On Tuesday 7 May Directors UK CEO Andrew Chowns, alongside Philippa Childs and Faisal Qureshi of BECTU, addressed the House of Lords Communications Committee on the subject of Public Service Broadcasting in the age of subscription video on demand.
In a wide-ranging session, Andrew suggested that SVODs were providing a “wake up call in terms of embracing innovation and creativity” for public service broadcasters. He also noted that Directors UK members frequently praised the level of creative support that companies such as Netflix provide. This support, he argued, leads to a sense of excitement for creatives that PSBs need to match, or risk losing talent: “I think it is a moment for the whole creative community to reflect…there is a risk that a whole generation will find it more exciting and unexpected to be on YouTube and see what comes out of it.”
This willingness to embrace creativity and innovation also tied into the issue of diversity. Andrew noted that “SVODs seem to be much more comfortable with the idea of working with a diverse workforce” and expressed Directors UK’s ongoing frustration at the lack of action from certain institutions in the face of damning statistical evidence on representation. This was echoed by Philippa Childs and Faisal Qureshi of BECTU, who also called for programme-level data to tackle the problem.
It was clear, too, that there was still work for PSBs to do when it comes to regionality. Andrew praised Channel 4’s recent decision to move their operation to Leeds, but pointed out that in general “it’s been quite easy for production companies and broadcasters to weave their way through the quota obligations without necessarily building a sustainable base of talent and resource throughout the UK.”
One subject introduced by the committee was that of a levy on VOD platforms to fund skills and training. Andrew indicated that the priority should be to make sure that the likes of the apprenticeship levy, or tax relief incentives, are properly fit for purpose before exploring this other avenue.