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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Best of the Fest | Lisa Campbell

I had the pleasurable experience of going behind-the-scenes of someone else’s festival this weekend, letting others run around like headless chickens while I sat back and enjoyed the show and the bacon butties.

Radio 2’s Hyde Park Festival was a lesson in perfect planning at every level. Festival-goers were armed with folding chairs, pac-a-macs and, at the top end of festival comfort, the Wicked Wedge (check it out). Meanwhile, the 1000-staff behind-the-scenes made sure that artists were happy (but not too happy, this is licence fee-payers money…), that stages were set and that Royal Park grass was left as nature intended. Individual speaker-systems were even in place to adjust sound levels should the wind direction change and residents complain. 

While we didn’t quite get down to that level of detail in Edinburgh, we did, just like Hyde Park, have a passionate team of people shedding blood, sweat and tears to make things happen, from the production director who clocked up 20 miles within the EICC on day 1 to the producer who stressed, railed and rallied to create a must-attend session, right down to the YouTube team who toasted 1250 pieces of bread for hungry/hungover delegates (see Festival in Numbers).

Making the most of that huge effort is one reason why we’re keen to keep sharing the Best of the Fest. One of the biggest ‘complaints’ is that there is too much to see, but you can catch-up at your leisure because 90% of our content is available on YouTube.

Listen to Frankie “Scotland’s Jesus” Boyle on media coverage of Scottish Independence - “the ‘No’ campaign will get torpedoed by media bias”-  and his views on what the fall-out will be, whatever the result; listen to BBC1 controller Charlotte Moore battle with Krishnan Guru-Murthy and former director general John Birt’s warnings onplans to re-shape the BBC; get up to speed on all the stats driving the diversity debate with our Minority Report VT and hear Steph Parker talking with trademark honesty on the idea for Gogglebox  -“on paper it’s shit”.

One of the most inspiring sessions was our 12-minute Ed TalksThose featured include:
Gurinder Chadha and Romesh Ranganathan’s witty sketch on racism and unconscious bias and Jon Snow on the changing dynamics of news provision brought about by social media.

Plus M&C Saatchi boss Camilla Harrison: “Difference is good. Generosity is powerful. If more people feel they own the idea it will help you win the war”;

Professor Vincent Walsh: “Creative people have the courage to be beautifully wrong. Creative people aren't the ones to get it right all the time”;

And Brand guru Steve Edge: “Dress for a party every day and the party will come to you;”

With advice like that at your finger tips, what are you waiting for? Click here to see more on our YouTube channel.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

From the RTS to Diversity, the Festival Lives On | Lisa Campbell

What impact does the Edinburgh TV Festival have? Well, there’s the immediate impact on both brain and body – cells are stimulated by day and addled by night and bodies become husks – but the damage is temporary. By contrast, Edinburgh’s impact on the industry is long-lasting.

The issues thrown up and thrashed out in sessions at Edinburgh continue to be debated well beyond August while MacTaggart lectures can set the agenda for weeks, months, even years to come.

This week’s RTS London conference is a case in point. Edinburgh was referred to repeatedly throughout, largely thanks to David Abraham re-opening discussions on the Terms of Trade, but points made about the lack of digital skills in TV made in the 2011 MacTaggart by Google’s Eric Schmidt were also discussed by two of the big beasts in broadcasting today, the BBC’s Tony Hall and Sky’s Jeremy Darroch.

The James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture:
David Abraham
Whether you agreed with him or not, Abraham’s MacTaggart succeeded in getting everyone talking – or in the case of Pact boss John McVay, shouting – and yesterday, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said he would re-examine the Terms of Trade following Ofcom’s PSB review in the Summer, acknowledging the huge change wrought on the sector by greater consolidation.

And earlier this week, ITV CEO Adam Crozier echoed Abraham’s call for pay-TV channels to pay transmission fees for PSB content - something else Javid said would be subject to industry consultation ahead of possible de-regulation.

For broadcasters battling declining audience shares and advertiser revenues, it’s vital new income but Sky and even the likes of Liberty Global which has a 6% stake in ITV, are bound to battle hard.

While we’re happy to let debates like that rumble on, there are others in which the festival will play a more active role in keeping alive outside of Edinburgh – diversity being one example.

This year, we funded important new ‘Diversity Watch’ research from Lis Howell and her team at
Keli Lee at Minority Report: Is TV Racist?
City University for our ‘Is TV Racist?’ session. It showed broadcasters across the board under-performing when it comes to diversity on-screen and we’ll be repeating the survey to help assess the progress made.

