If you’re a TV professional in Glasgow on May 12th and want to learn more about Channel 4′s Editorial Ethics policies and do a spot of networking then please use the link at the bottom of this page to apply. UPDATE: THIS EVENT IS NOW AT CAPACITY, SEE YOU THERE IF YOU HAVE A PLACE ALREADY.
CREATIVE DIVERSITY AT CHANNEL 4
The Creative Diversity team is a first point of contact for new and emergent talent and oversees Channel 4’s commitment to wider diversity of supply. This includes key licence requirements – to reflect diversity of life across the UK and to ensure that at least 35% of original production is commissioned from outside London, with at least 3% of this should be from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales (the Nations).
What is Creative Diversity?
In his first keynote speech as CEO (search David on the Media Parents blog to read more), David Abraham said “We need to look to support great creative individuals, fund the work of smaller companies and reach those parts of the creative culture that other broadcasters cannot or dare not visit.” Creative Diversity signals an entirely new approach to diversity within Channel 4, focusing on diversity of content and supply, with an emphasis on driving the development and commissioning of content from new, diverse, grassroots talent throughout the UK.
What do you mean by diversity of supply?
In an era in which television has consolidated into a number of powerful companies it is important that Channel 4 keeps refreshing its commissioning culture and who supplies our programmes. Channel 4 has a world-class reputation for innovation and is ready to invest in the next generation of creative content. We seek to connect our viewers with ideas and talent that innovates and stimulates. This means accessing quality ideas from the widest range of content suppliers, our output and the people that shape our shows need to be as diverse as the contemporary UK society that they reflect. Channel 4 has much to be proud of in its programme output, but there is significant work yet to be done to live up to these ambitions.
What role does the Creative Diversity team play in commissioning?
Creative Diversity is principally at the front-end of the system connecting with talent. There is a dedicated team of Media Project Managers who work at the coal-face of commissioning, identifying ideas, strengthening propositions, funding development, and making companies more compelling for the wider commissioning culture to adopt. It’s a role that many other industries take for granted – A&R in music and fashion buyers work in a similar way. It’s about identifying and selecting talent ahead of the system. We also implement Channel 4’s wider plans for producer outreach. In February 2012 Channel 4’s Chief Creative Officer Jay Hunt launched a new era of outreach committing Heads of Department and Commissioning Editors to work with more new and regional companies.
Can you fund projects?
Yes. We have dedicated funds and have already funded a number of projects, some of which are on air. We have been tasked with being closer to grassroots creative communities, often in advance of commissioning editors, to talent spot, to shape smart ideas and to develop them for the wider creative diversity of the company. We have soft-launched the £2m Alpha Fund. Any Media Project Manager in the team is able to support diversity of supply and kick-start original ideas that can grow in scale and ambition. As with all Channel 4 funded projects, these ideas must come from companies, unfortunately we can’t provide assistance to members of the freelance community or individuals who aren’t from a limited independent production company.
What is the Alpha Fund?
The Alpha Fund is a £2m development and production fund available to independent production companies, designed to support ideas, talent and emergent companies and to enrich Channel 4’s reputation for creativity. We describe it as a new grassroots innovation and authorship fund which is intended to fund the very first stages of creative ideas. It is a completely unique annual fund aimed at supporting our diversity of supply by providing outstanding talent with a route of entry into an increasingly competitive commercial media environment. When it was launched in January 2011 it was described as follows: “The Alpha Fund is designed to identify and support creative talent at its earliest stage. Our principles are to make the money count, not to tie it up in process and complex application systems.” We have deliberately avoided web-application systems, complex rules or over-bearing contractual hurdles. We think new companies want creative engagement not hurdles.
Do you have targets and quotas?
The Channel 4 remit requires us to be distinctive and innovative. Our Tier 1 regulatory requirements mean that we have to ensure that, in addition to providing 8 hours of News and Current Affairs programming weekly in primetime, at least 65% of our output must originate in the UK, and 35% of those hours and spend must from outside the M25 – 3% of this must come from the Nations.
