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Too old for TV?

November 11th, 2010

The former controller of BBC1 yesterday rejected claims that she ‘hated women’.

Jay Hunt, who was also accused of ageism by Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly, told a tribunal the claims were ‘profoundly distressing’, ‘hateful’, and ‘categorically untrue’

The BBC has denied the presenter was axed because of her age.

Last week Ms O’Reilly said one of the other presenters dropped from the show had told her the decision was “ageist”.

So can you be too old for television? Does it all come down to a show’s format and time of day it is aired?

Michaela Strachan, as well as Juliet Morris and Ms O’Reilly, lost her job on Countryfile ahead of its move to Sunday evenings, with Julia Bradbury and Matt Baker among new presenters who joined the revamped programme. Throughout the last years of its life, GMTV saw a number of younger presenters intorudced to early morning television and This Morning brought in Holly Willoughby (28) as Fern Britton’s (52) replacment.

In 2007, the BBC “sounded the death knell for ‘traditional newsreaders'”, hinting that a campaign to save the veteran news anchor Moira Stuart from the axe was doomed to fail. Stewart’s removal at the time also brought accusations of ageism and sexism.

Are we seeing a development in television and the role of the young presenter, or is this simply ‘ageism’ and unfair treatment to the older generation of presenter? Perhaps even the new high defintion (HD) television will spotlight the make-up, wrinkles and signs of age and that all presenters will be replaced by clear-skinned children?

The tribunal continues.

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Posted in: UK - TV news

Who will take the weight of the Film Council?

October 22nd, 2010

With the news that the UK Film Council would be abolished, there were immediate campaigns against the dissolve. Beginning with grass-roots online campaigns, a Facebook page ‘Save the UK Film Council’ is now at 56,268 followers, Twitter feeds and reactions followed, before Dirty Harry himself stepped forward (who had recently shot Hereafter in London) to write a protest letter and in doing so joined other actors including James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Pete Postlethwaite, Damian Lewis, Timothy Spall, Daniel Barber and Ian Holm in campaigning against the Council’s abolition

Last week at the Screen Film Summit, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey spoke on the importance of the British film industry and what he expected to happen post Film Council dissolve. UK Film Council chief executive, John Woodward made remarks about the prospect that Lottery money might be channelled through a UK broadcaster such as the BBC or Channel 4 and questions were asked by industry workers and attendees as to whether money would be thrown into another “government quango” or fairly distributed across the industry?uk-film-council-logo-01a

John McVay, Chief Executive Officer of producers’ organisation PACT, said that PACT “wanted three legs to the funding stool” and that plurality and diversity would necessarily be reduced if Lottery money was disbursed via the BBC or Channel 4 rather than through a separate public funder.

So will Film London be called to take responsibility for the work left over from the Film Council? Will work, effort and responsibility (as well as money) be handed to local screen agencies? As Woodward suggests, “Others will need to adopt the apparatus of what comes with the Film Council’s democratic feeling, from empathy and understanding to their consideration of producers and film makers.” They’ll most certainly have to be a new system to overhaul the current one, afterall, top-slicing the paramount council means redistribution and judicious thought.

What does this mean for production companies and the suppliers who work for these companies? The dancing and turmoil needs to stop, but who is going to profit from waving goodbye to the Film Council. Will anyone?

Watch Ed Vaizey’s address here:


Posted in: The Weekly Wizard, UK - Film news, UK - TV news

UK film industry nearing capacity?

October 14th, 2010

equipmentThere’s something of a movie buzz happening in the UK right now. Our world renowned studios are busy with their television commitments and a sudden influx of preparation and filming for the big screen is happening up-and-down the country. The new Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Captain America and Steven Spielberg’s production of War Horse, are all currently being filmed in the UK.

London and the UK boast some of the best filming locations and facilities in the world. Technicians are reasonably priced compared with the United States and such is the bustling atmosphere, there have been reports of a lack of filming equipment for workers. We have spoken with several cameramen and gaffers who have commented on the lack of available equipment.

