Our Friend in Wales: Judith Winnan on the past and future of RTS Wales

Our Friend in Wales: Judith Winnan on the past and future of RTS Wales

Judith Winnan (Credit: BBC)
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Judith Winnan celebrates 60 years of RTS Cymru Wales and applauds the help it gives to new TV talent

We do enjoy a quiz at the RTS, so here’s a question for you: what notable moments in British television history took place in 1959? You get a point if you knew that it was the year that Juke Box Jury was first broadcast on the BBC (or, indeed, Noggin the Nog).

Two points to anyone who answered that it was the year that the ITV franchise Tyne Tees Television started broadcasting. But there’s another event that you almost certainly didn’t know about – and it’s why 1959 interests me: it was the year that the RTS formed its first committee in Wales.

Back then, it was known as the RTS Cardiff and South Wales Centre and it had a very specific appeal for its new members. The RTS was created as a forum for engineers to discuss and track the “exciting new medium of television”, and its meetings were an essential way of sharing news about the latest technology.

Intrigued to know more, I tracked down a former local committee member who was one of the most senior broadcast engineers working in Cardiff at the time. He told me that they would invite people from London or Manchester to give a lecture on the latest innovations, which they would then introduce to their own work. What really struck me was how crucial those lectures were to their professional lives. “We always used to say, if you wanted to get ahead, you needed to be part of the RTS. It was the best way to be up to date with the technology.”

Of course, over the past 60 years, the focus of the RTS has shifted and, while we rightly still celebrate and shed light on the technical side of the industry, we enable and progress careers in television in a much broader way.

One of the main reasons I wanted to be part of RTS Wales was because of the support and advice it gives to the next generation wanting to work in the industry, particularly those who might not have those all-important contacts who can open doors for them. The wealth of advice and information (not to mention the bursaries) that we offer is a brilliant resource, available to students and young people in pretty much every corner of the UK, thanks to our network of centres.

With that in mind, our 60th year started on a high when we awarded our very first RTS Cymru Breakthrough and Newcomer Awards in February to two impressively talented young people already making their mark in broadcasting. Seeing how much those awards meant to them and also how valued and appreciated they were by their employers was a pertinent reminder of how much our industry relies on people who are completely driven in what they do.

This year has continued to be a special one in other ways, too: our annual lecture was brilliantly delivered by Jane Tranter, co-founder of Bad Wolf, and attracted our biggest ever audience, as well as some great media coverage. Still to come, in the autumn, we are holding an event with one of the biggest names in British TV (watch this space), plus we’ll be expanding our industry awards to recognise the rising stars of television here in Wales.

All in all, we’ve had good cause to celebrate our significant birthday (and, yes, there was cake). Sixty years on, in the spirit of our predecessors, it’s gratifying to see that we’re still here to give a crucial helping hand to someone’s career and to offer a platform to the very brightest and best minds in television. Here’s to the next 60 years!

Judith Winnan is Chair of RTS Cymru Wales.

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