Examination of Witnesses (Questions 540
TUESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2005
Ms Susan Woodward, Ms Alice Morrison, Mr Andrew Critchley
and Mr Mike Spencer
In your internal assessment, if you put up a project which was
not going to wash its face for 25 years that would be quite a
Ms Woodward: I do not think I would even dare
sell it into my bosses.
Ms Morrison: Could I mention something about
this because, taking it slightly differently, for us it is about
sustainable production. It is not just about buildings and fixed
assets. It really is about sustainable production. Again due to
the opportunities that have arisen in the last two years we are
looking at the independent sector growing by £20 million
in this region over the next two years. That is an enormous growth
and the reasons for that are increased sustainable production.
The economic benefit has to be measured slightly more widely I
thinkand I am not an economistbut it seems to me
common sense that if there is an increase of £20 million
in what was a tiny struggling sector and that is sustainable,
that is of great benefit.
Chairman: Okay. Baroness Howe?
Q541 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Well also presumably we will be hearing in rather more detail
from the BBC whether they are beginning to change their view.
Just looking at the collaboration between Granada and the BBC.
3sixtymedia, which we saw a bit of earlier today, is a fascinating
concept. Were there any problems as it developed and are there
any lessons for the future?
Ms Woodward: The answer is yes to both of those
Q542 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Perhaps you would expand.
Ms Woodward: It was and still is a unique initiative.
To take a state-funded broadcaster and an aggressive, in the nicest
sense of the word, commercial broadcaster and ask them to share
facilities was an extraordinary step forward. It was in our mutual
interests to do that because we wanted to keep a maximum amount
of studio production and space in the North, so we had a common
ground. Then you came up against obstacles, as you do with any
business venture that shares equity agreed in the beginning at
90 per cent in favour of Granada and 10 per cent to the BBC, and
perhaps that was something we should have looked at differently
at that time. The BBC therefore did not have an enormous inducement
to actually put product through that joint venture company. That
is further compounded by the fact that the BBC still to date operates
producer choice so their producers could opt to take their programmes
to other production facilities and not necessarily put the business
through the joint venture company, so we did not have the absolute
guarantee of any business being brought to Manchester coming through
that vehicle. I suppose the biggest cultural difference between
ITV Granada and the BBC is in terms of how we speak, the language
we use, the different emphasis we put on working practices. All
of these things took a lot of time to iron out. Having ironed
those out, it works pretty well. The staff have settled in and
we all feel part of one interesting, opportunistic venture. The
big question is what the BBC wants to do about joint ventures
if the one in Manchester is successful and they move north.
Q543 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
How were they ironed out? You explained the differences very effectively
but what happened to make it work better?
Ms Woodward: If I give you an example of something
that can show case how the JV helped to underpin both of our businesses.
We had a very famous drama writer from this part of the world
who made extraordinary, award-winning and internationally renowned
brands for ITV Granada and then his relationship with Granada
changed and he associated with the BBC and, as a result of that,
BBC Drama commissioned work from this particular writer. However,
it was made in Manchester as part of 3sixtymedia and therefore
ITV Granada forged a new relationship with that script writer
and in fact that script writer is about to make yet another, hopefully,
award-winning drama for ITV Granada. So we now manage the talent
effectively for the team and we all share a common focus that
we want to keep production in the North and we strive to achieve
the same high quality level of output because we have pride in
our output. The passage of time has allowed the cultures to cross-fertilise
with each other.
Q544 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Have you any other thoughts about this on how it affected all
Mr Spencer: Looking at it, I was at Granada
when 3sixty began and it certainly was not a marriage made in
heaven. As Sue points out, the BBC very effectively exerted their
choice by not going to 3sixty. I think the personnel have changed
and that is probably the key to it. The nature of Granada and
Manchester has changed considerably and perhaps there are some
new realities as well within this building and the BBC. So I think
it is a change of personnel and just a changed environment of
broadcasting in Manchester that has helped it become more effective.
Q545 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Did you have any views on it?
