Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500
TUESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2005
Ms Susan Woodward, Ms Alice Morrison, Mr Andrew Critchley
and Mr Mike Spencer
It is very interesting what both of you are saying because you
are obviously very slim-line certainly compared with the numbers
we are normally used to dealing with, but when you come to a production,
whether it is a documentary or whether it is drama, there is no
difficulty in finding the skills to actually produce the programmes?
Mr Spencer: No. You will be aware that in the
media industry there is a lot of mobility amongst the labour force,
perhaps to a regrettable extent but that just reflects the vicissitudes
of commissioning and the business these days. It is a very large
Q501 Lord Maxton:
Who trains these skilled staff? The BBC have a reputation for
doing it. Are they the only people doing it?
Ms Woodward: They are not the only people. In
this region, Granada train more freelance staff than any other
media organisation. We commit around about 1,100 training days
per year to purely train the freelance sector in this region.
That is because we require their skills to be as good as our internal
staff's skills are and we need to equip the freelance staff with
the same skills. Also Granada help train the freelance staff for
everybody in the market although we incur all the costs.
Obviously as you employ more I suppose logically one would expect
you to train more.
Ms Woodward: Yes, absolutely but we have a training
ethos behind it. We believe the best programmes can only be made
with the best technology but because technology changes so rapidly
in our industry training is an on-going commitment and you have
to train otherwise you cannot deliver the quality of product.
You do not mind? The normal complaint about training is you train
someone up and immediately they go off and join Red or someone
Mr Critchley: But they go back then because
we do not employ them all the time. We employ nine people all
the time and our average over the past seven years, totting up
what we have made over the years, we are coming up to our hundredth
hour of drama, which, you are probably aware, is the most expensive
form, and our £75th million worth of production. On average
over the last seven years our payroll has probably been around
120 given that productions start and end at different times.
I know you said you did not always come to the North West, you
did not always base your productions in the North West; am I right
Mr Critchley: Wherever possible we do.
What I was going to ask was is there any reluctance to move to
the North West? Is there reluctance from people to work in and
Mr Critchley: From freelancers?
Mr Critchley: No.
Mr Critchley: We have attracted both production
crew and talent. Last year we had Peter O'Toole here which took
a lot of doing but we got him here. We get key talent from wherever
we find them.
Ms Morrison: Can I answer about crew because
we run a database for freelancers and we have got 1,500 people
on it just from the North West all of whom have had a new television
credit in the past six months which means they are working all
They are freelancers?
Ms Morrison: They are freelancers but they come
through and they go to all the broadcasters and all the independents.
The second thing I would like to add which I think is very, very
important for this move, is that Manchester is here, Leeds is
here, Liverpool is here and the North is up here, so basically
people come in. It takes me less time to get from Leeds to Manchester
than it used to take me to get from Camden to Shepherd's Bush
when I worked for the BBC in London. That is just fact.
You are luckier on that journey than I am.
Ms Woodward: Could I just add on training freelance
staff, Granada has no problem about training freelance staff,
we are very happy to share that with Red Productions or MMA or
anybody else who is based in the North West. What is a struggle
for us is we train staff and invest sometimes years of time and
cashflow and they drift slowly to London because there is not
sufficient work here to utilise the skill base that we are training
Q510 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
Speaking as someone whose career has been in television production,
I understand exactly what you are saying, but it does expose something
which is that it is a very mobile workforce and you do tend to
use people you work well with and who have done good jobs, so
in a way it is a fallacy that moving a lot of production here
is going to mean a lot of work for people based here because everyone
moves around a lot anyway.
Mr Critchley: A lot of talent moved to London
in the first place, it was not all born in London. It follows
the work and all the work should be spread out and television
should reflect the whole country back on itself.
Q511 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
But the people you are going to be employing are not necessarily
going to come from this area.
Ms Woodward: Not to start with but once we entice
them back to this area they will stay.
Mr Critchley: They may well have been born here
in the first place.
Ms Woodward: Mike and I are very good examples
of that. Mike and I started our careers at Granada Manchester.
We both then went at different times to the BBC in this building.
I then went to London because at that timeand it probably
still holds trueif you did not make the grade in London
you were seen as somebody who was just a regional player.
Q512 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
This is working for Granada?