We are constantly exceeding our content targets, but we don’t have per capita targets based on nation or region. The emphasis is well and truly on getting the highest quality content from the widest possible range of creative suppliers. In his Salford address David Abraham also outlined Channel 4’s voluntary commitment to match regional targets for online output as well: “Channel 4 is passionate about stimulating next generation creativity and together with the two new funds we have announced, we aim to match or exceed our regional targets online, on digital interactive platforms. It’s a self-imposed target but one we believe to be in the spirit of our role as a catalyst for creativity and is further evidence of Channel 4 Online’s ongoing integration into a single cross platform content division.”
What do you do for Black and Multi-Ethnic companies?
This is another significant strand of our work. In fact, since the launch of the new team, it has been the area we have invested in the most. To date we have commissioned 8 companies with an ethnically diverse background. Channel 4 believes that this is an area in which we can do significantly more and that reflecting a contemporary and culturally diverse Britain is at the very forefront of our creative reputation. Through our proactive membership of the Cultural Diversity Network, we also seek to influence all our production companies to consider the diversity of their talent base. (Working with Media Parents is one way that companies can show they are fulfilling the CDN Diversity Pledge – contact us through www.mediaparents.co.uk for more info). We have two dedicated Media Project Managers who are based in our London office, and equipped with the funds and the passion to support that creative community.
What do you do for regional talent?
Regional diversity is one of the key strands of our work. The Creative Diversity team evolved out of Channel 4’s Nations and Regions division, which from 2000 – 2010 had a transformative impact on our regional spend : budgets increased from £55m to £125m annually. But we could do more, and we are doing more. The Media Project Managers are more deeply embedded within the creative communities across the UK and the Creative Diversity Team works across the UK with desks in Channel 4’s London HQ, in our Glasgow Editorial Office and in cities across the UK, where there is a significant independent production base. Inevitably, we cannot be in all places all the time, but if groups or networks of producers are keen on bespoke or specific contact, we will always attend. Channel 4 will hold briefings in up to 10 regional cities in 2011. (Click on the link below to sign up for the Glasgow event on May 12th).
What kind of projects are you looking for?
The Alpha Fund is about commissioning development based on ideas, first and foremost, rather than a checklist of subjects. Like many of our genre departments we care about the passion that a producer brings with their idea. That means we are less keen on ideas that are derivative of shows and/or international formats that already exist. It’s important to emphasise that Channel 4 is a contemporary UK broadcaster and more likely to be at the leading edge of our society than other comparable channels. This has a real bearing on the diversity of ideas we are interested in. For our team, it’s probably best to avoid derivative and familiar formats. The only requirement is that ideas are clearly targeted at Channel 4 – its audience, its values, and that they “feel” 4 in ambition and focus. There is no limitation on size or scale, but proposals do need to come from companies, rather than individuals.
You support the Cultural Diversity Network – what role does it play in your work?
Channel 4 is a signatory to the Cultural Diversity Network Pledge and as such, is committed to improving diversity within its own operations and across the industry as a whole. However as a publisher broadcaster, it is the responsibility of each independent company to ensure the diversity of its workforce. We do however encourage all of the independent companies supplying our content to sign up to the CDN Diversity Pledge.
The Cultural Diversity Network Pledge has been a great tool in encouraging our industry to embrace diversity in all its forms. As one of the UK’s major broadcasters, C4 seeks to attract its audience from the broadest range of backgrounds and attitudes, as a reflection of contemporary UK society. However for Channel 4 content to be diverse, we need to ensure that our suppliers are also embracing the diversity challenge.
Do you fund digital ideas?
Channel 4 has pioneered a number of ways of supporting digital creativity across games, interactive education and cross platform commissioning. After a period of internal change we now have a group of dedicated cross-platform online commissioners – ‘embedded in TV genres’ – who frequently work with new and emergent companies and digital agencies. Creative Diversity team contribute to this general trend. The first raft of commissions facilitated by the Creative Diversity team, were in the interactive games and entertainment sector in Dundee, an emergent hotspot of new media production. The Alpha Fund will sit alongside Channel 4’s Convergent Formats Fund, also worth £2 million in 2011. David Abraham described this investment as follows: “The Convergent Formats Fund will invest in ideas, apps and creative concepts for the next generation of connected TV like YouView. It will pioneer new ideas for a new generation of broadcast television and the objective is to become the partner of choice for the most imaginative digital media companies in the UK.”
