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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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‘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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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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BSkyB buy Virgin Media Television

June 4th, 2010
Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation

It was confirmed today that the much-anticipated sale of the Virgin Media Television portfolio of channels to BSkyB has been agreed. The £160m deal will create a multichannel powerhouse, combining the likes of Living and Bravo with Sky 1.

Jeremy Darroch, BSkyB chief executive, called Virgin Media Television “an attractive investment opportunity which complements our existing content business and delivers strategic and financial benefits”.

Sky will pay £105m up front on completion of the deal, with the remainder to follow completion of the regulatory process. The acquisition will need to be cleared by competition regulators in the UK and Ireland, reports The Guardian suggest.

Content from Sky’s basic and premium channels and the VMTV services will be available through Virgin Media’s on-demand service. Virgin Media will also have access to Sky Sports’ red button interactive coverage and be able to deliver some Sky programming over the internet.

And in another story across town – focusing on media empires – Richard Desmond told BBC Radio 4 he wanted to expand his media empire and had £1bn to spend. These are some very deep pockets indeed. He said he was “definitely not” interested in buying the Mirror or the Daily Telegraph, but when asked if he would like to buy The Sun he replied: “Work it out for yourself.” The BBC’s Nick Cosgrove said of Desmond, “He is one of the most controversial newspaper barons Britain has ever produced.

Neil Berkett, chief executive of Virgin Media, said of the sale, “The sale of our channels business has generated substantial value. Together with the new commercial agreements we’ve announced today, it will allow us to focus more closely on our strategy of exploiting Virgin Media’s super-fast connectivity to offer our customers a range of the very best content through a highly versatile next generation entertainment application.”

So as the Murdochs increase their empire there could well be competition from Desmond, however Rupert Murdoch, who owns The Sun – the most popular newspaper in Britain – has given no sign that he wants to sell up.


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