Televisual Factual Festival: A panel of specialist factual commissioners explained their programming needs at today’s Televisual Factual Festival.


Wendy Darke of indie True to Nature led the panel that included Cassian Harrison, Channel editor, BBC Four, Hamish Mykura, Executive vice president, Programming & Development NGGN, Heather Jones, General manager UK and SVP content and creative, A+E Networks UK and John Hay, Head of Specialist Factual, Channel 4.


Hamish Mykura screened a clip of forthcoming Nat Geo event show Mars, a big budget drama doc directed by Ron Howard with a “movie level quality of visuals,” said Mykura.


He said there was “no reason why a programme of similar ambition shouldn’t be made by a UK indie. We are in the game so think big.”


Channel 4’s John Hay said that a slew of returning series in the genre like SAS Who Dares Wins and The Secret Life of Four Year Olds meant Channel 4 could try other things “the rolling brands enable us to be a bit more reactive and journalistic” He said he was “not closing the door to returners but equally think journalistically” and speak to the national conversation. He picked out Trevor Phillips’ recent doc on race as having the “spirit” he was after. “I’m not after polemics but just the spirit of that.”

He also said that the channel had done so many hybrids he said the channel had “vacated the middle ground” to some extent and needed to get that back. He also said that efforts to get male viewers had worked almost too well and the channel needed to skew more female.


A&E Heather Jones said the History channel was “very focussed on celebrity led passion projects, especially if the talent is on brand for us but doing something very surprising.” She pointed to Ronnie O’Sullivan’s American Hustle as a good example of the kind of “noisy” talent needed to get its programmes noticed so far down the EPG. 

She also talked about the Crime channel which had found a sweet spot for its majority female viewership “they watch it obsessively and they just want to know about murder.”


Staff Reporter

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