Do you give slate or company development funding?
No, not normally. We are keen to work on the best ideas and try to make them happen, rather than fund the range of a company’s work. We understand that particularly for smaller companies, funding development is expensive, as well as important, but we’d rather focus on the best idea rather than cover the overhead, that’s why funding from the Alpha Fund is on a project by project basis. There is no limit to how many times in a year you can approach the team for funding, you just need to be armed with your best ideas.
Where do I get further information?
Almost all the information you will need is in this document, and anything we haven’t covered, our staff can talk to you about face-to-face. We have a corporate producers’ site at www.4producers.co.uk but we believe that face-to-face dialogue is always more effective. Channel 4 runs briefings across the UK, from creative breakfasts to sessions with genre commissioners. If you feel disconnected from one of these networks, then talk to a Media Project Manager. Channel 4 wants to be the best broadcaster to business with for new, independent creative companies. If you have any thoughts about how we might improve our performance in indie relations or Creative Diversity, please contact the Director of Creative Diversity, Stuart Cosgrove.
Ade Rawcliffe Ade’s role as Media Project Manger at Channel 4 is driving the commissioning of content from new, diverse, grassroots talent throughout the UK. Prior to joining Channel 4, she worked as a Producer across both the BBC and the independent sector with credits including Big Brother, Right to Reply, and The Big Breakfast. She is always looking for ways to develop diverse talent and plays a key part in Channel 4’s ongoing commitment to reflecting the diversity of contemporary Britain in all its variety. Ade is a Nigerian from Macclesfield and has worked in the North West of England, where she maintains close contacts
Caroline Cawley is Creative Diversity’s team co-ordinator leading on all major events for the team along with some brand new projects. She is also working on a new strategy to engage Channel 4 with diverse and isolated groups such as the Trans Community. Her sensitivity and open mind are key in this role.
Caroline gained a wealth of experience in Events and Marketing for a range of luxury Scottish brands, prior to joining Channel 4’s Nations and Regions Department over two years ago.
Charlotte Black is based in Bristol and works across the South West and Wales. She has worked as an Executive Producer and Senior Talent manager at Channel 4 since 1990 when she joined as a Commissioning Executive in the Factual Department. Charlotte is currently on sabbatical and will return to the team later in 2011. Charlotte Black began life in TV as a series producer in the independent sector making docs and features programmes for a variety of companies including Planet 24, Wall to Wall, Wild and Fresh and Diverse and her passion is ensuring creative diversity by casting in a risky way.
Ian MacKenzie Ian is a Media Project Manager for Channel 4’s Creative Diversity team. Working out of Glasgow; Ian’s portfolio encompasses companies across Scotland, Wales and the West Country. His previous role at Channel 4 was as Acquisitions Manager for 4DVD, securing commercial hit successes such as Skins, Inbetweeners & Misfits.
Ravi Amaratunga is Creative Diversity Team Assistant working across all Media Project Managers Portfolios and overseeing several projects of his own. Ravi comes from a film and drama background, having previously worked in the independent sector as a development executive and producing several digital and live action short films.
Stuart Cosgrove is the Director of Creative Diversity, he was formerly Channel 4’s Commissioner of Independent Film and Video, Controller of Arts and Entertainment and acts as a senior figure in commissioning, overseeing our activity outside London as Director of Nations and Regions. Stuart also represents Channel 4 as a strategic partnership manager across the UK, and chaired Scotland’s national Digital Media Strategy – Digital Inspiration.
Susie Wright prior to becoming a Media Project Manager, Susie worked in the Channel 4 Commercial Affairs Department having spent 4 years working at the regional screen agency for Northern Ireland putting together funding packages for feature films and TV projects and offering support to the local industry. This experience has been a vital part of her current role which involves in particular, engagement with the NI sector. A graduate of languages and law from Newcastle University, she is perfectly placed to engage with the regional screen industry in the North East of England and beyond.