Ms Morrison: I guess to have a sustainable sector
you need to have effective facilities and we have 3sixty. We also
have Andy Sumners in post production and we have Web Lighting.
3sixty works and it drives things along and then you have the
other purely private companies growing around it and they feed
in and out.
Ms Woodward: That additional supply chain and
that comes from the benefit of being in a cluster.
Ms Morrison: We have the top 10 in Britain post-production
companies here and you need that. So you need everything moving
in and out. I think Andrew, you are a client of 3sixty.
Q546 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
A satisfied client?
Mr Critchley: Completely satisfied. When we
had used directors prior to that we had acceded to their request
to go back to London for post-production, for whatever reason
they wanted to do that, familiarity with the Soho-based post-production
houses. When on occasion we have persuaded them to use the 3sixty
post-production facilities they have always been completely happy
with the product.
Q547 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
But looking to the future, it is still 90/10 or 80/20?
Ms Morrison: 90/10.
Q548 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
The potential for conflict surely remains, does it not?
Ms Woodward: I think it is right that the BBC
has decided to opt out of owning their own resource base by 2007.
I suppose the question will be there if they do not want to own
a resource base and they want to still operate a joint venture
or have a secondary third party venture, or whatever the BBC strategy
is for providing production facilities, what their concept is
if they do not want to own their own resource base is probably
a question best put to the BBC than myself.
Q549 Lord Peston:
It seems to me you are entirely right in the view you take about
the creative cluster but in fact you probably underestimate the
dynamics of that, and that once a place becomes successful its
propensity to become more successful will grow rather than fall
and therefore the dynamics will mean there will be very few centres
indeed. I understand that argument and I presume in answer to
the Bishop when he got you started on the advantages what you
were saying is this is already a creative cluster and it will
get more so. I take it that was your main argument?
Ms Woodward: It will get more so. The BBC's
arrival here will be the rocket fuel to jettison it into its next
stage at an enormously accelerated rate.
Q550 Lord Peston:
I have got two puzzles. My first puzzle goes back to you, Mike,
on the commissioning. Strictly speaking, it does not matter where
the commissioner is; what matters is where the talent is. You
are arguing, without making any criticism of the BBC, the fact
the commissioning is in London biases the system against non-London.
That seems to me what you were saying. I do not think you are
wrong, let me tell you. People used to ask me in my younger days
why I was always on radio and television doing the economics commenting
and people from Manchester University would say, "We are
as good as you are," but I would say, "Yes, but I am
a 10-minute taxi ride from Highgate to Broadcasting House and
the White City, that is why it is me." It is nothing to do
with anything else at all. I take it that you are taking, on a
rather more sophisticated scale, the same view that if the commissioners
are down there they are more likely not to choose you? That is
really your argument?
Mr Spencer: I think it is to do with how large
you appear on their radar and I think part of that process is
being in and out of the building every day or frequently in a
week, bumping into people, knowing them socially. It is that kind
of thing of which I do not feel envious but I think it is a problem
for companies based outside London that they do not have that
level of intimacy with the commissioners.
Q551 Lord Peston:
I agree with that but what puzzles me a bit wearing my economics
hat is that really ought not to be the case. If you are good they
ought to be seeking you. It is rather like your list of freelancers.
You have got this list and if they are on the list and they are
good then, they are the ones who ought to be employed. But you
are saying that is not the way the world works?
Mr Spencer: There are clearly successful production
companies based outside London much larger than mine so it is
not a complete impediment but there is nevertheless a feeling
of "out of sight is out of mind".
Q552 Lord Peston:
I just wanted you to get that on the record. Could I also ask,
and I think this may be more to do with drama than to do with
documentaries, but you did not really satisfy me on the question
of the downside to Manchester when you were answering the Bishop.
Do you find that there are people that you would want to have
working for you and when you say it is Manchester, they say, "I
am not coming up here to make a play?" Do you have that kind
Mr Critchley: We have that but rarely.
Q553 Lord Peston:
So it is rare?
