TV soaps campaign plans to rewrite engineers’ role

Television soap writers are to be lobbied by the engineering profession’s image campaigners in a bid to get a more positive view of engineering onto prime-time TV. ‘Why not have an engineer in Brookside?’ said Andrew Millington, director of the Public Awareness of Science and Engineering (PAWS) Drama Fund, which is coordinating the initiative. ‘Even […]

Television soap writers are to be lobbied by the engineering profession’s image campaigners in a bid to get a more positive view of engineering onto prime-time TV.

‘Why not have an engineer in Brookside?’ said Andrew Millington, director of the Public Awareness of Science and Engineering (PAWS) Drama Fund, which is coordinating the initiative. ‘Even getting engineering talked about in the pub would be a start.’

Quinco, the organisation which coordinates projects for the public understanding of engineering, will meet Millington next week and looks set to put financial backing into the schemes.

Quinco chief Alex McDiarmid said that the initiative was still at ‘acorn stage’. He added that while all TV drama would be targeted, the priority would be influencing soaps. ‘Just look at the viewing figures and you see the kind of programmes we should target,’ he said.

But expert soap-watchers believe it may be difficult to raise the profile of engineers in the major soaps.

‘Draughtsmen, architects and accountants have been tried as main characters, but there are limitations on the drama you can get from these jobs,’ said Jon Peake, features editor of Inside Soap magazine. ‘Most soap characters work within a two- mile radius of where they live, in shops and bars where they can meet other characters.

‘When engineers appear, they are treated as experts, though they are usually a bit colourless,’ he said.

Technical jobs in soaps tend to go no further than car mechanics. ‘In Eastenders you’ve got an aggressive alcoholic mechanic like Phil and his dimwitted apprentice Rickie,’ said Peake.

The PAWS Drama Fund initiatives include workshops where writers and producers can get ideas about engineering role models and issues, as well as an annual prize for the best programme for science and engineering.

The cost of the project to Quinco is to be negotiated next week. Insiders believe the project will get firm backing from Quinco’s board, which includes large engineering companies and professional organisations.