All3Media CEO Jane Turton has said the debate around British public service broadcasting needs to be “reframed” as the biggest indie bosses in the country debate future PSB, privatization and the plethora of reboots.
These broadcasters are not “Netflix, Apple TV+ or YouTube,” Turton stressed during an Edinburgh TV Festival session on public service broadcasting, where she debated with Banijay UK Exec Chair Patrick Holland, Naked MD Fatima Salaria, Cardiff Productions Founder Pat Younge, Avalon Founder Jon Thoday and former Channel 4 CEO David Abraham.
“We have to concentrate on what PSBs do well and make more of that,” added Turton, whose company owns the likes of Gogglebox producer Studio Lambert. “I don’t think people celebrate their success enough.”
She called for a “reframing” of the debate around these broadcasters.
Other panelists pushed the PSBs to do more for young audiences, in a world in which younger people are being offered a proliferation of choice from the likes of YouTube and TikTok.
Holland called for a “doubling down” on younger audience spending and said they should “triple down,” urging the BBC to spend £200M ($235M) per year on youth-skewing BBC Three, rather than the current £80M ($94M).
“There is no better stimulation for demand than money,” Holland said, as he also called for more investment on young people.
Turton flagged what has happened in the natural history sector, in which streamers such as Disney+ and Netflix have pumped money, turning natural history into a thriving business globally.
She said it is “depressing” to look at PSBs’ 9pm show ratings and see how much they skew towards older audiences.
Abraham pushed the British broadcasters to learn from the Americans and articulate their “market share” as much as ideology.
Salaria, who runs The Apprentice indie Naked, said: “PSB has to be more reactive, faster, braver and take risks. You have people paying licence fees and need to tell their stories. We should be the ones setting the agenda, taking risks and being brave.”
Speaking of risk-taking, members of the panel addressed the plethora of reboots currently in the works, with the likes of Changing Rooms, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Waterloo Road, Gladiators and Survivor being brought back.
Abraham, who used to run Channel 4 and now operates producer Wonderhood Studios, described this as “profoundly depressing,” blaming the “DNA of American business and culture” in exploiting local markets and IP to “maximize risk and shareholder return.”
“Most of us don’t wake up in the morning with a burning mission to reinvent something from 20, 30, 40 years ago,” he added. “We should be on a drive to something new.”
Turton said All3Media is focused on “new formats for new platforms” as the Warner Bros. Discovery/Liberty Global-owned super-indie doesn’t have a huge back catalog.
“Producers are complicit,” she added. “It’s not like [Banijay UK chair] Holland isn’t saying to ITV ‘Please don’t buy Big Brother?’. But we have to be realistic and broadcasters are more risk averse during a recession.”
On Channel 4 privatization, which looks set to be rubberstamped by likely-next Prime Minister Liz Truss, Salaria said the “moment has come for audiences to be superserved.”
“It’s not really about politics. Most audiences just want to know Gogglebox is on at 9pm,” she said.
Holland had a word of warning: “Thinking about the PSBs being slimmed down feels scary. If you look at the market interventions they provide in terms of regionality, diversity, talent and content this speaks uniquely to PSB. Cut away at them, and suddenly you’ve not got PSB anymore.”
The government also came in for criticism, with former BBC in-house boss Younge chastising the Conservatives for failing to release the minutes of the Public Service Broadcasting panel it recently assembled.
“We’re becoming more used to this government and it’s not unexpected.”
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