Liz Reynolds’ TV Diary

Liz Reynolds’ TV Diary

RTS Cambridge Convention 2019 (Credit: RTS/Richard Kendal)
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There’s no prorogation for Liz Reynolds, as one conference leads to another

It’s September. That means back to school. And not just for the kids.

With Edinburgh hangovers barely forgotten, and TV execs and politicians still reeling from Dorothy Byrne’s outlandishly honest Mac­Taggart Lecture, conference season gets into full swing.

Not in Bournemouth but in Cambridge, courtesy of ITV, for the RTS biennial convention. There’s no prorogation for us.

Turns out that last month’s illuminating TV Diary from Neil Thompson provides the perfect segue into Piers and Susanna’s triumphant turn at the three-day conference. Back from their summer sojourns, it feels like the team from GMB have literally been parachuted in.

Susanna is firmly at the helm of the opening afternoon. The next day, her sidekick, Piers, blows everyone away with carefully casual rhetorical hand grenades.

On a self-interested note, it’s fantastic to see Freeview named as the most trusted UK TV brand in Edelman’s research commissioned for the convention.

In an age when brands seem able to attract as much distrust as trust, it gives us all a warm feeling that the public values what I’d say is the essence of British TV’s success – access to high-quality shows for everyone, regardless of geography or income.

With Cambridge bathed in warmer than normal autumnal sunshine, the relentlessly sunny Reed Hastings gives a much anticipated interview. He doesn’t disappoint. Kirsty Wark is in playful mood and the Hollywood mogul handles her questions with as much grace and humour as Tom Hanks in an episode of The Graham Norton Show.

Lenny Henry’s impassioned and urgent appeal for change on diversity ends the convention on a serious note. Throughout, Baz’s parish notices are a joy.

With more than a sprinkling of ITV showbiz (and some actual consumers) thrown in for good measure, Carolyn McCall’s vision for a positive and provocative conference is realised.

No sooner am I back from Cambridge than it’s off to Brighton for a quick spin at Labour’s conference. The mood’s tense and the MPs I talk to are generally despondent. By Tuesday, I’m back in London and we interrupt a board meeting to watch the Supreme Court’s historic judgment.

Around our table, jaws drop when the unanimous ruling comes. I breathe a sigh of relief when we get confirmation later the same day that Gina Miller will take part in Freeview’s annual conference in November. An unforgettable day.

Another week, another event. This time, the prestigious Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture, given by Mark Thompson. He pulls no punches. The former DG offers up a stark view of the future for British media as a “cultural Airstrip One” without more robust and ambitious policy intervention. He asserts that “it is… of overwhelming importance that British audiences still get access to great news, drama, comedy [and] documentary made first and foremost for them and them alone”.

From a Freeview point of view, I couldn’t agree more. The lecture follows major success for British talent at the Emmys, led by the indomitable Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Congratulations to all the winners, on and off screen, and long life to the concept of “hot priests”.

The month ends with the exciting announcement that BritBox will feature on Freeview’s smart-TV service, Freeview Play, and with one final hotel room – this time in Manchester, where the mood is more colourful than the weather.

The Sky News party is packed with parliamentarians – one or two even dance. Damian Collins MP hosts a lively “in conversation with” culture secretary Nicky Morgan MP and we get some insight into her views on broadband roll-out, online harms and the value of PSB.

This was no ordinary September (now there’s an understatement). And, as we hurtle towards half-term and a deal or no deal I’m ready for a break. Time to catch up on Bake Off and Strictly with the kids.

Liz Reynolds is head of communications and external affairs at Freeview.