TV Diary: An anonymous Channel 5 insider

TV Diary: An anonymous Channel 5 insider

Wednesday, 5th June 2024
The black Channel 5 logo against a light grey backdrop
Credit: Gretel
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Mood swings, Monday blues and working with a maverick. An anonymous Channel 5 insider tells us what it is really like working for Ben Frow.

On the far wall of the programming department at Channel 5, there is a “mood-ometer” – and, on Monday mornings, the mood is not good.

The ratings are always bad at weekends, so Mondays in the office can sometimes seem like the five stages of grief on fast forward. The trick is to try to get Ben [Frow, Channel 5’s programme supremo] to accept the situation before he starts strolling around the office musing on the other things he could have done with his life. Ennui won’t get us out of our ratings slump.

Thankfully, one thing always works to improve the mood: creative distrac­tion. Ben is a voracious consumer of things. There is nothing he can’t read, watch or listen to and immediately assess what part of it might be good for our audience. He’s like a magpie, picking out the shiny bits of other people’s work – be it music, films, books or programmes by our competitors – and building our nest with whatever he finds.

The answer to the Monday blues is always creativity, and when you aren’t able to summon your own, you lean on other people’s.

If Monday’s overarching question is, “What are we going to do?”, then Tuesday’s is: “What if we did… this?”

Tuesdays are a bit more optimistic, because our ever-reliable blue-light content rescues us from Sunday’s ratings slump. At Channel 5, success is measured out in calories: if we get a 5% share for the night, we get pizza. Then, at 5.00pm, we have the centrepiece of the week – the “week to press” meeting. This is the first time that rival channels show us their entries into next week’s programming “exchange”.

Our schedulers, commissioners, marketeers and insight team gather to thrash out any tactical changes we might want to make before tomorrow’s final exchange.

Some weeks, we rip it up and start all over.

Some weeks, we commission ideas in the room. Some weeks, Ben gets so depressed that we give up and go home... Other weeks, there are drinks, nibbles, and an air of jolly madness in the air.

Jolly madness is something we are very good at.

On Wednesday at 11.00am it’s the commissioners’ meeting, when we all group together with Ben to review the bigger picture, update on business news and generally gossip.

No doubt, Ben will introduce some new initiative, plan, strategy or challenge. Sometimes these are inspired and creative, and we immediately start planning next week’s meeting. Other times, we nod and smile, safe in the knowledge that, by next week, he will have forgotten what he said.

The weekly free-to-air ratings meeting has now turned into an unhinged version of This Morning. One team member gives a round-up of TV gossip and news. Another presents “deal of the day” – discounts available online.

We have a regular astrology slot, a review of local lunch spots – lunch club, complete with jingle – and a weekly play-along quiz. We find out what our audience think of us from Viewer Enquiries.

It’s chaotic, but it makes you glad to work here.

Attendance in the office is always light on a Friday, so the small cadre that turns up is dubbed “the Friday Club”.

Friday Club mostly consists of eating breakfast pastries or bagels, and discussing whatever Really, TLC or even QVC (Ben’s favourite channel) is showing today. It’s a good time to get a quick decision on a pressing matter, before the next episode of My 600lb Life.

The world might be a bit gloomy right now, but Fridays in the Channel 5 office are a very happy place and will remain so… until the overnights come in on Monday.

The writer is a Commissioner at Channel 5.

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