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British Television: My View by Andrew Newman

24 May 2013
Andrew Newman

Chair of BAFTA's Television Committee and TV chief; Andrew Newman explains why he believes British TV is truly great.

Andrew NewmanAndrew Newman is Chief Executive at Objective Productions, makers of Derren Brown, Peep Show, The Cube, The Real Hustle, Star Stories, Undercover Princesses in late 2009. He has been on the BAFTA Television Committee since 2007 and the Chair since 2011.

"When people talk about there being a golden age of TV, I agree with them, only it's not in 1960's or 70's but right now. If you don't believe me, simply look at the nominations at the recent Arqiva BAFTA Television Awards. In 2013 we considered top quality dramas such as Parade's End, Jimmy McGovern’s Accused, Mrs Biggs and the Shakespeare adaptation,The Hollow Crown, innovative comedies like Twenty Twelve and The Thick Of It, flagship entertainment shows like I'm A Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing, popular factual formats like The Great British Bakeoff and The Apprentice, bold documentaries like Grayson Perry's All In The Best Possible Taste and The Plane Crash and gems from digital channels like Our War, Dynamo and A League Of Their Own. We've had tremendous investigative journalism, compelling soaps and serious insightful news and current affairs .... and that's without even mentioning the outstanding coverage of the Olympics and Paralympics.

Sheridan Smith: TV Awards 2013"Nowhere else in the world has such a rich televisual mix but we often take ours for granted. British TV punches above its weight in quality and innovation across all genres and for a country the size of ours, we have a much bigger cultural impact than we might expect. Our best shows travel the world getting remade or repeated and advertising the nation's creativity and verve. I believe the quality of our telly is down to two things : the brilliantly quirky, individual and non-conformist talent in writing, acting and producing and also the UK's unique broadcasting ecology of both commercial and non-commercial operators. Free from the pressure of commercial restraints, the BBC is able to take a risk and try new things in a way that is rare abroad, similarly Channel 4's remit requires it to push the cultural envelope and give outsiders and new talent a voice, while ITV can commission huge blockbusters in drama and entertainment. And now Sky, Watch and other digital stations are making more UK produced content and thus increasing variety and viewer choice. Because of this mix of channels and commissioning structures, British TV isn't afraid to try new ideas and formats and has a far higher proportion of domestically created ideas & formats than almost anywhere else.

British TV punches above its weight in quality and innovation across all genres and for a country the size of ours, we have a much bigger cultural impact than we might expect.

Ricky Gervais, Karl Pilkington and Stephen Merchant: An Idiot Abroad 2 Q&A BAFTA/Jamie Simmonds"Of course we have still the pick of the rest of the world's TV in The Voice or The Killing but our most cherished television shows tend to be the things we export rather than import. While I often read about the lack of British manufacturing that's not the case with TV - we make world class programming and we sell it globally. And it's not only programming but talent too. Because Channel 4 & the BBC still make new comedy in a way that's now rare outside of America, our comedy talent get to grow, find their voice and play a funny part on a global stage: Sacha Baron Cohen, Simon Pegg or Ricky Gervais wouldn't be worldwide stars if it wasn't for British Television.

"The Great British Bake Off is as quintessentially British as you can get - taking a village fete and turning it into a reality show - but its been sold to countries including the USA, Australia, Sweden, Italy, France and The Ukraine. And it doesn’t stop there - Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Office, The Cube, Wife Swap, Pointless, Who Do You Think You Are…. are all British formats currently being remade all over the globe. Similarly the best of our drama is simply world class: Doctor Who, Downtown Abbey, Sherlock and Broadchurch entertain the world and show what we can do.

The quality of our telly is down to two things : the brilliantly quirky, individual and non-conformist talent in writing, acting and producing and also the UK's unique broadcasting ecology of both commercial and non-commercial operators.

Celebrity Juice"However, despite this endless coveyor belt of top quality enterainment beamed into our living rooms for free - people often focus on the things they don't like and particularly so with the BBC. You wouldn't complain about a library because you didn't like every single book inside and wouldn't criticise a restaurant because you fancied some things on the menu but not all, so why should you with Television? Millions of people watch BBC3 or ITV2 every week but if Mail readers don't fancy a squirt of Celebrity Juice, then they're lucky to live in a world of nearly endless televisual choice where there's always something good on the box elsewhere.

"In the past year we've had new series of Sherlock, QI, 24 Hours In A & E, The Thick Of It, I'm A Celebrity, Antiques Roadshow, Have I Got News For You, The Graham Norton Show, Doctor Who, Britain's Got Talent, Black Mirror, Alan Carr: Chatty Man, Broadchurch, Utopia, Downton Abbey, Peep Show, The X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, Question Time, Fresh Meat, Pointless, One Born Every Minute, Parade's End, The Only Way is Essex, Panorama and almost an entire genre of programmes about the lives and habits of Hoarders......So of course not everything on telly will be to your taste but I think the variety and overall quality should make you make you proud to be British."


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