Krishnendu Majumdar: Good evening and welcome to the Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards. It’s great to be here in person at The Royal Festival Hall, and I’m delighted to welcome back for the third time, our wonderful host, Richard Ayoade.
Tonight we celebrate an exceptional year in television. Brilliant storytelling and outstanding performances that have gripped, entertained and informed us. Exquisite shows that made us laugh and moved us to tears. Television can fire the imagination and nourish the soul. It’s a hugely important part of our lives.
The way we make TV in this country is unique - with the delicate ecosystem of different broadcasters co-existing with newer streaming platforms. While we welcome and embrace innovation and evolution, we should also cherish Public Service Broadcasting.
You can see from the excellence of the nominations this year the amazing results of the current system. Public Service Television is one of the foundations of distinctiveness and independence of thought in this country.
Mark Rylance stood on this stage six years ago and said, “We’re a nation of storytellers, we’re admired around the world for it….and woe to any government or corporation who gets in the way of that.” His words carry more weight now than ever. Now is time for the industry to come together and stand up to make the case to protect Public Service Broadcasting.
Do you know why? I truly believe if we let it disappear – on our watch - it’ll be gone forever, and that would profoundly damage the very fabric of our culture.
Even more importantly, News and Current Affairs are the bedrock of our democracy. British audiences rely on accurate, unbiased reporting. I want to give a special mention to our colleagues working overseas in conflict zones around the world, including Ukraine. Their pursuit of the truth and their dedication gives a voice to those who are suffering. Television is a powerful tool in the fight against oppression and misinformation. And we’re hugely grateful to those who can’t be with us tonight for the work they do.
This is a special year for BAFTA – it’s our 75th anniversary! It’s a pivotal moment in our history, as we continue to invest in the future of our industries.
BAFTA is an arts charity, and through our Awards we recognise and celebrate creative excellence. We aim to inspire the next generation of talented people, no matter who they are or where they come from. We provide support, mentorship and opportunities to help them on their journey. In the last few years we’ve made sweeping changes across our whole organisation – to our voting, membership and campaigning processes to level the playing field for all entrants. We’ve come so far, but there’s still so much more to do.
This room is full of the most influential people who work in television. We have a chance to make a difference. We have a responsibility to the audiences we serve and to those who come after us. There wasn’t anyone who looked like me on TV when I was growing up. Seeing is believing. It gives people the chance to more than dream.
We also need more change behind the camera. And if, at this defining moment, a venerable institution like BAFTA can elect someone like me to lead the Academy, the son of an Indian immigrant who arrived on a boat in the 1960s, then surely change must and can happen at the very top of the industry.
We desperately need diversity among leaders and the gate keepers who run television – at board level, heads of channels, key creatives and decision makers. Everyone here has the power and duty to change that. It’s within our grasp.
Two weeks ago at the TV Craft Awards, we presented a BAFTA Special Award to TripleC, the gateway organisation for deaf, disabled or neurodivergent people to access the arts and media. They're working hard to elevate disabled creative talent and making sure the industry has everything in place to welcome them. If you don’t know TripleC’s trailblazing work – please look them up and work with them.
Our industry has another big responsibility, and that’s to the future of our planet. We have the chance to engage audiences with the climate crisis. Last year at COP26, it was a proud moment when Albert, the BAFTA-owned, industry-backed organisation, launched the Climate Content Pledge. 12 broadcasters across the UK and Ireland promised to deliver more and better climate content. When we work together, we can inspire, shape debates, empower, and transform perceptions like we’ve done with HIV and Mental Health Awareness.
I’d like to say a special thanks to Amanda Berry, who steps down as BAFTA’s chief executive next month after almost 24 years. Amanda has hugely helped transform the Academy during her incredible tenure and has moved the industry to a better place.
She leaves behind a fantastic team at BAFTA and my thanks to all of them who work so hard on everything that BAFTA delivers – from Award shows like tonight, to the vital year-round learning and development programmes. And my thanks also to Sara Putt, BAFTA’s Deputy Chair and chair of the TV committee – and all of the volunteers from across the industry that join our committees and juries.
And special thanks to our supporters and partners, especially Virgin Media, the BBC, and Done & Dusted, and to our President, His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, who supports us in everything we do.
And finally, to Sir Billy Connolly, the recipient of the BAFTA Fellowship, the Academy’s highest honour. Billy is an icon of British TV and one of the greatest storytellers of our time.
Good luck to all the nominees and thank you for inspiring us with your stories. Tonight is your night. Have a wonderful time.