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Friday, 23 May 2014

MacTaggart and the business of creativity

'Who's giving the MacTaggart?' is a question that's been fired at me more times in past weeks than you'd
care to imagine.

Rightly so, because it's a very important question. The MacTaggart lecture is one of the most high-profile & prestigious platforms on the global television stage.

The best MacTaggarts are rousing, crowd-pleasing, championing. Or they are fearless, angry, challenging.

The most memorable set the agenda not just for the festival, but well beyond, and often, take aim at a perceived enemy. Who can forget James Murdoch taking on the BBC, describing its "scale and scope" as "chilling"? It's a debate that has raged and raged ever since.

Other MacTaggarts call for change, some successfully. In his lecture in 2010, then BBC DG Mark Thompson called for broadcasters such as Sky to start paying for its services. Retransmission fees wasn't the sexiest subject at the time but Thompson's plan has since seen the light of day.

Others reveal a personal side to a no-nonsense exec - Liz Murdoch gave a rare insight into her childhood and family dynamics.

And going further back, you have legendary MacTaggarts - Dennis Potter; provocative MacTaggarts - Janet Street Porter; plain-speaking MacTaggarts - Paxo and as last year, perfectly-performed MacTaggarts - Kevin Spacey.

Which of these we'll see from David Abraham remains to be seen but for Channel 4, it is a long-overdue opportunity - some 12 years since Thompson's MacTaggart as C4 CEO.

With our festival theme this year being the business of creativity, Abraham is perfectly placed to discuss the meeting of those two worlds. We look forward to hearing his vision for maintaining C4's cultural impact in a media landscape that has changed more in recent weeks than we've seen in many years.

Early Bird tickets for the 2014 Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival powered by YouTube are on sale now.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Getting ahead in TV

This week, Directors UK revealed just how hard it is for female directors to find work in TV in a shocking new study which exposes vast inequality. Who’s Calling The Shots? Women Directors In British Television, analysed a 10-year period and discovered that across all genres, women are getting less than 10% of the work.

And taking 2011-12 in isolation, the numbers are getting worse.  Take game/panel shows, with 1251 episodes directed by men and just 21 by women – a drop from 5% to 2%. No wonder panel shows are so blokey and female comedians so reluctant to take part.

The good news is that Directors UK’s incredibly insightful study has been greeted not just with shock by broadcasters, but a determination to see positive change and I am confident they will rise to the challenge of ensuring that 30% of all shows are directed by women by 2017. Read the key findings here.

On the same day, across town, festival producer Adam Webb attended a writers’ roundtable hosted by Creative Skillset. There too the story was one of a battle to get in and to get on in an industry which favours big, established names and where the platforms for new talent are rare, and thanks to proposed closure of BBC3, shrinking. This is why initiatives such as Bafta Rocliffe’s comedy initiative are so vital and why the festival is lending its support once again.

At this year’s festival, two winning sitcom scripts chosen from new writing talent will be performed in front of delegates and judged by a panel of experts, including a comedian, commissioner and producer. Previous winners at Edinburgh and other events are signed to agents/production companies/are writing episodes for series such as Stella or are crafting their own series.

But the benefits for anyone who enters are enormous – detailed script reports reveal how to make improvements and this year, entrants will be given the chance to re-write their script before it’s read by a star-studded jury. Last year’s jury included the likes of Jennifer Saunders, Jessica Hynes, David Quantick (writer, The Thick of It); Andrew Newman (CEO, Objective Productions) and Myfanwy Moore, head of BBC comedy. So sharpen your pencils and your jokes and enter now. DEADLINE 19 May.