Speakers include James Murdoch, CEO, 21st Century Fox; Andy Harries, Chief Executive of Left Bank Pictures; The Grand Tour executive producer, Andy Wilman; Sir David Clementi, BBC chairman, Michelle Guthrie, Managing Director of Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and Sharon White, Chief Executive of Ofcom – click here to see the full list of speakers.
RTS Cambridge Convention 2017
Cat Lewis says Ofcom can do a lot more to encourage TV production in the nations and regions
Cambridge’s final debate is, traditionally, the time for the big beasts of broadcasting to strut their stuff. The 2017 convention duly delivered. Senior people from Channel 4, Sky, Virgin Media and Westminster weighed in on a range of hot topics.
Television has to unearth and nurture new talent to thrive, but some in the industry fear that the flow of new comics and entertainers is drying up. If true, the consequences for British TV could be dire.
“There’s less money spent on developing new talent [in UK broadcasting] than I can ever remember,” argued Avalon chief Jon Thoday at a session devoted to the recruitment and retention of TV talent.
Social mobility was centre stage in this session, which, appropriately, was attended by some of the RTS’s bursary students, who are drawn from low-income families.
Session chair and Expectation co-CEO Tim Hincks asked why class and socio-economic background seemed to be “the slight afterthought” when it came to diversity. To get a rough idea about the people who had progressed to the top of the TV tree, Hincks took a poll of the audience and panel to find out who had been privately educated.
Wheels and deals – of the kind done with talent – were the name of the game in an entertaining look at the state of TV entertainment, chaired by presenter and Endemol creative director Richard Osman.
The audience was treated to a special version of Sky 1’s A League of Their Own, which director of Sky Arts and non-scripted Phil Edgar-Jones joked had cost most of his development budget.
Online advertising has seen huge growth in recent years, putting fear into those broadcasters dependent on ad revenues for their living.
But all is not lost for broadcasting, which is developing new weapons to fight back against the massing digital threat. And digital advertising is showing itself a risky business, as concerns grow about brand safety in the often murky online world.
Earlier this year, a Times investigation, run by panellist Alexi Mostrous, found that some of the world’s biggest brands were, unwittingly, funding terrorist and hate groups.
It really is an honour to address the RTS Convention. This is one of the top fixtures in a culture secretary’s diary. I have the best job in government, I get to engage with such a rich variety of sectors.
They are a huge, growing part of our economy: energetic, exciting, educational, enjoyable, a major source of jobs, they export on a massive scale and showcase the UK to the rest of the world. And television does all of these things single-handedly.
The title of this year’s convention is “A world of opportunity” and I’m happy to be here to suggest that, in answer to the challenges that present themselves today, it’s of paramount importance to embrace opportunity with open arms.
Tomorrow’s commercial media needs to be able to compete globally, and at an unprecedented scale, and the opportunity this provides – creatively and commercially, for our businesses, our customers and our communities – is immense.
During an authoritative performance at the RTS Convention, Ofcom chief Sharon White offered a frank appraisal of the day’s big issues. She called broadcasters’ performance on diversity “woeful” and strongly criticised the “paucity” of information that they had shared. The BBC, she added, “really ought to be leading the pack”, rather than running in the middle of it.
Turning to social class, White argued that unpaid internships could “reinforce and propagate inequality”.