3 – and they happily admit it.

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The pranksters’ Bafta-winning comedy The Revolution Will Be Televised is that rarest of finds on television: political satire aimed at young people. There’s certainly nothing like it on BBC3’s youth-orientated stablemates E4 and ITV2.

Had an intrepid commissioner not taken a punt on them three years ago, Rubinstein and Prowse would probably still be posting their homemade videos on YouTube. Their targets to date include David Cameron (who they presented with a mocked-up Bullingdon Club album) and Cheryl Cole (who stormed out of what she thought was a routine showbiz interview when asked why humans were put on earth). 

So it’s hardly surprising that the duo are waiting with bated breath to see whether the BBC Trust will ratify the proposed move of the channel online, following a month-long public consultation that ended yesterday. “We just encourage the BBC to keep investing in young people who are talented and want to make their mark,” Prowse tells RadioTimes.com. “And also in commissioners who are brave enough to believe in them, and encouraging those commissioners to take risks.”

When the BBC announced its ‘closure’ of BBC3 last March, Prowse wrote an impassioned op-ed in which he argued that “Middle-class, middle-aged Britain is already perfectly well served by the BBC…Young people and ethnic minorities, however: not so much. While other channels are churning out empty-calorie TV – where we can laugh at poor people fulfilling their own stereotypes by being poor, or watch celebrity nail-painting talent shows – BBC3 is creating non-patronising, genuinely youth-focused content.”

Today he choose his words more carefully. Either he was convinced by the online-only proposition or he’s realised that even a satirist would be unwise to bite the hand that feeds it. “Obviously we are really sad to see the terrestrial side of it go because we’re on it and it’s been our home. It depends how it’s done. We’re excited to see how the BBC manages it.” 

Rubinstein is similarly cautious. “The one thing that is unarguable is that BBC3 has given so many people an amazing platform and I think that it will continue to do that,” he adds. “The save BBC3 campaign clearly demonstrates that there are huge amounts of people who love BBC3 and love the content that it creates. But BBC3 is not being closed. It’s evolving into a new form.”

Whatever the future holds, Prowse promises that this is not the last BBC3 viewers will see of The Revolution Will Be Televised – “we’ve got a couple of things in the pipeline which we’re quite excited about.”

Tonight’s special is their most inventive turn yet. Democracy Dealers is a mockumentary in which we see more of their alter egos Conservative MP James Twottington-Burbage (Rubinstein) and Liberal Democrat Barnaby Plankton (Prowse), who as the government’s youth ministers reluctantly launch a campaign to motivate young people to vote.

“We feel quite passionately that young people are really disenfranchised in this country and we feel a lot of that is because they don’t vote,” explains Prowse. “That is definitely the message in this documentary: if people don’t engage in the democratic system then nothing will change.”

Even so, he’s optimistic that their message won’t fall on deaf ears. “Young people aren’t at all politically disengaged. They’re the ones that are out on the street demonstrating. They’re the ones that are launching online petitions, and posting stuff on Twitter. They’re just disenfranchised from the political system.”

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Revolution Presents: Democracy Dealers is on tonight on BBC3 at 9pm