Quotas Still Necessary, to Keep TV Companies in Work

It said something for the unanimity of debate at a session at today’s Edinburgh International TV Festival that the biggest round of applause went to a comment made on a video clip shown to get discussion going.

Said Angela Smith, of independent TV production company, Turn On TV: Limit commissions – from the likes of the BBC and Channel 4 – to London-based production companies to twenty per cent, to reflect its share of the UK population.

The clip teed up a debate which featured David Strachan, of Scottish indie, Tern; Stuart Cosgrove, director, Nations and Regions, at Channel 4; Menna Richards, Controller, BBC Wales; and Blair Jenkins, chair of the newly-set up Scottish Broadcasting Commission. ‘The Great Nations and Regions Swindle’ was chaired by The Guardian’s Matt Wells.

Strachan was closest to endorsing Smith by saying the figure of out-of-London commissions should be between 50 and 60 per cent. Quotas, agreed everyone, were necessary.

“Quotas are important. If the BBC wishes to reflect the UK, so it should support the creative industries across the UK,” said Richards.

But quotas were, as Cosgrove remarked, a ‘blunt’ instrument to help develop creative talent outside London.

The commissioning of Dr Who from BBC Wales initially encountered a lack of production talent to deliver the first series. But a talent pool began to build, as subsequent series began to be planned.

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