By OWAIN PENNAR
“People often think that young people are simply not interested in politics...
they do get involved if you tackle the issues
that are relevant to them.”
~ Lisa Haf.
There are very few broadcasters in the UK that provide any kind of current affairs programs for young people. But Welsh-language broadcaster S4C has a dedicated current affairs show for young people that has been running for more than a decade.
Hacio (which literally means ‘Hacking’) was introduced in the pioneering early years of S4C’s digital service, and, unlike a number of other shows, has survived and flourished.
Typically broadcasted on Mondays in a popular 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. slot, some 15 editions of the series are televised a year.
The key to its longevity perhaps is that it’s part of a program package produced for S4C by the award-winning ITV Wales current affairs team. Its flagship program is Y Byd ar Bedwar (‘World on 4’), which has been running since S4C first aired in 1982. The Hacio team has prospered as part of an umbrella team that has a pedigree in investigative journalism.
“The combination of their experience and our youthful enthusiasm makes us work as a team,” says Lisa Haf, series producer and presenter on Hacio.
Haf, 24, is one of a team of five working in a multi-skilled multi-media team, equipped to present issues in a way that engages young people in Wales.
They work in close collaboration with the tightly-knit seven-strong Y Byd ar Bedwar team in their Cardiff and Carmarthen offices. Hacio’s journalists cross over to the flagship series for part of the year at least, but many do so on a permanent basis. Hacio is now a proven nurturing ground for journalism in Wales.
However, Hacio’s main remit is to attract one of the most elusive and questioning target audiences into watching current affairs programs.
“People often think that young people are simply not interested in politics and are not a potential audience for current affairs programs. But we have found that young people do get involved if you tackle the issues that are relevant to them,” says Haf, who has been with Hacio since graduating from university in 2008. “The fact that S4C has this current affairs slot is something of an exclusive for the channel. Hacio does bring in an audience who wouldn’t usually watch current affairs programs.”
The subjects they choose include drug use and abuse, homelessness, sex, fashion, music, and culture.
“But the key to a good current affairs series is, essentially, human interest stories,” says Haf.
“Shows like ours prove that in the digital age you don’t have to spend enormous amounts of money on programming if you have a good story. Sometimes all you need are two chairs, two people and a camera – a powerful interview gets a bigger response than anything else.”
The Hacio team uses new media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to get their stories and reach their audiences. But the old tried methods of journalism remain important and face-to-face interviews are an essential element in Hacio programs.
Journalist Owain Phillips, 24, has earned something of a reputation for tackling prominent Welsh people head on with his combative but engaging style of interviewing.
“I think they appreciate the opportunity to discuss matters in depth,” says Phillips. “After all, these days, most interviews are edited down into sound bites.”
Phillips says he has a direct style because he wants decision makers to answer questions and tackle issues directly.
“But I hope I have the humor and the light touch too that helps them feel at ease and keeps the audience interested,” says Phillips. “It’s that mix of tackling serious issues and also looking at politics and current affairs from an alternative, young people’s perspective that makes Hacio work.”
For more information about Hacio, visit: www.S4C.co.uk/hacio
Owain Pennar, 49, is a senior press officer at S4C’s Communications Directorate. He has worked for the Welsh-language broadcaster at Cardiff for more than 15 years in a bustling Press Unit. The father of two previously worked as a freelance translator, reporter and also in the retail trade.
Originally from Swansea, he was brought up a nonconformist minister’s son, and his passions include history, music, and sport.