Gallagher calls for regional TV quality over quantity

THE Scottish producer of hit TV shows, Footballers’ Wives and Who Do You Think You Are?, has said that regional programmes should be every bit as high-quality as the network counterparts – or they shouldn’t be made at all.

Eileen Gallagher, chief executive of Shed Media Productions, was speaking last week at a public debate, in Edinburgh, about public service broadcasting.

She said: “I’ve probably done more commissioning of regional programmes than anyone living… Maybe my 15 years of making and commissioning regional programmes – and trying to get people to watch them – have left me slightly jaded.

“Don’t get me wrong, well-funded regional/local news is essential.

“But for regional programmes, I tend to believe that less is more – fewer programmes, if that’s what it takes for them to be properly-funded.

“But they must stand on their own against network broadcasts or not be broadcast at all. Otherwise, they are not a source of national pride but instead feed a sneaking suspicion that we aren’t as good at producing TV than our counterparts in London or in the US.”

Gallagher spent ten years commissioning programmes for stv and a five more commissioning for Granada, LWT, Yorkshire and Tyne Tees.

She continued: “Let us tell the stories, make the programmes we want to watch, but let’s make them good enough for the world to see… The great thing about high end, high quality content is that it’s exportable.”

Shed is currently filming Hope Springs, set in Scotland and for broadcast at peak time on BBC1. It is about four female ex-cons trying to go ‘straight’.

Gallagher added: “Scotland has spent too much time and effort throwing public money into the Holy Grail of feature films. Films that, even if they do get made, rarely get seen. That is not just a Scottish issue, but a UK-wide obsession too.

“There are 17 film writing courses funded by [audio-visual training body] Skillset in the UK and only one course for TV writing – in Leicester – not funded by Skillset.

“That is why Shed Media is working with Glasgow Caledonian University and with the help of BBC Scotland to set up a post-graduate course to develop fiction writers for television.

This will be open to students from all over the UK and abroad. Our aim is make Scotland the centre of excellence for TV fiction writing in the UK and internationally.”

Shed is planning to open its first office in Scotland sometime early next year, near the BBC Scotland and stv headquarters at Pacific Quay, in Glasgow, in a ‘digital media quarter’ being developed by Scottish Enterprise.