Edinburgh TV Festical

Four Key Highlights from the Edinburgh TV Festival: Ongoing Strikes, Freelance Crisis, AI & Commissioning Slowdown

Edinburgh TV Festival closed with a bang a couple of weeks ago, with a wonderfully insightful talk from actress and writer Meera Syal. There was a significant buzz around the Edinburgh International Conference Centre this year, with execs and creatives alike looking to grow their networks. We have drawn together this year’s key themes and talking points.

Commissioning Slowdown: 

This year has seen a dramatic slowdown in the number of projects being greenlit in the UK broadcast sector. This trend was kickstarted earlier this year, when Channel 4 announced they were cancelling a high-profile Four Weddings reboot, due to budget constraints. Similar sentiment has been echoed by Warner Bros. Discovery during the festival, along with several other large Broadcasters and Streamers.

Freelancer Struggles:

Edinburgh TV Festival’s main focus was the freelance crisis. The commissioning slowdown has led to a seriously tough few months, with many freelancers relying on the support of the Film & TV Charity. Although the many sessions highlighted how broadcasters are tackling the crisis, few genuine solutions were forthcoming. Marcus Ryder, the incoming CEO of the Film & TV Charity, urged a change in industry structures akin to the changes that caused a flood of investment in Scottish TV around 15 years ago – establishing what would become a thriving production sector.

SAG-AFTRA Strikes:

It wouldn’t have been a true media conference without mentioning the ongoing actor & writer’s strikes in the US. Despite sessions on Disney+, Netflix and Warner Bros, the labour action wasn’t raised during a single panel discussion. Universal’s Pearlena Igbokwe, however, did tackle the elephant in the room, stating that CEOs and top senior leaders are “invested and committed to figuring out a deal that is fair and equitable for everybody.”

TV & AI:

After a year of us all getting to grips with Chat GPT, followed swiftly by warnings of AI’s domination over man, a more realistic and nuanced approach showed the pitfalls and advantages AI will introduce. A Fellow at the Said Business School and co-founder of Bob Geldof’s Ten Alps TV, Alex Connock warned that while AI can help speed up development processes and fuel creativity, it has also led to copyright infringement cases. This is because generative machines, which are created and programmed by scraping existing work from the internet, can regurgitate that work without permission. However, Connock predicted that it would become standard practice for actors to monetise their likeness in the future and that this practice would not be a disaster if it is regulated properly.