Thursday, September 02, 2010 | Posted by: Fiona Cullinan
Categories: Media sector | Tags: business, Alex Connock, media, Edinburgh, BBC, broadband, Google, TV, ITV, television, Channel 4, YouTube, James Murdoch, Mark Thompson, Paul Abbott, Sky, festival, local TV
Alex Connock, CEO, Ten Alps: Edinburgh – it’s architecturally optimised for ghost stories. But last week there were fewer of the ghouls that traditionally lurk outside the city’s annual TV Festival – the economy, the supposed death of quality, lowest common denominator TV, the threat from YouTube and Google, and potential radical change to the BBC.
In fact, for the compulsively pessimistic TV industry – it almost felt upbeat.
Many producers seem to rate the top people in ITV (new team), Channel 4 (new boss), SKY (now Britain’s best-funded TV business and making it count) and the BBC (veteran team). They say they are looking forward to seeing how their strategies play out with a new government which seems to be saying that it will preserve the industry as is, whilst negotiating hard on the licence fee and tweaking the regulation of the BBC
Interestingly, the Channel Five issue was the dog that didn’t bark. There was none of the expected liberal hand-wringing about Richard Desmond’s takeover, and interest in how a completely new take on the commercial and editorial model might bring something stimulating to the whole of TV.
But not everyone agrees about everything. DCMS Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt said that the two biggest issues of the day were broadband rollout and local TV - two topics that barely got a mention in any other session. So the TV industry as a whole needs to engage with local TV, as the government believes it is a major strategic thrust – and this is a government willing to make decisive changes, like abolishing the Film Council. Mr Hunt has never departed from his stated wish to build 81 new city TV stations – and that would be a TV revolution.
Finally, drama producer Paul Abbott’s Alternative McTaggart was on the money. He said we really ought to look at changing the model towards longer series, so as to export more TV and boost the UK economy. He showed some clips from Shameless America, which launches in January, and looked extraordinary. If that’s what TV is going to be like next year as a whole, I’ll be watching.
The bosses are moving, the buildings are opening on time, and the Manchester site has cost no more than the renovation of London’s Broadcasting House. Soon comes the startling innovation of national BBC journalists not based in central London and able to illustrate their stories with something other than pictures of Shepherd’s Bush.
BBC Director General Mark Thompson made a sophisticated keynote McTaggart lecture, after James Murdoch’s forthright attack last year. It wasn’t oratorial ‘yes we can’, but more a well-argued survey of the purpose of the BBC in the 21st century – playing to his strengths as a credible, intellectual speaker. He praised rival broadcasters, including Sky, for their contribution to British TV, but gave statistics to show the public love the BBC and pick up gaps in James Murdoch’s arguments. He pointed out that Daily Mail readers are disproportionately in favour of the BBC, which you wouldn’t get from reading the paper.
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