A seminal TV moment? ‘Competition revolution’ goes under the microscope at Salford International Media Festival

Monday 10 November 2014
Alison Kirkham

When the BBC’s Director-General Tony Hall announced a ‘competition revolution’ earlier this year, the future of TV commissioning in the UK was blown wide open.

And now some of the media industry’s key players will be discussing what this means for independent production companies and the BBC at this month’s Nations & Regions Media Conference, part of Salford International Media Festival.

In a speech in July, Tony Hall stated that: “Competition is good for the BBC and I want more of it.” He went on to say that “I want a less regulated system that ensures that both our own BBC producers and those of the independent sector have creative freedom.”

The plan would involve abolishing the BBC’s current production quota system and would also allow BBC producers to pitch for business outside the Corporation for the first time.

Chaired by executive producer and editor Ruth Pitt, the Conference session will feature industry experts Alison Kirkham, the BBC’s Head of Commissioning, Features and Factual Formats; Jane Turton, Managing Director of all3media; Managing Director of Outline Productions, Laura Mansfield; and Channel 4’s Ian McKenzie.

While the proposed move would open up millions of pounds-worth of commissioning to the independent sector, it would see BBC production competing for business in the UK and internationally. The proposal raises significant questions which will be discussed in the session, including implications for the BBC’s regional TV quotas; the impact on ‘super-indies’ such as the merged Shine and Endemol; whether smaller independent producers will be squeezed out; and whether the BBC will look to safeguard specific areas of programming, such as news, children’s and sports departments.

Seamus Simpson, Nations & Regions Media Conference Content Director, said: “The media sector is still processing the implications of proposed liberalisation of the UK’s system of commissioning. Our ‘Seminal Moment’ session will get to the heart of what is a controversial debate. Delivered by a panel of experts of international standing, this is a session which all those concerned about the future of commissioning in the UK cannot afford to miss.”

The session, entitled ‘A Seminal Moment? – The Future of Commissioning’, will take place on Wednesday 19 November, the second day of the 21st Nations & Regions Media Conference. Independent producer delegates will also have the opportunity at the Conference to pitch an idea to high profile radio and TV broadcasting commissioners at two sessions, with slots bookable on Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 November respectively.

The Nations & Regions Media Conference is one of three events forming Salford International Media Festival, which runs from Monday 17-Friday 21 November, providing a forum for media stakeholders to debate the current climate and play an influential role in shaping the future of the sector.

Building on the rich history of the Nations & Regions Media Conference, the Festival has widened to provide a platform for academic discourse through the Challenging Media Landscapes Conference and a two-day Next Generation programme of activity to support new media talent, enabling Salford students to gain an insiders’ look into the industry.

Tickets for the Salford International Media Festival are on sale at the Festival website - www.salfordinternationalmediafestival.com.