EVENT | RTS Cambridge Convention 2017 Report

    Over the course of three days, the Royal Television Society’s (RTS) annual convention took place in Cambridge with several high-profile keynote speeches, including James Murdoch (21st Century Fox), Karen Bradley MP (Secretary of State) and Sir David Clementi (BBC Chairman). As proud patrons of the RTS, Lumina was fortunate to attend the event and we were able to bring updates and news to the our social media outlets, Twitter and LinkedIn.

    Day one saw four discussions, kicking off with Gary Davey (MD of Content) and Andrew Griffith (Group COO), both of Sky, examining the challenges the TV industry faces in the UK. They were joined by Lindsey Clay, CEO at Thinkbox – the industry body for TV advertising – and David Rowan of WIRED UK. One of the key points from the group’s discussion was the opportunity of utilising viewing data to personalise the delivery of content for the audiences, while Clay brought up evidence that TV remains a substantial platform, even for the young adults.

    While the first session looked at the state of the television industry, Peter Fincham (Co-CEO, Expectation Entertainment), Andy Harries (Chief Executive, Left Bank Pictures) and Andy Wilman (Executive Producer, The Grand Tour) discussed the future of the streaming services. They brought forward cases where the services are disrupting the industry and talent is already being snapped up by the likes of Netflix and Amazon. The coup by Amazon to attract the former Top Gear trio to the streaming service was high on the agenda for Wilman, who suggested that the “one thing I’ve learnt about Amazon is that they want to make big stuff.”

    Day two at the RTS convention saw Ofcom’s Sharon White in conversation with journalist and broadcaster, Kirsty Wark. Their discussion waivered from the BBC, fake news and diversity, where White called out the BBC on their slow reaction to diversity, suggesting they should be leading broadcasters into a new era of diversity. The conversation coincided with the release of the latest Diversity of UK Television report, which announced several new initiatives to boost diversity, including better guidance, more monitoring and holding broadcasters to account.

    RTS Cambridge September 2017 James Murdoch - 21st Century FoxIf there was one discussion that was certain to attract plenty of attention, it was James Murdoch’s appearance with editor of the Today Programme, Sarah Sands. The appearance proved particularly timely, in a week where the Fox/Sky merger was brought to the forefront once again, after the takeover was referred to regulators by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (LINK). In a period where the industry is undergoing a significant shift, Murdoch was keen to suggest that streaming platforms were “where your films go to die or sit on the shelf with 100s of others”, certainly strong words by the CEO of 21st Century Fox.

    Just three hours later, Karen Bradley MP took to the stage to address the audience with her speech on the state of broadcasting industry, including diversity and the relocation of Channel 4. She suggested that there had been an improvement in diversity on-screen, but there needs to be a push for representation behind the camera. As we reported on last week, the Secretary of State brought up the Channel 4 relocation once again, suggesting a move would be on the cards before 2022, the end of the current government, and inviting small towns and cities to offer themselves to house a base for Channel 4. You can read our previous report on the speech here.

    In the final session of the second day, Pointless presenter Richard Osman chaired a forward-looking committee on entertainment for television. Joining Osman were the leading figures in entertainment from the major UK broadcasters: Philip Edgar-Jones (Sky), Siobhan Greene (ITV) and Kate Phillips (BBC). Up for discussion was the issue of BBC pay, which caused disagreements between Greene and Edgar-Jones, the latter suggesting the BBC pay was relatively high. But the panel did agree on the importance of entertainment, with Greene raising the point: “when you get it right, the whole nation can be entertained together.”

    RTS Cambridge September 2017 Richard Osman

    The final day of the RTS conference focused on diversity, following on from the keynote speech by Karen Bradley MP a day earlier. There has been advances in diversity for the broadcasters, however issues in social class were raised by panellist James Purnell (Director of Radio and Education, BBC). Purnell announced that 17% of BBC employees were schooled privately and that figure rises to 24% when focused in on management roles. Sky’s representative, Anne Mensah (Head of Drama), was concerned at the number of people joining these organisations on trainee schemes, with supposedly career development opportunities, for them to only be dropped or left at the bottom of the ladder.

    After three days packed with a total of fourteen speeches and discussions , the RTS Cambridge Convention came to a close with Andrew Griffith and Theresa Wise thanking the attendees. The industry certainly faces several challenges over the next 12 months, with Brexit, takeovers and changing audiences, it was fascinating to see how the industry plans to tackle these issues in the future.