Get­ting down to brass tacks about me­dia in the re­gions

Yorkshire Post - - FEATURES & COMMENT -

IT’S BEEN a pretty bumpy year for the broad­cast in­dus­try which has been un­der fire for its lack of di­ver­sity, gender in­equal­ity and re­gional im­bal­ance, so the ar­rival in Leeds of an ex­cit­ing new me­dia con­fer­ence is ex­tremely timely.

The in­au­gu­ral Cre­ative Cities Con­ven­tion, which takes place over two days at Leeds Col­lege of Mu­sic next week hosted by jour­nal­ist and broad­caster Kirsty Wark, will pro­vide a fo­rum for con­sid­er­ing th­ese and other press­ing is­sues with the aim of find­ing last­ing so­lu­tions.

The line-up of big names and in­flu­en­tial fig­ures – in­clud­ing BBC di­rec­tor of con­tent Char­lotte Moore, chair of ITV Sir Pe­ter Bazal­gette and C4’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Alex Ma­hon – is im­pres­sive, which gives some in­di­ca­tion of how se­ri­ously the in­dus­try is tak­ing the need to make changes.

“In the last cou­ple of years a lot of at­ten­tion has shifted to­wards the im­por­tance of grow­ing pro­duc­tion beyond Lon­don and across the UK,” says Ruth Pitt, con­ven­tion di­rec­tor and a TV exec and con­sul­tant with many years of ex­pe­ri­ence. “There is a gen­eral recog­ni­tion across all the ma­jor broad­cast­ers that they need to rep­re­sent their au­di­ence bet­ter, on screen and off, as well as grow cre­ative tal­ent out­side of Lon­don, and it seemed im­por­tant to re­flect that in a new kind of con­fer­ence. Our main ob­jec­tive is to get the big cities talk­ing to each other, to get cre­atives speak­ing to coun­cil lead­ers and to make sure ev­ery­one is speak­ing the same lan­guage,” she says.

It is an in­ter­est­ing mo­ment for the in­dus­try. As Chan­nel 4 pre­pares to move hun­dreds of jobs out of Lon­don and the BBC plans its launch of a new chan­nel for Scot­land at the end of this year, Of­com is set­ting new tar­gets re­gard­ing re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, so the in­dus­try will be un­der scru­tiny and knows it has to step up to the mark.

The con­fer­ence, which will travel to a dif­fer­ent city each year, re­flects this and will in­clude con­tri­bu­tions from lo­cal writ­ers Lisa Holdsworth and Kay Mel­lor

who will be dis­cussing a sense of place in their TV dra­mas; Tracy Bra­bin, MP for Bat­ley and Spen, who will be shar­ing her unique per­spec­tive on the me­dia as an ac­tor-turned-politi­cian; and the BBC’s eco­nom­ics edi­tor Kamal Ahmed speak­ing on eco­nomic driv­ers that might in­flu­ence me­dia busi­nesses out­side Lon­don. For Pitt the ques­tion of re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tion has long been an area of in­ter­est and one she is pas­sion­ate about.

“It is a pas­sion, bor­der­ing on an ob­ses­sion,” she laughs. “I feel very strongly about it. I have lived in York­shire and worked in Lon­don for the past 14 years. I un­der­stand that much of the in­dus­try needs to be in Lon­don but I can also see the fan­tas­tic tal­ent there is across the UK. If there were more op­por­tu­ni­ties in the na­tions and re­gions, then you wouldn’t get the drain of tal­ent to Lon­don. I re­ally think we need to re­verse that process.”

Pitt men­tions how in the past peo­ple were ex­cited to leave Lon­don in or­der to take up posts at York­shire Tele­vi­sion, Tyne Tees and Granada – which in the 1960s, 70s and 80s were pro­duc­ing award-win­ning cut­ting-edge in­ves­tiga­tive doc­u­men­taries and some of the high­est-qual­ity dra­mas on Bri­tish tele­vi­sion – and she be­lieves that there is an op­por­tu­nity now to rein­vig­o­rate re­gional pro­gramme-mak­ing.

“I re­ally think for peo­ple in Lon­don we can make it an ex­cit­ing of­fer to work in Bri­tain’s big­ger cities and bring the ex­cite­ment back into na­tions and re­gions,” she says. “There is amaz­ing pro­duc­tion go­ing on in ev­ery big city in the coun­try but I think some­times we don’t cham­pion that enough.”

Cre­ative Cities Con­ven­tion, April 25 and 26, Leeds Col­lege of Mu­sic. It is open to any­one to at­tend. For de­tails and to book visit www. cre­ativeciti­escon­ven­tion.com.

News­night pre­sen­ter Kirsty Wark will host the Cre­ative Cities Con­ven­tion in Leeds.

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