LONDON - A gritty television drama series set around Britain's urban music scene aims to push back broadcasting frontiers by letting its audience choose how the plot will develop.
The six-part Dubplate Drama, to be shown on Channel 4 in November, will invite viewers to vote via telephone text message for one of two possible outcomes at the end of each week's 13-and-a-half minute episode.
The drama will be the first series to exploit modern television viewers' enthusiasm for audience participation, said youth marketing agency Livity, which is behind the show.
"We did a check around and there is nowhere in the world we could find where there has been viewer-led interactive drama," Sam Conniff, London-based Livity's co-founder, told Reuters.
Livity hopes the drama will succeed in reaching its target audience of 18-year-olds already familiar with interactive reality shows such as Big Brother and Pop Idol.
Last month the BBC experimented with the interactive drama format when a special edition of medical drama Casualty invited viewers mid-episode to call in to resolve a plot dilemma over a kidney transplant.
The Dubplate Drama storyline, set in an anonymous inner-city tower block neighbourhood, follows the fortunes of Dionne, an aspiring female DJ who ends up working for a pirate radio station funded by drug dealing.
London rapper Chanelle Scott, better known by her stage name Shystie, plays Dionne, alongside other British rap artists such as Rodney P and Mercury-prize winner Ms Dynamite who appear in cameo roles.
All are part of what has been dubbed the "grime" music scene, a mixture of urban rap and garage described as hip-hop with a British accent.
The drama's focus on urban social issues like drugs and gun crime is designed to stimulate debate among its young audience, who Livity hope to further engage by repeating the show over a variety of channels and devices.
In addition to its Channel 4 broadcast, the series will be shown on digital channels MTV Base and E4, as well as being transmitted in advance to Sony's PSP handheld game consoles and in a cut-down version over mobile phone network 3.
"We think this is going to be more effective at putting those issues into a kid's bedroom and front room," said Conniff.
The series is being written and directed by music video director Luke Hyams and is being produced by Louis Figgis, son of film director Mike Figgis.
- REUTERSBy Tim Castle