Minority culture, mass civilisation
Wednesday 18 September 2002
Speech given to the
Royal Television Society
that "nice man", to quote the bearded prophet who spoke from
the stage in Edinburgh, gave me the job of Director of Television, I've
been rather sweetly described as one of "Greg's Angels" ,
a Borrower squirreled away on the 6th floor at Television Centre - or
even Yoda, - descriptions which somehow manage to be sexist and heightist,
or ageist and heightist
but at least all of them indicate that
I might be one of the good guys of broadcasting.
FOR THE WELCOME BACK.
on the other hand, in the same short few months has gone from being
the saviour of the BBC to become the public service devil incarnate.
believe some, he is like Del Boy down Shepherd's Bush market hawking
the family silver - best Taiwanese silver of course - for a fiver.
what was he doing, hiring me, Amazon warrior of public service broadcasting?
you might be surprised to know that the phone calls and emails I get
from Greg about our output mostly go along the lines of "What are
you doing on Iraq?", "How soon will you have some new politics
programmes?", "What are you doing on TV about the pensions
and savings crisis"?
perhaps many people have said to me over the last few months - "Jana,
nice to see you again. By the way, why did you come back?"
when I sit down in a few minutes you will have some answers to that
question. Some sense of why I think right now is such a great time to
be involved in British television.
me begin with a few words about my time in America.
I had a
great time - in fact I had a ball. But my three years in the new world
also gave me a perspective on what we have here in Britain.
it is the feature film that is the water cooler 'must see, must talk
about' medium and television is, by and large, a commodity, a delivery
service for neatly packaged bundles of demographics.
written about in the business pages, not the news pages. And rarely
in the culture pages.
in Britain. I'm not sure you realise how lucky you are, how lucky we
here really care about television. Television here is at the heart of
life and of culture. Yes it can sell products, and yes it's also a business.
But it's much, much more than that.
consists of aspiring to expand our horizons, extend boundaries, surprise
with original new ideas across a range. From Pinter, to Liquid Assets,
to Out of Control and Great Britons, the Fimbles, and Daniel Deronda.
have said Dr Zhivago, but ITV asked me to mention it in a slot that
they have booked later on!
a year ago in America, while I was running a US network, the world turned
upside down: for days the skies remained clear of civilian aircraft
in an eerie return to pre-aviation days.
airwaves, though humming with repetitive "breaking news",
were also strangely empty: devoid of analysis and serious documentary
in a country which prides itself on freedom of information, plurality
networks remained in overdrive for months, yet under-invested in substantial
pieces, while the broadcast networks largely used their news magazines
and bulletins to sweep the public (and no doubt the advertisers) along
with rousing flag-waving notes of reassurance.
the documentary front there was relative silence. There was little room
for deeper coverage seeking to understand the terrible events of September
11th, except on PBS and factual cable channels such as my own and Discovery.
this with what was going on in Britain in those months after the disaster
across all channels.
television is often rightly described as a jungle - but it can also
be a desert. British
broadcasting is a more cultivated landscape.
television may have patches of wild creativity, but there are huge swathes
of banal, unoriginal programming.
television is a rich landscape, full of surprises and original features.
While there are of course some low swampy bits, filled with B list celebrities,
don't let's be fooled by typical British self deprecation.
is that British TV remains in rude creative health.
Shaps wrote much the same in Broadcast recently listing some of the
great programmes we should all be proud of, from Bloody Sunday, to The
Office, Pop Stars to Blue Planet. He's right.
And I suspect
that Mark Thompson is not really Rip van Winkle waking after seven years
to discover the true parlous state of British TV.
American drama is great and some comedy is strong and they know how
to produce a high gag rate.
a closer look at the flow of ideas across the Atlantic. It's not just
production ideas are transforming US entertainment, lifestyle and 'reality'.
has the lead in high quality international news, documentary and landmark
series, as evidenced by the Discovery joint venture which puts $275m
into British factual output.
brought the quiz show back into American primetime with Millionaire
and then introduced acid wit and irony in the form of Anne Robinson.
Fame Academy presenter Paddy Kielty is fronting his show Stupid Punts,
commissioned by BBC CHOICE, on ABC.
are forces for innovation in the North American market.
not get this out of proportion and let's not beat ourselves up.
that the British creative community is dynamic, competitive and that
ideas flow across national boundaries.
push for any changes in the Communications Bill that keep British inventiveness
and creativity going strong.
it isn't all about the BBC. It is about the delicate ecology of UK broadcasting,
with the BBC a creative force within it.
been said recently about the BBC being too powerful.
that at the moment the industry's ecology in this country is out of
balance. The BBC is strong and some people have used this as grounds
the BBC were weak, it would not make others stronger. Nobody
controls the macro-economic environment.
moment the advertising industry and capital markets are still in a dramatic
downturn - this combined with the BBC's licence fee increase have put
the BBC in a relatively strong position.
is a special and recent set of circumstances which may never be repeated
years ago, commercial television was storming along and the BBC was
under great pressure.
bemoaned the BBC's weakness and talked of a time in the none-too-distant
future when the BBC's relationship with viewers would simply melt away
in the face of so much targeted competition.
