ScreenSkills CEO Seetha Kumar appears on Televisual Factual Festival panel

ScreenSkills supported a panel discussion on opportunities in the nations and regions at the 2019 edition of the Televisual Factual Festival, where participants discussed the ongoing efforts by broadcasters to expand and devolve projects and commissioning responsibilities across the UK.

With budgets for nations and regions programming rising, the panel covered subjects including the use of quotas, the most credible prospects for out-of-London producers and the various challenges presented by the increase in demand.

The panel, chaired by Edwina Silver from Matisse Media, included Seetha Kumar, CEO of ScreenSkills, alongside Jo Street, Head of Daytime, Head of Glasgow Hub for Channel 4, Steve Carson, Head of Multiplatform Commissioning for BBC Scotland, and Tris Payne, Head of Nations and Regions for Pact.

Regarding career development opportunities in the nations and regions, Seetha said: “My overall philosophy is that there are skills and talent everywhere – people just need to get the opportunity. Just a chance, to be supported and to be scaffolded, like a lot of people in London have been over the years.”

On the subject of nations and regions’ desire to retain talent, she said the nature of the industry was one in which people invariably moved around to gain new experiences.  “It all depends on your own personal ambitions. It all depends on what each person wants. I think the nature of the industry – the kind of curiosity that most people who work in the sector have – they want to be stretching themselves.”

The commissioners on the panel reported how the swift action by broadcasters to recruit commissions across the nations and regions had already seen an increase in opportunities, accessibility and expansion for independent production companies. While there was some debate around ‘lift and shift’ practices employed by broadcasters moving existing titles from London to outside the capital, there was still an acknowledgement of the positive impact on the industry. Seetha said: “The key thing is, does (the project) then get melded into the local ecology? Is it creating new jobs, new opportunities, new aspirations and new ambitions? I think if that happens, it’s a success.”

The consensus of the panel suggested that changes implemented by broadcasters in recent years have had an overwhelmingly positive affect on the industry across the nations and regions even while there is still a great deal of work to do. Jo Street also said that the sense of community and the sharing of ideas and resources were born of necessity but were, in fact, a positive upshot of working out of London where the sector was smaller.

The panel also highlighted programmes that were developing talent outside London such as ScreenSkills’ Series Producer Programme, with Seetha highlighting the hugely diverse intake of candidates each year. In 2015, the programme’s first year, 40% of successful applicants were from out of London – while the ambition for the 2020 intake is to increase this figure to 60%. She said ScreenSkills was now working on an equivalent programme for editors, in response to the skills shortage highlighted by ScreenSkills’ Skills Forecasting Service research findings. 

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