Ms Woodward: The BBC. I have worked for ITV,
the BBC and Channel Four. There is still, I think, a perception
as a professional broadcaster that unless you have worked for
some time in London, you are not as good or as creative or as
talented as the people there. Basically, as Andrew says, people
follow the work and therefore the more work we can bring to this
region and the more sustainable production, people can actually
put roots down, buy a house, have a partner, have children who
go to schools rooted within this region. We have managed to do
it, but for other people to do that who want to share a different
quality of life in this part of the UK, there needs to be more
Q513 Bishop of Manchester:
Let's look into the crystal ball (which is probably a phrase I
ought not to be using and certainly not on public record) let's
imagine that the BBC has arrived here in Manchester with the move
about which we know and the hub is underway. What from your point
of view do you anticipate will be the difference in how you operate,
and how broadcasting as a whole in the North West will be affected?
I imagine there will be big changes. Could you just spell some
of them out for us.
Ms Woodward: As part of ITV's 50th anniversary
which is this year, in case you had not noticed, we commissioned
an economic impact study for ITV Granada to see what the value
is of ITV Granada's physical presence to the region and we have
submitted copies as evidence to the Committee today. The major
findings of that are our physical presence here creates economic
value in the region of £127 million and because we are here
we create and support 4,500 jobs, both internally and down the
supply chain. Our wages and salaries alone are £34 million
and our gross spend in the regional economy about £67 million.
We spend a great deal with local suppliers. We are a real economic
generator for the economy of this region. We can do that with
a staff of 1,200 people based on the amount of hours that we do.
If we imagine the BBC arrive here with 1,600 new jobs and also
the commissioning and we put those two parts together, the multiplier
effect on the economy of this region would be enormous. The first
impact would be enormous economic growth. Secondly, we will be
able to, hopefully, retain the talent in which we invest and train
and share with our colleagues in the independent sector. Hopefully
then, we will therefore be able to attract new talent back to
the north, their homeland, or people who feel there is a new buzz
and excitement and energy about the region. With the economic
impact and talent impact we think we can be the UK's premier creative
city and as a result attract new and emerging industries. Google
have recently opened an office in Manchester. The Bank of New
York have made their European base in Manchester in July of next
year. So we are already seen as a magnet for emerging and new
industries in the creative sector and the financial sector that
support those. For me the BBC arriving here would not just take
us on a journey that is already underway, because together we
already make a powerful creative cluster, the BBC arriving here
will jettison us into the future whereby we may take 25 or 30
years to get there with the current creative sector we have, but
we could achieve that in four or five years.
Q514 Bishop of Manchester:
Would anybody else like to come in on that?
Ms Morrison: I think there is a very significant
cultural argument here in that we live in difficult times when
citizenship and community cohesion are incredibly important and
it is important that the region speaks for the nation as well.
We are the North and we have a North-South divide, I do not think
you can deny that. I think it is extremely important that we are
represented on the screen and use the talent we have and start
working with communities that traditionally have been neglected
by the media in the media. Also very importantly the way we do
that is not through anything patronising or boring or the same
as it has always been. It is using new technology, it is using
innovation, and it is using the departments the BBC is planning
to bring up here because they are the departments of the future.
So let's start using that to really grow something different and
what I would like to see happen is not only that the BBC grows
Manchester but we need to change broadcasting. We are a centre
of innovation, we always have been, and that is what we should
be drawing on and pumping through. As well as an economic argument,
which I completely support, I do think there is that other wider
argument that we should be becoming
Ms Woodward: Alice is absolutely right, we are
very mindful of that at ITV Granada for two reasons, not purely
altruistic but also from a sound business point of view. We know
that we need to make our programmes as relevant to as wide a sector
of society as we can otherwise that sector of society that chooses
not to watch us because they do not feel represented will simply
turn to watching other broadcasters and we will lose advertising
revenue as a consequence of that. It is very important that our
programmes at the moment diversify into modern day UK plc. That
does not happen by default. You have to take radical action to
make those things happen. ITV Granada have embarked this year
on a scheme going into next year to tackle that directly. We went
out to communities all over the North West based on black and
ethnic minority groups and we have interviewed 1,000 young people
to give them a one-year bursary opportunity at Granada, to come
and work on a salaried basis to be trained, to be mentored, with
no guarantee of a job at the end of this one year experience but
at least they will have their foot in the door. The young people
we have taken on have first-class degrees from Oxbridge and they
have never ever been able to get through the front door. That
is our industry's issue and we know that is something we need
to tackle. If we could extend that programme in year two and we
have an expanding BBC in the future (we already roll the scheme
across independent colleagues) it will make an enormous difference
to the make-up in the future of the indigenous broadcasters and
what ultimately we see on our screens.