It's the growth of multi-channel that is the underlying trend.
that in mind - is the BBC really too powerful? Half the homes in the
country - and three quarters of children - have digital TV already and
those that do spend half their time watching non-terrestrial channels.
we Britons are going in the same direction as the USA with a profusion
of channels and choices.
our broadcasting ecology will and should always be different.
has entered the multi-channel world providing digital channels which
stay true to the principles of public service broadcasting and original
British production while responding to the demand for choice and convenience.
the Reithian principles - inform, educate, entertain - laid down some
80 years ago continue to resonate in today's multi-channel world where
power has shifted to the audience, we need to refine the purpose and
ambition of the BBC's public service remit.
means different things to different people, but crucially it means something
to everyone. That's powerful and unique.
a huge privilege - and with that privilege comes an equal responsibility.
Just listen to the voices of some viewers and you'll see what I mean.
father and his friend abused me from the age of two until I was 17.
I was involved with prostitution and was getting beaten up and raped
regularly. Can you help me?"
grandfather ran a paedophile ring, which my mother was also involved
in. I got pregnant at 12 and my mother and father held me down whilst
a man and woman gave me an abortion."
these extraordinary comments? Was this in response to BBC TWO's recent
Hunt for Britain's Paedophiles documentary investigation? No, It was
decided to tell the story of child sexual abuse, it was not a subject
they approached lightly.
and his team's immediate reaction when they came up with the story was
that no one would want to watch it.
credit, this confirmed their belief it was the right story to tell.
reasoned that if EastEnders, with its huge public profile, its ability
to reach millions of people, didn't tell this story then we were not
fulfilling our obligations as public service programme makers. Our job
is to reflect society.
viewers watched the episodes go out. Afterwards we ran an audience helpline
with a free phone number which offered people further advice.
400 calls after of the show. The majority of callers were abused by
a family member or close family friend. Often other family members had
not believed their stories.
the Action Line agent was the first person they had ever spoken to about
people still question whether there should be room in the BBC schedule
for popular programmes like EastEnders, Holby City, Spooks, or Monarch
of the Glen.
is simple. Absolutely. Resolutely. Proudly.
these programmes be competitive? Yes.
as many of the people who have paid for the programmes to watch them
them to get the best value we can offer for their hard earned money.
we try and put Daniel Deronda up against Doctor Zhivago later this autumn?
isn't about protecting ITV's advertisers - but about viewers.
make sense to force this sort of choice upon viewers who want high quality
period drama (both as it happens, written by Andrew Davies) by offering
it at the same time.
controller, Lorraine Heggessey, has suggested a good solution directly
to ITV - not through the press - which would allow our audiences to
retain a great pre-Christmas season of arts and drama.
are not playing games here - it isn't who blinks first
the viewers' interests.
mean we will be sitting down with ITV's, Channel 4's and Five's schedulers
- or advertisers - to checkerboard the schedule to protect each other's
public service obligations?
work - there are too many good programmes to treat them as a protected
No - we
need competitive schedules all round, to keep challenging each other
to do the best for our audiences.
must be competitive - we'd be failing in our duty to the public if we
It is not
in the viewers' interests for us to say "this is what we've got
to offer, but we really don't care whether you watch it or not".
quality and ratings are not mutually exclusive.
way we covered September 11th on BBC television; or the Jubilee Prom
which got the biggest audience for any classical music concert on television
in recent years; take the Hunt for Britain's Paedophiles on BBC TWO
this summer or Simon Schama's remarkable History of Britain.
quality programmes were all ratings winners. Were they dumbed-down,
cynical ratings grabbers? No, absolutely not.
range as well as quality. If you cynically go for the lowest common
denominator, chasing maximum ratings, the viewers find you out.
often been stated, our portfolio of channels is designed to guarantee
something for everyone.
our new digital channels are important, we recognise that we can't make
them do the same job as ONE and TWO.
last analogue set has been switched off, and we have a fully digital
world, the new digital channels will serve their own audiences and in
truth the speed of digital take up was probably over estimated in the
why BBC ONE and TWO will remain mixed genre channels and why we won't
narrow their ambition or appeal in any way.
and TWO will retain their classic public service broadcasting commitment
to RANGE of output within each channel.