On one side, there is a serious issue with the lack of filming equipment available – surely the rental industry must be booming – while another arguement lends itself to the UK filming industry standing in a very healthy position. If more and more productions continue to arrive on these shores then that’s wonderful news for recruitment and industry income. Whether it’s due to tax reasons or simply that the American film industry can atadpt to and adopt our diverse range of locations, it puts our studios and industry in a comfortable environment.

on-location-for-the-filmi-006The service and support offered is also an incentive, with the likes of the UK Film Council, The Office of the British Film Commissioner, The network of UK Screen Agencies and the UK Film Council – US, all lending their support to the creation of films produced and shot in the UK. However, with the government’s recent decision to axe the Film Council, what exactly does this mean for the industry and those professionals who make it all happen?

The news yesterday that Channel 4 has given an extra £5 million to Film Four is fantastic news for not only Film Four and the British movie-making industry, but it’s money that can be invested into producting and nurturing new talent. The investment increases Film Four’s budget by 50 percent, and is enough to produce at least another three or four films a year.

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Posted in: The Weekly Wizard, UK - TV news

Europe’s first 3D TV channel

October 1st, 2010

Sky 3DEurope’s first dedicated 3D television channel has launched in the UK.

Sky 3D will broadcast for 14 hours every day from around 9am and will show a selection of programmes including premier league football, and films.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas all the big names unveiled new 3D products and was billed by some as a saviour for TV firms.

A monthly subscription fee will be £61 with the cost of an average 3D television around £2,000. Subscribers who pay for the top Sky World HD package will be able to get the service free.

Since the launch of James Cameron’s 3D movie film Avatar late last year, 3D has been in the news like never before.

Most cinemas have at least one 3D film on show all the time, while the launch of this new channel will let people experience it at home for the first time. John Dollin, who’s been developing 3D TV for Sky for the last two years, is confident that it has the wow factor.

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Posted in: The Weekly Wizard, UK - TV news

Kudos choose Production Wizard

September 10th, 2010

kudos-logo1Kudos Film and Television are the latest company to use Production Wizard to help their production management team save time and money crewing productions.

Suppliers wanting to work for Kudos will now find a link to join Production Wizard from the Kudos website, allowing them to store any interesting profiles in their Production Wizard network. Kudos are the latest of many companies, including RDF Television and Darlow Smithson, to have found a smarter way to manage and grow their talent networks.

More akin to LinkedIn or Facebook than a recruitment site, Production Wizard lets you build and manage your day-to-day supplier network online, sending out targeted and private job requests with a simple click and viewing supplier availability and rates in one place.

How Production Wizard can help your company


Posted in: The Weekly Wizard, UK - Film news, UK - TV news

Crewing Up Time… the media recruitment landscape is shifting

August 6th, 2010

Networking WebsitesProduction Base recently unveiled a new look whilst Broadcast Freelancer earlier this year promised ‘Radical changes’. Are we about to see a major shift in the online recruitment landscape? The answer is yes, but not from either of the aforementioned websites. Both still ask for an upfront payment from ‘candidates’ to simply create their online ‘profile’, thereby missing out on the demonstrable value (witness Facebook, Linked-in) delivered by offering a level playing field to members on which to build useful business networks.

Despite their youthful, iPhone touting credentials, TV and film production professionals have been surprisingly slow to apply new technology to the day-to-day management of their talent networks – whether freelance or companies. It’s not to say that they aren’t willing. Media professionals and production management in particular, are much more likely than many other industries to mix business with pleasure, joining groups and forums on Facebook et al. And many Production Companies have invested in databases to keep track of companies and freelancers that they’ve worked with, not least to meet health & safety and employment law requirements.

So perhaps there just isn’t a product or service ‘out there’ that captures their imagination or that understands the unique anatomy of the industry: its language, its reliance on teams, short deadlines and its often erratic hours? And that the current industry networking offerings rely upon payment for inclusion sets an unnatural barrier to the growth of useful organic networks? Their ‘no entry without payment’ model (often a pretty large sum of hard earned -or not yet earned- cash) inevitably skews the market, driving the submission of hundreds of CVs for every role posted by candidates no doubt keen to get their money’s worth from their subscription.

So the spirit is willing but the services on offer are weak? We certainly think so. Here at Production Wizard we are quietly aiming to deliver a revolution. We want to offer the industry a level playing field for talented professionals. A free platform where employers can create and manage their network of trusted suppliers. And looking towards the Autumn, somewhere that they can share job requirements or supplier feedback with colleagues, and assess supplier credentials based on credits, recommendations or number of employer connections. We want to create a vibrant and accessible community in which Production companies can manage and grow the talent networks the industry depends upon. Could we have the answer? We hope so.

