When, 20 years ago, John McVay became CEO of the producers’ lobby group Pact, his first outing to the world of London TV types did not go according to plan. Flying down from his native Edinburgh and travelling to Soho via the Heathrow Express, the train caught fire and he was stuck on the line outside Paddington for two hours. By the time he arrived at the farewell party for his predecessor, he was conspicuously sober while his new colleagues were too merry to give him their proper attention.
Lord Mandelson, a self-confessed “heartbroken European”, set the tone of this debate. Unpicking 40 years of EU membership was complicated, to say the least. He declared: “Brexit is the most complex policy exercise mounted in peace time. Transitioning Britain out of its current merger with 27 other economies is a massive task and it is going to take many years.”
The advice of the former Labour cabinet minister and European commissioner boiled down to this: “What you as an industry must first do is take a view on what outcome best serves your needs”.
The award recognises Graham’s distinguished career in programme making and on behalf of programme makers in his former role as CEO of Pact.
Previous recipients of the award include Sir Trevor McDonald, David Liddiment and Coronation Street.
Presenting the award, RTS Chair and Chief Executive of ITN, John Hardie said, “It is my pleasure tonight to award the highest honour of the Society – its Gold Medal. Those who hold it are few – but distinguished.”
The UK’s successful independent television production sector is having its own European Union “referendum” several months early.
John McVay, Chief Executive of Pact, which represents more than 450 indies, has sent out “voting” messages to gauge the attitude of his member companies. These make a major contribution to the estimated £1.28bn of international programme sales and associated services earned by the UK each year.
From a television business point of view, indies have been asked whether the UK should stay in or get out.
Today, I want to talk about one thing: content, programmes – the reason we’re all here. In this country we have a really vibrant creative ecology of broadcasting. It’s a great national success story.
But the question I want to talk about this afternoon is whether one part of that ecology will continue. Will we carry on making content to the degree and quality that we do now?
I’m concerned that, in all the arguments and debate about the BBC’s Charter, in a decade’s time we might look back and say that we missed something crucial – a big trend.
Ross Biggam, Director General of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT), believes you need a degree in Kremlinology to work out exactly what the European Commission is trying to do with its plans for a Digital Single Market (DSM).
The Commission has faced concerted opposition from the film and television industries – not least the ACT, which represents the interests of commercial broadcasters in 37 countries – over what are seen as attempts to end, or erode, geo-blocking of content across the EU.
With Team 56 – as SNP MPs call themselves – forming the third-largest party in Parliament, the impact on broadcasting in the UK is likely to be profound. And the effects are certain to spread beyond the BBC Charter debate.
The economist Jeremy Peat, a former BBC Scotland Governor and Trustee, observes that the general election outcome "represents a massive vote for change," requiring "not sticking plaster, but fundamental change." He adds: "We are miles away from a stable equilibrium."