But we are refining the vision for ONE.
to ensure that BBC ONE offers viewers drama and entertainment at the
heart of the schedule, but, alongside them, there will be a stronger
commitment to current affairs, new, strong documentaries and arts programmes.
be more difficult to achieve if Lorraine Heggessey hadn't been successful
at using the new investment into BBC ONE to strengthen the channel's
dramas and its core and embarked on a three year journey to ensure ONE
is contemporary, resonant and appealing to viewers.
week alone, there has been powerful drama, Out of Control, BBC ONE's
first improvised drama; the Last Night of the Proms and the Children's
Proms in the Park; EastEnders, the bedtime dramas and the Naudet brothers'
extraordinary 9/11 ninety minute documentary.
have also been comedy writers new to TV with Harry Enfield's Celeb and
there has been team writing on My Family.
BBC ONE helps us keep pushing boundaries of creativity.
the channel to raise its game even further - to find new subjects for
drama to surprise viewers; to find new ways of bringing great stories
from the world of the arts to a mainstream audience; to create more
interactive experiences, from Test the Nation to Fame Academy to the
second of a two-part Panorama on Iraq and tonight's You the Judge as
part of our Cracking Crime day.
night remains at the heart of family viewing, and as family life changes,
we must continue to re-invent our programming.
to building on what we already have, I want new original thinking about
Saturday nights for BBC ONE viewers.
have to spend so much of Saturday nights locked up in purple and pink
studios guessing the answers to the same questions - either on ITV or
to throw out the conventions about Saturday nights and BBC ONE and I
will back experiments - with the schedule, with the programme mix.
on ONE will benefit the other BBC channels, the industry and viewers.
am not ashamed to say we want BBC ONE to be popular - and my goal is
to make it popular across the full range of subjects and genres, not
to confine that ambition to the obvious areas of drama and entertainment.
will be at the heart of the portfolio of BBC television; it provides
a great reason to be together.
showed the audience uniting around events from the Jubilee through to
the dramatic, rainy closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
to bring so many people together is widely acknowledged as a speciality
of the BBC - and perhaps it is unique to BBC ONE of all channels on
we know we can do brilliant sports and live events, we need to create
television events beyond those fixed points in the calendar.
the Abyss, from the Natural History team in Bristol, will be a bold
test of technology and live adventure - as we go deep into the oceans,
in real time.
learn from this and other events, finding ways to bring new ideas to
I am setting
aside further events money to make sure we think big about what we can
which will draw people not just to the screen, but also to that metaphorical
will continue to offer its trade-mark approach to programming: big subjects
that matter to everybody, but done differently.
channel where you'll always find something new - a new idea, new subject
or even just a new 'take'.
importantly, you'll find something enjoyable and, as they say in the
then that BBC TWO will keep its core strength in factual programming.
you can join the rest of the UK in voting for the greatest
Briton - the culmination of BBC TWO's year-long interactive initiative.
have the same huge ambition.
(where we are redoubling our commitment), Restoration
kicks off a massive campaign in partnership with the heritage bodies.
of historic buildings will be thrown open to the public and, some lucky
ones, brought back from the brink.
up watching Brighton Pier rot away, so that gets my vote. But the great
thing about this is that everybody will have their favourite. Think
Greg's might be Wembley!
future we'll casting the BBC TWO net much wider than factual. We'll
be reinvesting in drama and new comedy.
as you might expect from a channel and Controller passionate about re-invention,
Jane Root will be finding new ways of pulling other subjects into the
disability season, What's
Your Problem, shares the experience of people with disabilities.
and Blood is brilliant - if you only catch one thing in the season,
make sure its that.
is an aspirational channel - there for anyone looking for something
satisfyingly different from the mainstream.
a consistently different flavour in the mix, from Copenhagen, the first
television adaptation of Michael Frayn's acclaimed stage play - to Witness
to History which recreates big political decisions such as the City's
Big Bang, with the key players being asked to share their part in making
well as international news, culture, science, arts and history, Roly
Keating will broaden FOUR to include comedy.
audience may like serious, but they don't want a humour bypass.
you think I can't count
there is now going to be a BBC THREE.
I am very pleased and not a little relieved, that BBC
THREE will now exist.
