Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 483 - 499)


Ms Susan Woodward, Ms Alice Morrison, Mr Andrew Critchley and Mr Mike Spencer

  Q483  Chairman: Welcome and thank you very much for coming. I think you may have heard a bit of the previous evidence but basically we are in the second part of our study. We have already produced, as you may know, a first report but there were a number of areas which we did not have time to go into in detail and one of those is what I put under the generic title of regional broadcasting, although it goes rather deeper than that. Before we start, perhaps you could in a couple of sentences introduce yourselves. Shall we start from Mr Spencer and move down the table.

  Mr Spencer: I am Mike Spencer, the Managing Director of an independent production company based up in Manchester. I have been in broadcasting 20 years of which 18 have been spent in Manchester both at Granada, the BBC and in the independent sector.

  Ms Morrison: I am Alice Morrison, Chief Executive of North West Vision, which is a public agency whose role is to stimulate the TV, film and moving image economy in the North West.

  Q484  Chairman: Sorry to interrupt, so you do not make, you do not produce; you encourage?

  Ms Morrison: We do not produce but what we do do is, for example, we put funding into high-growth companies and we help them with production, development and so on.

  Q485  Chairman: Thank you.

  Ms Woodward: I am Susan Woodward, I am the Managing Director of ITV Granada; I am a Non-Executive Director of the Central Salford Urban Regeneration Company; and I am the Creative Director and Deputy Chairman of Liverpool Culture Company. My job is to drive the business for Granada in the North West and to make sure the environment is such that we can make high-quality productions at low cost or at a cost beneficial to the company's bottom line.

  Q486  Chairman: Good, so we have a voice from a Liverpool as well as from Manchester today?

  Ms Woodward: Yes.

  Mr Critchley: I am Andrew Critchley, the Managing Director of the Red Production Company. We are a drama producer based at Granada, we have made drama in the region for the past seven years, starting with Queer as Folk through to, more recently, Casanova. I am also Pact's North West representative.

  Q487  Chairman: Okay, thank you very much. Can I just then start with a fairly general question. What is your assessment of how much television and radio (because we are looking at that as well) production goes on in Manchester and the breakdown between the BBC and other broadcasters in the independent sector? What is your view of that?

  Ms Woodward: About 10 per cent of the UK's entire television production is made in Manchester. Of that Granada itself makes around about a minimum of 1,000 hours a year and that is made internally inside Granada Television and commissioned by Granada Television externally. Alice can give you some figures.

  Ms Morrison: In the most recent Ofcom report it is published that, for example, London gets £1.476 billion worth of production every year and Manchester is the next biggest centre with £210 million. That is across the genres. We are the biggest centre outside London but compared to London we are still very small.

  Ms Woodward: In addition to that ITV is committed to making 50 per cent of its network production for ITV One outside of London. As you may be aware, Ofcom have committed that as a quota going forward from January 2006. We have already hit that ceiling and are very happy to continue.

  Q488  Chairman: How do you compare with the other regional centres; Birmingham for example, where would that come in the league?

  Ms Woodward: ITV Granada is the biggest production centre outside of London and it dwarfs anybody else in the UK.

  Ms Morrison: As Sue said, it is 10 or 11 per cent of all the network programmes made at the moment in the North West. Within that we are talking about the North West as Liverpool as well as Manchester right through. The next biggest centre regionally is Yorkshire which has four per cent, so you can already see the differential.

  Q489  Chairman: So this is the natural media centre as far as the North West is concerned?

  Ms Morrison: Yes. We would say so because there is a sustainable infrastructure here already and there is a long history of production, as you will know from your screens, so there is potential for growth. What it needs now is that kick start into what could be phenomenal growth right across the industries. I think we are looking at the sunrise industries as well as traditional production.

  Q490  Chairman: And have you any estimate of how many people are employed in the independent sector?

  Ms Morrison: In TV it is very difficult. Five per cent of the entire population of the North West is employed in the creative industries, according to the latest report from the Cultural Consortium. I would be reluctant to break that down.

  Ms Woodward: Granada's current population is 1,200 people and it has been like that now for probably about a year.

  Q491  Chairman: How does that compare with, say, the BBC?

  Ms Woodward: The BBC here is around 700 to 800 people in Manchester.

  Q492  Chairman: But those 1,200 would be permanent staff, would they?

  Ms Woodward: Yes, although because of the nature of our industry an awful lot of our staff are called freelancers, who are people on fixed term contracts although we classify them as staff anyway. We consider all those 1,200 as staff members.

  Q493  Chairman: What about you, Mr Critchley, how many would you employ and how would you organise yourselves?

  Mr Critchley: We are a lot different because obviously it is a much smaller concern but we have a core staff of nine and on occasion in the past seven years we have had three or four productions running simultaneously, on average perhaps about 70 per production between cast and crew, so the payroll does fluctuate between nine and 350.

  Chairman: That is quite a range.

  Q494  Lord Peston: Could you define what you mean by "staff". Does that nine include your secretaries and all of that?

  Mr Critchley: Yes.

  Q495  Lord Peston: How many creative staff are in the nine? Without insulting the secretaries, nine seems so small to me, I would need that just to run a shop. You must be incredibly efficient?

  Mr Critchley: Yes. For the most part there is one PA assistant, there is me, a finance person, the chief executive of the company, who is the key creative part of it, and the rest are development staff.

  Q496  Chairman: So when you come to producing a programme or a series of programmes you commission, do you?

  Mr Critchley: A writer will come to us with a script and we will pitch it to a broadcaster and they will hopefully commission it. At that point we will crew up from a freelance pool that we share with Mike and Sue.

  Q497  Chairman: And that freelance population there are enough people here, are there, to sustain that?

  Mr Critchley: We do not crew up exclusively from the region. We find heads of department, the key creative personnel from wherever. We choose them based on their track record. For the most part, though, we try and crew up for the rest of them within the region for economic reasons as well as logistical reasons.

  Q498  Chairman: Do you find the same, Mr Spencer?

  Mr Spencer: Yes, Red Production do drama, we do factual programmes and documentaries, so we are less labour intensive, and we are able to draw 90 per cent of the staff we need—producers, directors, researchers—from the North West. And we also sometimes share staff with the BBC. We have had people on attachment from the BBC and vice versa.

  Q499  Chairman: How many do you employ essentially permanently full time?

  Mr Spencer: Permanently there are six of us in the United Kingdom, although we have got four people in Dublin, and I think the highest workforce we have ever had is about 40, and so in terms of freelance employees it will range between 10 and 40.

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