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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.

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