Murphy has been altered by the experience. He started out as "yoof
controller", went through young adulthood, and he is now practically
at mid life crisis.
kept himself busy, while he waited. In year one, he had a baby, then
waited. Year two, another baby but still no channel.
waiting, waited, then finally booked a honeymoon and yes, he can have
send thank you postcard to DCMS, with no conditions
will provide young adults with a distinctive public service offering.
be dependent upon US acquisitions or sexy music videos to establish
its identity or purpose and it won't kill other digital channels for
will see more factual, science, arts, ethics, business and mainstream
news as well as good entertainment news - with approximately £10
million more going into the factual mix than first planned.
though, the channel will represent the place for young adults to see
the results of a significant investment in new British talent, with
a guaranteed diversity of voices and ideas across what I and Stuart
Murphy believe will be the widest range of genres of any digital channel.
has been a lot of nonsense talked about BBC THREE's likely audience.
young adults are much more sophisticated now than they were when I was
in my 20's. (Just a few years ago
66% of the UK's 25 - 34 year olds are in permanent full-time work.
· 71% are married
· 69% have their own children
· 57% have their first mortgage
· 67% live in urban areas
group of people is smart, cash rich, time poor, hungry for information
and have some of the most urgent needs of any group in society.
to the received wisdom, there is little on TV that reflects their circumstances
in the areas of social action, health, money, and yes for sure, British
entertainment, comedy and drama.
will be imaginative about addressing this audience's needs - one thing
it won't be is conventional.
has been backing great original British productions including Burn It
- a fantastic new independent production rooted in Manchester by a writer
new to television, the New Comedy Awards and new British animation (it's
about being homegrown, not Homer Simpson!).
I am convinced
that BBC THREE will co-exist with others in the digital market - and,
happily, so is the DCMS - precisely because it is different and will
do things no other channel does.
has kids, the two children's digital channels bring public service values
without advertising to the nation's children.
can or should BBC television do? No, I am not seeking more channels!
announcement means that the BBC now has the television channels it believes
necessary to be a truly successful and responsible public service.
not the limit of our ambition just to have this portfolio. No, we want
to make that portfolio work for all our viewers.
are things we can do to ensure that projects reach their full potential.
and regular showcasing of programmes from THREE and FOUR on ONE and
TWO will ensure all viewers get the benefit of these new investments.
for example, how the upcoming Pinter season is going to work for both
BBC TWO and BBC FOUR and how The Life of Mammals David Attenborough
series is going to be accompanied by the story of David's Life on Air
on BBC FOUR.
autumn, the brilliant new series of The League of Gentleman will be
on BBC Choice first and then on BBC TWO.
it the '24 turnover' technique.
I want the BBC's channels to be distinctive in attitude, offering a
range of approach and programmes that will let our viewers choose according
to their mood and needs.
of State at the DCMS, Tessa Jowell, wants the BBC to provide venture
capital for the broadcasting industry, the patron of original production.
that's what we mean when we talk of the BBC's need to be a cultural
force - the creative capital, the social capital and the intellectual
capital, as well as the venture capital.
To be the
most creative organisation in the world - to be a creative catalyst
for this country - means working closely with the independent sector
as well as a strong in-house base of creative producers.
is the very soul of the BBC and long will it remain so.
recognise the need to renew and reinforce our relationships with the
a start with a 27% increase in our investment in the sector this past
year, with another rise planned for the coming year.
should be a creative meritocracy for new talent, so that new ideas are
developed and we benefit from the cutting-edge of creativity.
the independent sector has embraced BBC Choice. BBC THREE will also
be a showcase for the best independent production, with 25% very much
a floor, not a ceiling.
looking at some of the key issues in our relationship with indies and
engaging in what I believe will prove to be a constructive and mutually
beneficial dialogue with PACT.
we have already shortened the time it takes to respond to ideas and
we are working on what I hope will be a new structure for repeat fees
for independent programmes.
help unlock the inherent value in these programmes, especially as repeats
provide opportunities for new and different audiences to see great programmes.
are in the BBC, you should be in favour of the health of public service
broadcasting in this country - not just the health of the BBC.
a good thing that ITV has its Doctor Zhivago's, Channel 4 its science
coverage, Five arts.
competition makes everyone raise their sights.
I want to play my part in encouraging a UK broadcasting alliance for
range, quality and originality.
the BBC's self-preservation. Not for the advertisers. Not even for regulators.
all of us working together to provide the richest television fare for
this could be an incredible period in television's evolution.
perhaps for the first time, the industry's voices are in unison on creativity.
turn this unity of voice into united action. Let's make a pact and forge
an effective 'Alliance for Creativity' across our industry.
seize the opportunity to develop the horizons of our audience with popular,
aspirational and original programmes.
the cynics say, television in the UK still has the power to make a difference.
service television in particular should be at the forefront as an enlightening,
force at the heart public debate which invests in the nation's creativity
and, by offering a cornucopia of diverse experiences, enriches people's
what the BBC is for. That's what BBC television means to do.
why I came back to this country.
I believe passionately in the power of public service television and
its role in the life of the nation.
play my part in this key period in our industry's history.