Review - North West

Review - North West

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Monday, 18th April 2011

The Royal Television Society North West is the region’s leading forum for discussion and debate on all aspects of the television community.


RTS and Indie Club present an evening with Joe Godwin

In the latest of a series of events Alex Connock, Chair of RTS North West and founder of Pretend  last week hosted ‘An Audience with Joe Godwin’.

Godwin, Director of BBC Children’s, was refreshingly open and honest in his views around programming, commissioning and being in the North.

Confirming that he has bought property in Manchester, Godwin added that the whole of the BBC Children’s department would be on site in Salford by November. Declaring ‘I have the best job in the world and I’d do it on the moon!’ he dispelled any myth about not being happy to be in the North.

In fact Godwin is determined that programmes played out on CBBC and Cbeebies, whilst serving the whole of the UK will develop a ‘distinctive Northern flavour’. And he insists that it will be Northern rather than Salfordian, ‘We’re currently filming all over the North and this will develop further as we get our feet under the table.’

When talking about the competition, specifically that from American networks Disney and Nickelodeon, Godwin is resolute in his view that kids are discerning in their viewing and will always look for quality. With over 30 dedicated channels it’s certainly a crowded market, and whilst Godwin conceded that quality across all networks is high, viewing figures speak for themselves and CBBC is head and shoulders above the competition. ‘Kids want to be inspired and excited. This is what our content aims to do. They want stories that will reflect their own lives which is why they often choose UK content – but there’s definitely room for both.’

Godwin stressed that the BBC must be prepared to take chances and make the programmes that others wouldn’t, particularly when it comes to drama and factual shows.

Following last week’s DQF announcement from the BBC the inevitable question was around funding and finance in such uncertain times, ‘The BBC has put its money where it’s mouth is. Children’s is one of five priorities and our investment has been protected. As a department we’ve come out strongly’. Investment in independents is also still key ‘We spend 40-50% year on year with indies. How do you get commissioned? Have bloody good ideas! We’re not looking for a rehash of old ideas but fresh, new content that will inspire and engage our audiences. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been commissioned by the BBC before, we want to hear from you now’.

There was also a nod to towards future media, an area which currently benefits from a £6 million pound a year investment, but Godwin insisted that TV is still king, ‘recent years have seen a steady increase in TV viewers but on line provides the opportunity to watch even more content. Games in particular are a key driver for our audience and looking to the future we’ll definitely be investing in IPTV.’

To view a video of the evening please click here.


Anthony H. Wilson memorial lecture

Imagine a podgy bank clerk, accidentally married to Sophia Loren in the mid 1960s, then suddenly asked for a critical appraisal of her beauty live on Italian TV. He wasn’t going to say she had a big nose.

Which is how I felt, as a last-minute fill-in at the Westminster Media Forum on the future of Channel 4.  This is one of our most valued clients, so the most attractive option was obsequious verbosity, on Blackadder lines.

But you have to say something in a speech, so I took the regional angle, my reassuringly safe specialist subject for all matters DCMS, OFCOM etc.

I built on the point that producers had been punching the air in Manchester after Channel 4 programming boss Jay Hunt’s inspirational visit a couple of months ago to launch a search for new suppliers. 

And I asked: if you launched Channel 4 tomorrow, aiming to bring real diversity to Britain’s TV screens, would you even locate all of its commissioning editors in Westminster in the first place ?   

Or would you actually leapfrog the BBC - to a more diverse diversity ? 

Might Channel 4 one day eschew even Manchester, and locate commissioners in a Yorkshire town with a big Asian population, or rural North Wales, or Hull ?  Could making Londoners get on the train to Bradford perhaps have a future cultural value to the nation ? 

Already big in the North, meanwhile – Jimmy McGovern, author of Cracker, The Street, Acccused, Hillsborough and much more.

He was guest in Manchester for our annual RTS Tony Wilson memorial lecture on creative inspiration.  A lot of people came to hear it, and fellow writer/superstar Paul Abbott, who currently has Shameless in production in both Manchester and Los Angeles, actually flew in specially.

Jimmy didn’t disappoint.  He was an all-action aphorism machine.

“Successful drama has to appear effortless.  Most of the work goes into making it look like there wasn’t lots of work.“

“Don’t be a team player !” he warned the many soap writers in the audience. “Parade your talent and use every script to prove what you can do.”  He recalled instances where he had ignored the mandated storylines for his episodes on Corrie and Brookside, shafting the next writer with an entirely unexpected starting pointThere must be a great theatrical farce in that idea.

For barely a minute of the ninety that Jimmy and Sita Williams, his long-time producing colleague, were onstage with Peter Salmon, did he did not say something I could have put into the next edition of the Penguin Anthology of Hollywood.

A blank sheet of paper was liberation for him – a boundless opportunity.  The more he wrote Cracker, the more he became the character.  He was proud of his failures.   “I’ve written some crap in my time, but I’ve always tried and it’s never been down to lack of effort.”

The one subject on which McGovern was coy was the new, potentially long-running Northern soap he’s writing.  Commercially and creatively, when that rolls out of his printer, it will be a hot, hot script.  But he wasn’t telling.  I’m guessing it won’t be set in a yacht club.

"If you are a writer,” said Jimmy at the end, paraphrasing Oscar Wilde: “You want to succeed, and every other writer must fail."

None of the writers in the audience believed him.  He was far too inspirational and self-deprecating for that.  It was everything a good RTS event should be.







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