However, each channel boss demonstrated a real appetite for rapid change on our panel - one reason why we’re kicking off our first event outside Edinburgh on 25th September, when Keli Lee, ABC’s Executive Vice President of Casting, will give selected guests a detailed run down of her diverse casting initiative following her appearance on the ‘Is TV Racist?’ panel.

Lee is an inspirational figure and this is an opportunity for those at the forefront of scripted content in the UK to hear more about the birth of the scheme 13 years ago – a scheme which discovers and develops the next generation of diverse talent and unique voices on and off screen from Lupita N’Yongo to Grey’s Jesse Williams.

Lee will also discuss the practicalities and challenges involved in running the talent showcase and the impact this world-renowned, pan-industry casting pool has had on ABC and other networks.

The key complaint around diversity as a topic is a valid one –‘all talk and no action’ -  which is why, straight after the Q&A, we’ll explore the viability of a UK talent showcase via a roundtable with heads of drama from broadcasters and indies, as well as writers, directors and casting directors. If they believe it has legs and pledge their support, Creative Skillset has promised to match-fund the initiative.

It’s an exciting opportunity and we look forward to helping play a role in bringing the industry together to discuss how we can help affect real and positive change.

So forget everything you were ever told about 'what happens in Edinburgh stays in Edinburgh' (ok, maybe not everything), the festival should live on.

For details about the diversity event on 25th September, please drop me an email to

Lisa Campbell | Festival Director

Watch the 2014 session videos on our YouTube channel.

Sarah Thornton: behind the scenes with the Controllers

Sarah Thornton,VP Production and Development, Factual Entertainment, Discovery Networks International, is a member of the 2014 Festival Advisory Committee and produced 4 of the 12 Meet the Controller sessions at GEITF. 

There is a saying that being a best man at a wedding is like being asked to sleep with the Queen Mother... it's an honour, but no one really wants to do it. Although I am a woman I have (once) had the dubious honour of being a "best man". And so it's with a very small amount of authority that I draw this unlikely comparison when it comes to describing the task of producing four hours of Controller Sessions at GEITF.

I started, like an anxious best man with a blank page, by contacting the controllers and their PR teams. With a diplomacy I had previously employed for approaching new family and friends, I politely requested intel and interesting tidbits from the inside... secretly yearning for some real gossip that would entertain the audience.

Meet the Controller: Ben Frow
It was during this early planning that it dawned on me paying delegates were going to be in Edinburgh for these sessions and so I had to make sure they made some actual sense. There was a delicate balance to be found in responding to - and hopefully making - industry chatter while ensuring we all got a proper insight into what the controllers would be commissioning this coming year.

And then it was late July - what had felt like an age of prep time all of a sudden seemed somewhat insubstantial. As the big day came closer I persisted with (many) knowingly annoying requests for funny photos, facts and stats, clips and stories... All in the name of crafting an hour that would be humorous without being bawdy, intelligent without being boring and insightful without being too contentious.

Meet the Controller: Adam MacDonald
The panel itself was then a lesson in not wanting to upset the in-laws whilst at the same time pleasing the crowd. And that's probably where the comparisons end. Because ultimately - thank god - it wasn't down to me. We were all in the very capable hands of the controllers themselves, our chairs and - this year - the audience thanks to the rather brilliant app.

I'd love to claim the credit for Ben Frow being riotously funny, Steve Regan announcing his plans to commission the "most offensive show ever" and Adam MacDonald showing a clip of Wild Things (if you didn't see it, you missed out). But in reality it was their hour and it was all down to them.

Meet the Controllers: Multichannel,
Steve Regan
I do hope that someone in the Sidlaw got something out of it and, as is the case at any good wedding, may have even struck up a promising friendship since. It is after all why we do it.

To all the controllers and their teams - Nat Geo, Comedy Central, MTV, A&E, Sky 1, Channel 5 and UKTV - and our chairs, Lauren Taylor and Charlene White, thank you for putting up with me and my teams' numerous requests and for cooperating so kindly in preparation for these sessions.

I wish I'd had the sessions' Executive Producer, Graham Stuart, and master of the control room, Nobby, by my side the day I was best man.
Meet the Controller: Emma Tennant
They are without doubt the two calmest men I've had the pleasure of sharing 4 sweaty hours with in a control room.

Oh, and since a rather hectic Friday meant I needed to be in two places at once on several occasions I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my colleague and co-producer, Mark Procter.