Mr Critchley: That is bound to happen, is it
not? You want a particular piece of talent and they for whatever
reasonit could be their own personal circumstances just
at that timemay not want to move. They might not want to
move from Cardiff to London, they might not want to move from
London to Brighton. We have on occasion suffered from that. That
is just one of the vagaries of the business. The thing about commissioning
though is it should not matter where the commissioners are from
but inevitably it does. It is human nature to stick with what
you know to an extent.
Lord Peston: I agree. I just wanted to
make sure you said that so that we had it for the record.
Q554 Lord Maxton:
One thing that I am not quite clear about is the difference, if
you like, between the programmes you make for the national network
and those you make for your own regional outputs. Do both the
independents make programmes for non-network or is it entirely
you who does the non-network programmes?
Ms Woodward: A good question again because it
is always useful to outline what it is the television ecology
sets out to do. Under the licences granted to all of ITV across
England and Wales there are two types of programmes. There are
those made in the region but for broadcast across the whole of
the UK and there are those programmes made in the region but only
broadcast within that region. They are actually stipulated by
Ofcom's licence in terms of regional hours. Every member of the
ITV family has to produce a certain amount of hours and those
hours themselves are split into genres, so in North West we have
to produce just for the North West itself five and a half hours
of news a week, so many hours of current affairs a week, and so
many hours of weather reports. They are very prescriptive and
laid down by our licence. But they are only made within the region
just to be seen by the people in the North West. As part of that
pot of money, we also take the view that we put some of that product
out to the independent sector like to Mike's company MMA to make
programmes for ITV Granada to be seen only in the North West region
whereas Mike will also be commissioned by ITV and indeed the BBC,
as with Andrew, to make programmes for the whole of the UK, in
fact in Andrew's case even internationally. So there are regional
programmes made just for the region and regional production which
has UK-wide distribution but made from one part of the country.
Q555 Lord Maxton:
Can I perhaps link this a little bit then to something we were
talking about last week which is sport and of course that is one
of the things that is coming up from the BBC. Do you show at regional
level sport and, if so, what sport?
Ms Woodward: We will probably cover most of
our sports in the news in the five and a half hours of peak television.
Q556 Lord Maxton:
No, I meant actual outside broadcasts of sporting occasions.
Ms Woodward: ITV Granada does not have a network
sports department. Our sports network department is centred in
London where most of the sports departments seem to be. I suppose
that is because that is where most of the sporting events are.
Wimbledon is at Wimbledon, Henley is at Henley, rugby is at Twickenham,
such is the nature of the beast, so we do not have a sports network
Q557 Lord Maxton:
With all due respect, I will take rugby because that was my sport,
rugby is not at Twickenham. There are five games a year at Twickenham.
Every Saturday of the year there are rugby matches going onSale,
I agree they are with Skyin the region.
Ms Woodward: I am glad you mentioned rugby
Q558 Lord Maxton:
You are not showing them.
Ms Woodward: There is a programme that ITV did
make, a late night rugby show called Rugby Raw.
Q559 Lord Maxton:
That is one better than BBC Scotland.
Ms Woodward: No, the BBC now make it, we do
not make it, we used to make a similar type of programme. Because
of the nature of the way the hours are carved up across the whole
of the UK, there are regional programmes made just for that region
and we tend to put rugby within the regional news content, but
for the big sporting events, the network sports events, the departments
that do football, rugby, tennis are national events, even though
they may be regionally based. A Man United game is obviously important
to Manchester but it is equally important to the rest of the nation.
I think we have more or less run out of time. Are there any more
questions that anyone has? No, okay. I would like to thank you
very, very much indeed for giving the evidence, which has been
fascinating. I am enormously sorry my imaginative idea for documentary
programming has been so rudely rejected by Mr Spencer.
Mr Spencer: What I will do is I will pitch it
and send you the e-mail trail back and you are on 10 per cent
if it is commissioned!
Chairman: There we are. Seriously, thank
you very much indeed, and perhaps if we have got any other questions
we can come back to you.