It took just 90 seconds for Channel 4 to get its message across one Friday night. Over on BBC Two, the ceremonies were taking place for the opening of the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
It took just 90 seconds for Channel 4 to get its message across one Friday night. Over on BBC Two, the ceremonies were taking place for the opening of the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. As coverage got underway, viewers on Channel 4 saw an advert, not for a particular programme, but for a particular cause.
The campaign was Gay Mountain, the network’s response to Russia’s anti-gay rights legislation which was at the centre of the controversy leading up to the opening ceremonies. The colour of Channel 4’s logo also changed to a rainbow.
The message was clear, and Channel 4 would not the only media organisation with something to say. Google posted a doodle in support of Russia’s LGBT population, The Guardian would change the colour of the “G” on their logo to rainbow, and the logo of the New Statesman magazine would be rainbow coloured.
Rainbows then spread on Twitter, with avatars, including that of BBC 6 Music DJ Lauren Laverne, rainbow coloured.
But for Channel 4, the campaign was significant, as the channel is the UK broadcaster for the Paralympic Games, beginning in March. Channel 4 did not reply to requests for an interview or for comment prior to the publication of this piece.
Natasha Clark of the journalism blog Wannabe Hacks, says the campaign by the network was a subtle message, but did not anticipate it to affect overall coverage.
“It shows an interesting but subtle stand,” Clark said. “I don’t think it would affect coverage, only in the respect that they are trying to put pressure and make an effort for Russia to consider this. This is a worldwide event but there are other issues under the surface that need addressing. It does not send a hostile message but it’s still important that they’re sending it.”
Clark says these moves are done because a particular individual or brand is prepared to take a stand on it. Clark says it’s not a surprise The Guardian or the New Statesman changed the colour of their logos, but the case is different for Channel 4, as it was not surprising but not expected either.
“They’re not afraid to talk about controversial issues,” Clark said, noting the recent discussion surrounding Benefits Street. “The advert is out there. It’s simply more than changing your web site, its openly mocking of Russia and for its stance on gay rights. It was powerful and it’s been shared a lot.”
On the issue of the gay rights law, Clark says the coverage is now purely on the Games, though the topic may appear in analysis after the conclusion of events, and she does not expect other media organisations to follow in similar efforts.
It was a big issue leading up to the Games, and these campaigns say a lot in the international message. Whether they will have made a difference is yet to be seen, but Russia and the international community have taken notice.
The message is simple—something must be done to tackle the issue, and Channel 4 has taken the lead on it.
What do you think of Channel 4’s campaign? Have your say in the comments section below.