Jane Turton, CEO of All3Media and the new Chair of the RTS, tells Steve Clarke why she lives and breathes TV
From her first days working in television as a founder member of Meridian, the South of England regional ITV company, Jane Turton knew that she’d landed in exactly the right place professionally.
“I’ve always loved being in TV. It’s full of interesting people,” she says. “TV is always exciting. The product – if we’re allowed to call it that – is fascinating – part manufacturing business, part creative, part art, part commerce. TV brings all that stuff together in a way that is challenging and interesting.”
That was in the early 1990s when, prior to consolidation, separate ITV franchises were sold to the highest bidder after clearing a quality hurdle. Today, Turton runs All3Media, the London-based production powerhouse that owns a spread of independent producers across the UK, Germany and the US.
"I’ve got a lot out of television and I’d like to give something back"
The range of content All3 is responsible for is, putting it mildly, eclectic. Here’s a taste: Fleabag, Gogglebox, Call the Midwife, The Circle, Race Across the World, Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back, Hollyoaks, Drowning in Plastic, Free Rein and Three Identical Strangers. In other words, shows that embrace a wide range of drama, entertainment and factual.
In September, it was announced that Turton would succeed Tom Mockridge as Chair of the RTS. “I am incredibly flattered and excited. I’ve got a lot out of television and I’d like to give something back,” she says with barely a trace of her native Edinburgh accent.
We are speaking in her 10th-floor All3Media eyrie situated in London’s West End. The CEO is softly spoken and discretely immaculate in a dark business suit. Her compact, modest office – tasteful and cosy in a contemporary way – provides stunning views of the capital. As we talk, the light begins to fade on a moonlit, late autumn afternoon.
Turton read French at St Andrew’s (spending some time in Paris, which is perhaps where she acquired her characteristic chicness) before working in the paper industry. Her father owned a local printing company, Tullis Neill.
An MBA led her to PwC (one of her jobs involved crunching some BBC numbers relating to the licence fee and what was then BBC Worldwide) and on into the TV industry with Meridian.
She held various roles at United Productions and Granada Television, before becoming director of commercial and business affairs at ITV Studios and later ITV Network.
She joined All3Media in 2008 as deputy chief operating officer, becoming COO in 2011 and then CEO in 2015. After taking over leadership of the company, growth has been rapid – four years ago, All3 owned 17 companies, today it owns 40.
“Weirdly, we don’t measure it like that. I don’t think of it as a collecting of companies, more of the people, the talent.… What I think is amazing, what we’ve tried to do, and I hope we’ve achieved, is introduce some incredibly exciting people to this business,” she explains, reeling off names such as Pippa Harris of Neal Street Productions (maker of Call the Midwife) and Harry and Jack Williams of Two Brothers, the company responsible for Fleabag.
Turton describes Fleabag as “a phenomenal success. It opens doors. In itself, it’s valuable, but the knock-on effect of having a show like that is incredibly valuable.”
She adds: “At All3, we have a highly talented group of people. I think that there is scope to own more companies, but I don’t know if there’s an answer to how many. People always ask that. You add companies in such a way that you’re not creating conflict and competition, but something that works as a whole within All3 and the distribution business [All3Media International], which we manage centrally.”
So what is a typical working day for Jane Turton? “The honest answer is that there isn’t one. Most days, I will talk to the production companies. I am often doing shareholder stuff with our owners, Liberty and Discovery. If we’ve got corporate activity going on, there’ll be meetings around that.”
She is a frequent traveller to the US and to All3’s German HQ in Munich. When she is in the UK, Turton is at her desk by 8:00am working until the early evening, when often she will attend a function.
Twice a week, at 6:30am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, she does a spinning class. She also walks a lot – “I am violently opposed to driving in London” – and is an avid golfer. “I’m a proper Scot,” she laughs.
Her introduction to the Society was around a decade ago when, for the first time, she attended the Cambridge Convention.
“I thought it was extraordinary and exciting,” she recalls. “It was where all the grown-ups went, and intellectually stimulating. You saw the secretary of state speak, the people who run the UK broadcast platforms and the Americans and all the big producers.”
Having been an RTS Trustee since 2015, Turton has got to know the Society from the inside and seen it increase its activities in outreach and education, and the expansion of the student bursary scheme.
"The inclusiveness of the bursary scheme is something to celebrate"
“I think the RTS has become even more conscious of its educational remit,” she says. “[RTS CEO] Theresa [Wise] and her team live and breathe that. The RTS takes very seriously things such as increasing diversity, accessibility and making sure, as a sector, that we’re properly representative.
“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in terms of ensuring that social inclusion is at the top of our agenda. The inclusiveness of the bursary scheme is something to celebrate.”
She wants to see as many people as possible participate in the Society’s educational initiatives and engage with the organisation across the length and breadth of the UK.
“The nations and regions are very important to the RTS,” she notes. “With its regional centres, the Society has always been very good at that. I want to help to continue to drive that and to make sure the word gets out about what an exciting sector television is.”
She adds: “In terms of RTS conferences and conventions, the agenda has got bigger and broader and more global. As a sector, maybe, back in the day, we were a bit British-focused and parochial.
“There is nothing parochial about the RTS now. The people who speak at RTS conferences are very global. There’s a huge international interest in what we do.”
In a world of social media and constant digital connectivity, the Society’s ability to bring people together in the same room across all sectors of television remains unique, she argues. “There’s nothing like live, real content with an expert or someone who’s going to help you get started in your career. There’s no substitute for that....
“I think it’s very important that these things don’t become exclusive clubs. They have to be inclusive and that must be part of the challenge when you’ve got something that sounds like the Royal Television Society. It can sound a little bit patrician but, actually, it isn’t. In fact, it’s the opposite and we must make that point.”