The author completed 150 interviews not only with executive producers but with BBC and ITV channel controllers and top genre commissioners. Playing a supporting role are another 200 interviews, which were the basis of the author’s 1993 book, Television Producers. Since 1990, and especially since 2008, British television production has faced financial challenges. Meanwhile, BSkyB, Virgin Media and Channel Five are American controlled, and most of the larger London ‘independent’ production companies are now American or Euro-American owned and operated. Public service broadcasting in general, and BBC television in particular, are threatened with probable further decline. This book offers new insights into the state of British television through the eyes of those working on the inside.
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- Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. VIII, 400 pp., 1 table
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Chapter 1: The BBC and Public Service Genres in Jeopardy
- BBC ‘public service’: Outdated by digital?
- The BBC and national newspaper hostility
- BBC: Twenty-one TV genres and twenty TV/radio channels
- Quality/popular BBC1 and 2 and specialist BBC3 and 4
- Conflict: BBC chairman versus BBC director general
- BBC technology and survival strategies
- Chapter 2: UK Commercial Television Trembles
- ITV and advertising-funded television leadership
- Also advertising funded: Four, Five, UKTV
- BSkyB and Virgin cable: UK subscription, US ownership
- Hollywood, Silicon Valley and British commercial television
- How American is British commercial television?
- Chapter 3: Executive Producers, Independent Production and Celebrity
- The hierarchy: Producers, channel controllers, commissioners
- Independent producers: Going corporate and US/European owned
- Producer power: Defining celebrity
- Executive producers and genres
- Chapter 4: Drama and Soap: Most Popular Genres
- TV drama highs (1970s, 2000s and 2010s) and lows (1985–2000)
- Drama serials versus quality popular series
- Drama commissioners
- Drama exec producers and independent producers
- Writers, actors, directors
- Soaps: Truly British, truly popular
- Classics, Bleak House and costume drama
- Crime as story engine
- Television drama dilemmas
- Chapter 5: BBC News Dominance
- BBC News versus the competition
- BBC leads UK press and broadcast news agenda
- Fast track careers and news bureaucracies
- News executives in charge and in crisis
- Political editors: Top agenda setters
- Financial news
- London’s four decades as world TV news hub
- Since 2008: Decline of London as TV news hub
- Television news: Growth and decline
- Chapter 6: First Casualty: Current Affairs
- Big strong stories and small weak current affairs
- Policy talk and ten minute current affairs
- Decline from current affairs golden age?
- Its production system survived but will current affairs?
- Chapter 7: Traditional Public Service BBC Genres in Decline: Education, Natural History, Science, Arts, Children’s and Religion
- Education television: Boom and bust
- Natural history: Genre in decline
- Science: Another genre in decline
- Arts on TV: Dilemmas and decline
- Children’s TV: A story of Hollywood dominance
- TV religion: From worship to factual fragments
- Six traditional public genres in decline
- Chapter 8: Flourishing Public Service Genres: Documentary, History, Travel
- Observational documentary series: Hospitals, war, prison, school, family
- Topic docs: America, Royals, Muslims
- History has a great TV future
- TV history’s classics and TV future
- Travel: Documentary and history journey
- Chapter 9: Comedy, Big Entertainment and Talk
- From stand-up to sit-down panel comedy
- Comedians and TV comedy
- Big entertainment
- The talk genre
- Producers, agents, entertainment industry
- Golden oldies: Everlasting repetition?
- Chapter 10: Factual Entertainment Formats Prosper: Cooking, Homes, Quiz/Game, Reality
- Formatted food and chef charisma
- House and home formats
- Quiz and game shows
- Formatted ‘reality’ TV: Big Brother, business, dating
- Chapter 11: TV Sports: Live, Formatted, Monetised
- Formatted football and short form sport
- Long form sport on television
- Sports stars and managers
- TV sports producers and talkers
- UK television and the sports industrial complex
- Chapter 12: TV Policy in Fragments, Genres in Jeopardy
- Decisive factors: Prime Minister, press, finance, Hollywood
- Policy in fragments: Committees, Parliament, departments
- New channels and technologies: Genre and Hollywood consequences
- UK cultural policy in fragments
- UK audio-visual policy: A century of unanticipated outcomes
- Thatcher’s great satellite policy crash
- 1980s committees: Amateur, arrogant, ignorant
- OFCOM: Hesitant regulator
- Selected Bibliography
Chapter 2: UK Commercial Television Trembles
UK Commercial Television Trembles
Commercial television (of various kinds) attracts about seventy per cent of all UK TV viewing. The two main ways of funding this commercial television are advertising and subscription. The licence fee is reserved for the BBC (and its thirty per cent of viewing).
Despite the huge growth of the internet and of handheld devices, the typical Briton still views television programming for about twenty-six hours a week compared with twenty-one hours in 1982. This includes about eighteen hours a week of viewing commercial TV (against eight hours watching BBC). Viewing on mobile phones and other mobile devices has largely been added to time spent viewing conventional television. This parallels the continuing strong UK performance of Hollywood TV, to which has been added the strong UK performance of Silicon Valley.
ITV (Independent Television) had a monopoly of UK commercial television for twenty-seven years (1955–82). The legislative intention was to combine the best of the BBC with the best elements of early 1950s American television. In the early 1950s the US television industry was still located in New York and the programming was produced by advertising professionals. Madison Avenue advertising was deeply implanted into the programming with, for example, the comedy star smoking the sponsor’s cigarettes and stressing the health benefits. The London 1953–4 legislative process focused heavily on reducing such advertising abuses, but largely ignored programming issues. However, after the Pilkington Committee report (1962), ITV...
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