Senior TV industry figures have reacted disdainfully to Vice CEO Shane Smith’s call in his MacTaggart lecture for broadcasters to air more ‘meaningful content’ for younger audiences.

In his speech, Smith said that TV and digital brands must give millenials meaningful content rather than ‘vapid and vacuous shit’ if they are to survive in a ‘highly volatile marketplace.

He also said the media has to ‘hand it over to the kids’ – to allow young people to shoot, cut and host content aimed at them.

Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt said: “It was a rather extraordinary speech.” She described it as  “the best defense of public service broadcasting I have ever heard,’ saying PSBs produced the kind of programming he was calling for day in day out.

ITV director of television Kevin Lygo hit out more directly. “I’m trying not to use the word odious…” he said.

BBC director of content Charlotte Moore suggested that Smith’s speech might be pertinent for the US but less so for the UK market. “In America it still feels like making that kind of content is really radical and really revolutionary. Networks do not show films about climate change or about women. That is why it is so important for us that we continue to value what we need to do here.”

Sky’s managing director of content Gary Davey agreed that broadcasters all have encourage more young people to be active in the creative process. But he said UK broadcasters are already commissioning much of the content Smith advocated in his speech. “There is an awful lot of that kind of content in this country, and we have a fantastic diversity of channel types and programme types…we are effectively servicing lots of target groups. So I think he kind of missed the point. We are already doing it.”

C5 director of programming Ben Frow was sceptical about Smith’s call to ‘hand over’ content creation to ‘the kids’. Frow said: “We have done really well with 16-34s and I love encouraging young talent. But I am not going to hand over my entire budget to a load of kids and say Channel 5 is in your hands. It would be an absolute disaster.”


Tim Dams

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