Q515 Bishop of Manchester:
You will appreciate that I have to be very careful not to hand
opportunities to you to say how marvellous Manchester is! I really
do now want to explore what are inevitably some minuses in all
this and ask you, given all the advantages that you have very
helpfully outlined about coming here with the media hub and everything,
what disadvantages do you see might arise over all this or is
it a completely happy path ahead with no problemsand I
cannot believe it?
Mr Spencer: Speaking as an independent particularly
one working in the area of factual documentary and drama documentary,
none of the departments moving up here will be much use to me
and my company and so I will continue to help out Richard Branson
by going down the Virgin West Coast Line at least three or four
times a month. So although the BBC's presence in Manchester will
do all the things as described and a lot more, from my own point
of view it is perhaps a shame that more commissioning power is
not being brought up here. I know there is within sport and CBBC
but perhaps across other genres.
Just explain to us what you mean by that?
Mr Spencer: I spend a lot of time going down
talking to commissioning editors within factual departments of
the BBC and none of those departments are moving north and so
from my point of viewand I suspect it is the same Andrew
and drama commissioningI will still spend a lot of time
travelling to London and being slightly the country mouse turning
up in the big city and having our meetings in White City and scurrying
off to Euston. I do not think that will change a lot. There are
companies based in Manchester who make children's programmes and
no doubt that will help them a lot, but the vast majority in terms
of volume of hours remains, I would think, within factual programming
and the commissioning process for that remains in London.
Q517 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
Can I ask that question back to front perhaps of Mr Critchley
with your Pact hat on and as a drama producer. Is there a concern
that because the BBC is such a big beast and it comes here with
its specific departments that this becomes an area for niche production,
if you see what I mean, so that drama is driven out and the production
companies here concentrate on the particular areas that the BBC
are commissioning from here?
Mr Critchley: I do not think there is any danger
of us deciding not to produce in the drama genre as a result,
but our commissioning does come from London, so our trips to London
to secure those commissions mean less money goes on screen. The
BBC have recently commissioned a long-running series or a potentially
long-running series from us and from other producers in the North.
As far as Pact is concerned, Pact would strongly back the move
because the talent pool that would be attracted back here is flexible
within genres. You can point the same camera or roughly the same
camera at a drama production as a children's production. You hold
the sound boom in the same place to record Bob the Builder
as you do to record Clocking Off.
Q518 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
You are obviously an established company, but in the future will
the kind of production companies that will set up here be ones
that are dealing with sport and children's production?
Ms Morrison: In 2002 we did a survey of the
independents in the North West and there were 70 independent production
companies, of which only four had a turnover of over £4 million
a year. Because of the BBC move and because we have started to
try actively to get companies to set up a base here, that situation
has completely transformed and they are across genre. Because
of the Communications Act broadcasters have a regional quota,
so regardless companies are now taking advantage of that and what
they are saying is, "Right, we have got to do something in
the regions," if we are being honest they are saying, "Oh
no, we have got to do something in the regions, we have got to
leave the comfort of where we are so where we are going to do
it . . ." and they go right across the country but they also
look for a sustainable hub. I think that is the point. Having
a big beast, or in fact two big beasts because you do have Granada
Productions here as well, and having some really solid companies
sat here on either side of me is enough to be attractive. It is
not like you are going somewhere where there is no television
production. So I think that is very important. There is also no
doubt that it would offer incredible benefits to all the independents
were a channel to move here with the commissioning power and what
it brings with it. It may not bring lots of people but it would
bring spend and it would bring spend across genres. There is no
doubt that would help the independent sector tremendously.
Q519 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Following up a point on that because obviously the Communications
Act has made a big difference in that respect, just thinking about
the plus side, if the BBC comes and if they get settled in and
everything works out well, presumably it might even influence
some of the factual news side to think of having a rather bigger
presence here, so it mightmight it, I am asking youhave
Mr Spencer: I think we would really hope that
that would be the case. There is a factual presence already in
Manchester. I am not sure of the number of people they employ
but there is a successful current affairs and news successful
presence up here. I used to work for it some years ago until the
BBC in its wisdom decided that religion and entertainment programmes
should replace current affairs up here.