BBC Scotland’s new boss Steve Carson – a former chair of the Society’s Northern Ireland centre – looked back over his TV career last month in the company of Scott Duffield, Chair of RTS Futures Northern Ireland.
“I always wanted to work in broadcasting,” he recalled. “Probably like a lot of people [growing up) in Northern Ireland at that time, and probably still today, I didn’t see anyone who sounded like me or who lived where I lived on the television, outside the news, unfortunately talking about absolutely horrendous things.”
After graduating from Manchester University, Carson landed a job as a runner, having been rejected by BBC training schemes, and then moved, via youth and entertainment, to BBC current affairs as a producer/director on programmes including Newsnight and Panorama.
“For my generation growing up during the Troubles, current affairs was pretty much around you. My father was a print journalist, and a good one, on the Belfast Telegraph. I grew up in a house in which the news was on and I was encouraged to read the Telegraph from cover to cover,” said Carson.
He returned to Ireland and went on to found an indie, Mint Productions, before becoming director of programmes at RTÉ in 2009. Carson re-joined the corporation as head of BBC Northern Ireland Productions in 2013, before moving to head of multiplatform commissioning at BBC Scotland.
The latter give Carson the “opportunity to launch a channel”, but it also allowed him to work across TV, radio, online and social media platforms: “They’re not different industries; they’re different services within the industry of broadcasting.”
He was promoted to head of BBC Scotland last year.
Offering advice to youngsters looking for a break in TV, Carson said: “Don’t think that other people necessarily know more or better than you. If you’ve got the creative spark and you’re interested [in TV] that’s half the battle… Just get out and do something and, if it doesn’t work out, start again.”
The RTS session with Carson was part of the Digital Cities Virtual event run by the BBC Academy in February.