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UKTV: ‘Talent loss bigger threat to TV than technology’

Darren Childs, CEO of multi-channel programmer UKTV, has warned that the television industry risks losing its talent to digital if it doesn’t change the way TV feels.

Noting a high percentage (44 per cent) of public-school educated individuals working in the entertainment industry, he told the Broadcasting Press Guild that it it was not great for the television industry if new entrants could only be hired on their parents’ ability to afford an extensive education.

He railed against companies in the TV industry that employed unpaid interns. “I’m not interested in making creative content through sweatshop economics at all,” he said, declaring himself “passionate” about access to the the television industry.

As such, UKTV was addressing the issue via apprenticeships. UKTV is expanding its apprenticeship programme and is in talks to create new openings in areas of the business where it would like to develop grass roots talent, including Technology, Operations and Digital. The broadcaster is also teaming up with Creative Skillset to host an Open Doors event for 16-24 year olds who want to learn about the television industry.

The event builds on UKTV’s commitment to provide greater industry access for young people from all backgrounds and follows Childs’ announcement in June that production companies making programmes for UKTV must pay all staff, including runners, at least the minimum wage.

Childs said that 40 young people would have the opportunity to meet with teams from across the business and get hands on experience in UKTV’s brand new production facilities, including its edit suites and voiceover booth. “As part of the event, we are also offering the chance to win two paid, one week work placements, based right here at UKTV,” he advised.

He said that one of the great tragedies of the television industry was that great IP gets abandoned, often through management changes. “One of the things we’re focused on is ‘Is there a consumer demand for that particular piece of content?’ If there is, we have no qualms about picking up stuff that other people have let go if we think our audience will love it and we can build on that audience and do something creative with it. It’s at the heart of what we do.”

He said that getting content right was the hardest part of the business. “The technology part of our business – getting content to consumers, that’s the easy bit now. He said that ten years ago, this was an issue. “The biggest challenge in the supply chain of our business is making great content, because there are only a few people who can do it. They’re expensive; it takes time and a lot of effort. That’s the hard bit.”

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