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Posted in: The Weekly Wizard, UK - Film news, UK - TV news

Have Channel Five Found Their Man?

July 2nd, 2010

John de Mol

A new prospective bidder has emerged in the sale of RTL’s Channel Five, as Dawn Airey, Five’s chief executive, meets with more than a dozen different potential buyers.

The Dutch media entrepreneur John de Mol – of Cyrte Investments and Talpa Media, as well as founder of Endemol and creator of the Big Brother and Deal or No Deal formats – is working with Antenna Group of Greece in an attempt to acquire Channel Five.

Cyrte Investments owns around a third of Endemol, the Dutch Big Brother producer co-founded by De Mol in the 1990s. De Mol created the Big Brother format (coming to an end of their 10-year run in the UK) when he ran Endemol and there is speculation that several long-running reality TV series, including Big Brother, could appear on Five should his bid with Antenna succeed, according to a report in on the website on Wednesday.

The Antenna chief executive, Theo Kyriakou, is understood to be in London this week for talks with JP Morgan, who are running the sale. The leading financial services firm are expected to narrow down bidders over the next three weeks before selecting two prospective buyers who will then be given access to Five’s latest trading figures.

Dawn Airey

Dawn Airey

It’s difficult to put a figure on the company as Five has been making a loss (there was a £10m recorded operating loss in 2009), however its value lies with its content and format shows, as well as its ability to run paid advertisements. It is believed from bankers and analysts that TRL want around €200m for Five.

In 2005, Forbes magazine named De Mol as one of the 500 richest people in the world. The pan-European broadcaster is 90 per cent owned by Bertelsmann of Germany.

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Posted in: The Weekly Wizard, UK - TV news

Broadcasters Follow the Government Trend

June 25th, 2010

CutbacksWhen George Osbourne announced the budget on Wednesday, it was no great surprise that the term “pay freeze” was mentioned here and there. The two-year pay freeze for workers in the public sector mean that the broadcasters are going to find themselves under even greater scrutiny than they previously have been.

With the expenses fiasco at the BBC quietening, they now stroll into summer and Glastonbury, where in 2009 they were criticised for sending over 400 members of staff to the Somerset festival, almost as many as they flew out to film the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There were so many on the corporation’s payroll that it had to block book hotels within a 10-mile radius of the festival. The BBC sent just 32 more to cover the Olympics.

The Glastonbury festival – which has grown with the BBC into a glorious multi-platform thing – has small teams roaming the farm to report on all manner of cultural activities. The output dipping in-and-out of footie and tennis bouts across BBC Two, Three and Four, plus the red button and online.

Then there’s the recent ‘firm stance’ against their staff and the Christine Bleakley saga which has created numerous side stories in the press, “Should she stay or should she go…?” In the end it was decided that enough was enough and that the BBC would not continue their negotiations and so she’s off to…ITV of course! To rejoin her One Show laughter-buddy, Adrian Chiles, and recreate their paragon of sofa chemistry. And it only cost ITV and Peter Fincham (BBC1’s former controller) a mere £4 million. That’s roughly one-quarter of Frank Lampard.

One executive at ITV said, “”There was almost zero consultation with most staff. Even in meetings up to a week ago managers just told us Christine was the ‘elephant in the room’ and they wouldn’t be saying any more.”

David AbrahamChannel 4’s chief executive, David Abraham, is also creating a state of metamorphosis over at Horseferry Road with a 25% cut in senior management. The cull will cut a quarter of senior managers and calls for a “fundamental evolution” at the group. The new shape of C4 will see online commissioning and production combined with its TV equivalent to form a single division.

One industry expert said: “C4 needs to survive the downturn, and in the absence of a deal or the ability to buy its way out, it needs to focus on reorganisation and cutting costs.”

At least the broadcasters are moving with the times and echoing the chorus of the new sprity coalition government, but with industry jobs thin on the ground anyway, these recent cuts cause new and foreboding clouds that waver uncertainty over this already fragile industry.

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Posted in: The Weekly Wizard, UK - TV news

‘Blood, Sweat And Takeaways’ Scoops Prize at Digital Awards

June 18th, 2010

Broadcast Digital Awards.

Judges at Wednesday evening’s Broadcast Digital Awards, called Blood, Sweat And Takeaways, “an immersive style seeing participants live alongside factory workers in an intensive five-week filming period.”

