Trust, diversity and content investment are key priorities for leading TV executives from Netflix, Sky, UK, C4, ITV and BBC who spoke during the RTS Cambridge Convention last week. 

Sharon White Ofcom RTS cambridge 2019

Ofcom CEO Sharon White: “Differences are celebrated” at RTS Cambridge 2019

Opening the RTS Cambridge Convention was ITV chief Carolyn McCall who argued that one of the broadcaster’s greatest assets at a time of political upheaval and digital disruption is the trust the public has in its news and current affairs.

McCall said that, despite the industry’s investment in scripted, some of the best drama on TV has been delivered by the news. “The Brexit saga briefly turned Parliamentary democracy into the X Factor, with all the requisite elements: eliminations, walkouts, deadlock, even a judges’ vote,” said McCall.

The UK needs a TV industry where “differences are celebrated” said Ofcom chief executive Sharon White.

White called for more concerted leadership from UK broadcasters and production companies to improve diversity in the TV industry.

“The dial hasn’t shifted over the last three years” in terms of improving diversity in the UK industry.

Her speech came after Ofcom revealed new research that showed the UK TV industry is strongly skewed towards people from privately-educated backgrounds.

She said: “The evidence shows that the dial towards full inclusivity is not shifting quickly enough, and we cannot allow progress to stall.”

Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon took a swipe at global streaming services at this week’s RTS Cambridge Convention, accusing them of profiting from “trans-territory filler work”

Alex Mahon C4

C4 boss Alex Mahon: ”The secret of success is simplicity.”

During the keynote, the C4 chief warned viewers should be “wary of a future controlled by just the biggest players in tech.”

Mahon argued that television seems to be following the same model as the global food and drink industry: “Where the secret of success is simplicity. It’s about distributing the same recipe to lots of different markets.”

Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings said today that the streamer would step up its spend in the UK, its biggest production market outside the US.

Hastings said Netflix had spent £400m in the UK in 2019 and said there would be a “very large increase in how much content is produced here in the UK” next year.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “iPlayer is going to be total TV”, as he spelt out his plans for how the corporation can meet the challenge from the streaming platforms.

Hall said the BBC is transforming iPlayer streaming platform from a catch-up service into a destination in its own right. “iPlayer will be the place you go to for your news, your sport, the place you go to for drama, documentaries, live channels – everything we do.”

Hall added: “It’ll offer the very best of the BBC – all in one place – playing to our strengths: our liveness, the breadth of our genres and storytelling, the fact that we’re both local – and global.”

Sky group chief executive Jeremy Darroch explained some of the ways that the company plans to build up its new Sky Studios production division.

Sky Jeremy Darroch

Sky’s Jeremy Darroch: On its plan to build up its production division

He said that Sky plans to acquire and to take stakes in production companies, and to strike output deals with producers.

Asked how Sky might look to replicate the huge success of hit drama Chernobyl, Darroch said: “You replicate it by backing people and ideas, recognising what we can bring but allowing people the freedom to pursue great work…and then to put the full weight of the business behind it when it TXs.”