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BBC and C4 beyond London

04 May 2011

The BBC is set to open its Salford base and C4 has pledged to engage more with out of London indies. So is it a good time to be a producer in the nations and regions or are broadcasters all talk and no action? Here's the views of three indie bosses based outside the M25.

Will Hanrahan
Managing director, Hanrahan Media (based in Stratford Upon Avon)

That the BBC trumpets its target of 50% out of London production is a testament to its continuing failure to be a truly national broadcaster. The demise of ITV regional programming provided the BBC with an open goal to support a diverse, national broadcasting community. The BBC has so far missed that goal. What commissioning editors and controllers on the 6th floor don’t realise is that this is an existential issue. Why have a society-supported, national broadcaster still 50% based in London when the nation needs growth in creative industries throughout the regions and nations? Why not split the BBC into regional-based, society-financed autonomous entities similar to the old ITV? As for Channel 4, I am really not certain that the majority of commissioning execs in Horseferry Road support the vision of Jay Hunt, Stuart Cosgrove and the commercially savvy and enterprising David Abraham. The management of C4 know that value-for-money, innovative creativity wont suddenly appear out of the rights-driven, multinational-owned superindies. New suppliers from throughout the UK will breathe new life into the channel and guarantee its position as a protected PSB-sector broadcaster. Channel 4 could equally be split up if it fails to wise up – and that’s something its management recognises.

Cat Lewis
Managing director, Nine Lives Media (based in Manchester)

Jay Hunt and David Abraham want Channel 4 to be far more accessible to out of London independents.  They recognise this 
is vital to Channel 4 meeting its specific remit as a broadcaster.  We are currently doing a lot of development for Channel 4 which we certainly hope will lead to new business.  Until now, much of our development has been for other channels, in particular the BBC.  I’ve been an exec producer based out of London for nine years now and I think the BBC’s commissioning team is currently more accessible than ever before.  I also think this shows on screen and is another reason Jay is keen to ensure Channel 4 catches up.  

Sarah Walmsley
Creative director, Raise the Roof Productions (based in Glasgow)

We started Raise the Roof last year and have had nothing but encouragement from C4, they’ve just commissioned our third series. We’re lucky to have talent attached but we’ve also been given a number of paid developments to expand our output. The execs based at BBC Scotland have, without exception, been supportive and proactive. Being able to build relationships with people who are based here and who genuinely care and have a vested interest is invaluable. Giving them their own development pot would be another step in the right direction.

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