What I heard loud and clear from David Abraham, Channel 4′s Chief Exec, in conversation with Steve Hewlett at the Nations and Regions Conference in Manchester, was that he, and C4 are on a big diversity spree. Steve Hewlett launched the first salvo by asking, since the TV production staff involved in the Miriam O’Reilly case were being sent for retraining, would Abraham be sending his new Chief Creative Officer, Jay Hunt, on a training course too? Sitting in the row in front of me, Hunt burst out laughing, and Hewlett gracefully credited Kirsty Wark with the idea. Answer came there none from Abraham but what he did say was this – that the channel’s problem is “too much of the same old…” but that the struggle was that the current economic climate was “making risk much more expensive, but we’re Channel 4 – if we don’t take risks then who will?” He announced that C4 now considers all content across all platforms (thoughts from Matt Locke, Acting Head of Multiplatform at C4 may one day make it to this blog), and he then moved on to talk about “opening TV up to a full range of diverse talent” and the need for a diverse range of producers to do this. (www.mediaparents.co.uk has a diverse range of brilliant talent).
Mark Thompson might be taking over the CDN (http://www.culturaldiversitynetwork.co.uk/ – did you know that one way for indies to show they are fulfilling the CDN pledge is to work with www.mediaparents.co.uk?) – but C4 are putting their money where their mouth is in the form of The Alpha Fund “supporting grass roots talent”. £2 million will be used to fund the first stages of creative ideas, and will be allocated by the Creative Diversity Team. (Happily I managed to bump into Ade Rawcliffe who’s on the team just after the event, and we’re going to plot ways for the Creative Diversity Team to work with Media Parents). They’re putting money into talent spotting, and reopening the late night schedule for diverse talent. Abraham then quoted and named a lot of people, all of whom were blokes. We’ll get there. Watch this space for more information from Ade.
There’s a convergence fund too, dishing out £2 million in 2011 for apps and pioneering new ideas in creative TV. Abraham said that C4 would set “the first ever regional targets for digital media,” declaring “investment in online has to match the creativity and ambitions of our TV divisions”.
Jay Hunt had only been in her new role a week at the time of the conference, but she will be revealing the detailed manifesto for change before long, and C4′s ambition – “Our overriding aim is to be the best broadcaster to work with.”
Channel 4 works with www.mediaparents.co.uk, please make contact through the site if you would like to too. To hear podcasts from the Nations and Regions Conference please go here http://www.nationsandregionsmedia.org/