TV critics say they have no influence over audiences, yet producers live in fear of a negative review – which critics admit is much more fun to write.
Reflecting a common view, Scots TV critic for The Sun, Ally Ross said: “I don’t think we influence viewing figures one little bit, I don’t think we can turn viewers onto a show or off it.”
He was speaking at 'Meet the TV Critics', at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, which gave programme makers the opportunity to come face to face with, and challenge, some of the 'most revered armchair experts', from The Sun, The Guardian, News of The World and The Times.
It also doesn’t matter what the readers like: “I don’t care really what the readers think. If you start thinking, 'Oh the readers like this programme, I can’t slag it off', there is no point doing it,” said News of The World critic, Ian Hyland.
The debate – chaired by Tim Hincks, chief executive of Endemol UK – threw up some lively discussion about the critics' most loved and hated programmes, with very few unanimous verdicts from the panel. However, one point that was agreed on by everyone was the need for Reality Television executives to take more responsibility in ensuring contestants are physiologically fit to appear on their show.
The Scheme, a gritty fly-on-the-wall documentary aired on BBC Scotland was triumphed by Grace Dent of The Guardian, not as 'poverty porn' as it has been described, but as the uncomfortable truth about the depths of poverty in which some people still live in Scotland. With the exception of Limmy’s Show, another Scottish production, it was the only mention to be given to a programme made north of the border.
Said Dent, speaking after the event to allmediascotland: “We don’t shy away from reviewing Scottish programmes, we just don’t find out about them. The programmes aren’t networked so you have to go and find them and people just don’t do it. Basically, it is an oversight and something I would like to change, there are some brilliant Scottish shows.”