The BBC3 show picked up the award for Best Popular Factual Programme (the award sponsored by Production Wizard for the second year running), beating Electric Dreams, Made In Britain, My Big Fat Cycle Challenge, Ross Kemp: Return to Afghanistan and What Katie Did Next. The four-part series – made by Ricochet – gained almost 1 million viewers on its initial airing, making it BBC3’s most successful documentary ever, and won a transfer to the 10.30pm slot on BBC1, when the same instalment was watched by 2 million. The show was a clear winner for the judges in what they described as “a wide-open field”.


David Constable, Emma Hardcastle and Group Head of TV Studio Operations at Pinewood and Shepperton, Simon Honey.

The awards were hosted by comedian, Rufus Hound, fresh from hosting The Isle of Wight Festival coverage, and the comedian joked on how he was on a stage looking out at TV commissioners and media executives, many of whom he’d pitched to and many of whom had turned him away. “At least I have Dave!” he proclaimed, to the amusement of the channel’s table.

Other big winners on the night included E4; Four Weddings, ITV Studios for Living; and Sky Arts. The Individual Achievement Award went to John Ryley, Head of Sky News. Conor Dignam, Group Editor of Broadcast, Screen and Shots commented:

“As the editor of one of the most powerful news brands in the market, this year’s winner launched an online campaign calling for a televised debate that attracted thousands of signatures. He wrote personally to every party leader – and published their replies. He lobbied, he cajoled, he used the power of his channel and brand and he twisted arms – to make it happen. Even his broadcasting rivals concede that without his passion and commitment to make this happen, there may have been no live debate… the award for outstanding achievement goes to the editor of Sky News, John Ryley.”


Head of Sky News, John Ryley.

John Ryley said, “The award is for everyone at Sky who contributed to the success of the Leaders’ Debate and the launch of HD. Never accept the status quo.”

It was a wonderful evening and Production Wizard are very happy to have sponsored an award and supported the event. Congratulations to all the winners and we’ll see you all at the Soho Fun Run on 24th July.

For a full list of the winners:

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Posted in: The Weekly Wizard, UK - TV news

Heggessey Departs from Talkback Thames

June 11th, 2010
Lorraine Heggessey

Lorraine Heggessey, beginning of a new chapter after five years at Talkback Thames.

Shock waves rippled across the UK television industry with the news that Lorraine Heggessey would be leaving her post as chief executive of Talkback Thames; producer of Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor, The Apprentice and The Bill.

Heggessey – an industry heavyweight – took over from Peter Fincham in 2005 and led Talkback Thames to huge successes through some of the nation’s biggest brand shows.

A spokeswoman for Talkback Thames said, “We can confirm that Lorraine Heggessey is stepping down as the chief executive of Talkback Thames. Sara Geater will now take over as interim chief executive for Talkback Thames reporting into Tony Cohen. No further comment at this time.”

Heggessey’s TV career began in 1979 as a BBC News trainee. Highlights include the Channel 4 show Hard News, editing science series QED, and a producer of Panorama. Her posts as Head of BBC Children’s and Director of BBC Factual and Learning lead her to become controller of BBC1, the first female in the role. As controller she helped the channel successfully revive Doctor Who as well as introducing Strictly Come Dancing. And it was her controversial move of the evening news bulletin to 10pm that paved the way for 9pm drama hits including Spooks, Cutting It and Hustle.

A report in Broadcast stated, “It was known that the Talkback boss fought hard to save The Bill, and if owners Freemantle are making her the scapegoat for its loss, it is more than a little harsh.” ITV’s decision to cancel the long-running police series (26 years old) had a huge impact on the company, to which Talkback owned the rights.

Sara Geater, the company’s chief operating officer, is to take over as interim chief executive. Like Heggessey, Geater will report to Tony Cohen, chief executive of Fremantle Media, the production, distribution and rights arm of RTL, which is Talkback Thames’s parent company.

The next few months will be telling for Talkback. Replacing Heggessey will demand a new media-minded leader with a host of creative ideas to fill the void of the axed shows. With the industry coming through one of the slowest periods for commissioning, there is real emphasis on finding new creative talent. A new and successful long-running series is just what ITV – and perhaps more importantly – Talkback Thames, need.

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Posted in: The Weekly Wizard, UK - TV news

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