RTS London Conference

Tony Hall calls for increased funding of the BBC

Tony Hall and Zeinab Badawi

Tony Hall’s keynote speech centred on the BBC’s need for more money. Only then would it thrive and retain its role at the heart of Britain’s democracy, in a world of technological change and intense competition from global media giants.

He insisted that “cracks are starting to show” in BBC services following a decade of austerity, licence-fee freezes and top slicing, which were threatening its ability to innovate and meet the digital challenge.

The battle to own voice: what it means for broadcasters

Amazon Echo speaker

Alexa, Amazon’s ubiquitous digital assistant, is always ready and willing to help. But how should British broadcasters ensure that the tech giants don’t sweet-talk them into relationships involving voice activation that they later come to regret?

This was one of the main themes to emerge from an entertaining and lively session expertly presented by Kate Russell, a reporter on BBC News’s Click.

Lessons from outside TV on diversity and inclusion

Picture from left: Karen Blackett, Mark McLane, Anne Nguyen and Trevor Phillips (Credt: Paul Hampartsoumain)

Television picked the brains of business leaders from advertising, banking and consultancy in this session, learning how they have boosted diversity and inclusion in their industries.

Introducing “Diversity and inclusion: lessons from outside TV”, session chair Trevor Phillips argued that there were areas of agreement on diversity, notably that it is “good for business, as well as good for the soul”.

Viacom chief Bob Bakish discusses future streaming possibilities

Viacom chief Bob Bakish (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumain)

It was Viacom founder Sumner Redstone who coined the phrase “content is king”. The company’s President and CEO, Bob Bakish, is also associated with a term that defines a media era: he dubbed the streamers, such as Amazon and Netflix, “frenemies”. He used the description recently to explain the fact that, although big producers and channel owners fear the streamers for eroding viewing figures, they can also make money by supplying the tech giants with shows.

RTS London Conference: A full set of FAANGs

Fings ain’t wot they used to be for the traditional television industry. Netflix and Amazon are already affecting viewing levels, with Apple and Google set to join Facebook at the feast. Will it be fangs for the memory for telly?

Faangs, an acronym for the US tech and media giants Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, offer TV the modern way – streamed over the internet and watched when and where the viewer wants. Television, meanwhile, is lumbered with old-fashioned schedules.

TV's top business leaders weigh in on future challenges

From left: Tony Hall, Andrew Griffith, Lorraine Heggessey, David Abraham, Dido Harding and Tom Mockridge (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

Among the subjects they covered were the UK’s inadequate digital infrastructure, Netflix, Brexit and, inevitably, The Great British Bake Off. 

Matt Hancock’s speech in the previous session found favour with the panel. BBC chief Tony Hall welcomed the emphasis the Minister of State for Digital and Culture had put on “social and regional” diversity in television. 

Look beyond middle-­class, white London, says Matt Hancock MP

Matt Hancock MP (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

Throughout its history, TV has been one of the UK’s greatest success stories. In recent years, it has grown at twice the rate of the rest of our economy and annually generates over £13bn in revenue. Of that, the growing independent production sector now contributes £3bn a year. 

More than just the economic statistics, your work really matters. You are one of the UK’s best shop windows, introducing the world to our culture and telling them who we are as a nation. 

London Conference Session Two: Quest for the global grail

'Go Global or Go Home' at the RTS London Conference 2016 (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

Global hits, unscripted as well as scripted, are what a lot of people in television dream of. Platform proliferation ought to mean that there are more hits than ever before but, as the panellists in this session – “Go global or go home” – know to their cost, hits remain as elusive as unity in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. 

Three of the four panellists have deep, hands-on experience of selling drama – Tim Davie, CEO, BBC Worldwide and Director, Global; Michael Edelstein, President, NBCUniversal International Studios; and Jane Millichip, Managing Director, Sky Vision. 

Steve Burke: ‘Think like an owner, not a renter’

Steve Burke speaking at the RTS London Conference 2016 (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

Q Tina Brown, CEO of Tina Brown Live Media: What keeps you up at night, thinking about this business five or 10 years down the line? 

Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal: Seven years ago the iPad didn’t exist, [but] I would bet that the majority of people here have been on their iPad… this morning.… Change over the past seven years… has been surprisingly rapid. And my bet is that it is going to [continue] in the next six years. Increasingly, a big part of my job is to make sure that we position the company for the future.