TH E 3601113" lief" 0" "'9 scleeﬂs-' The implications for the BBC are just R I o CHALLENGE FOR THE I "Rifi'iii‘llii‘iilié'liml‘ém i aiﬁﬁ'?:,'i::ii'.’::Etii‘giizﬁi‘iﬂf""’ AI HWAVES WW". bill Perhaps DOWhefe '8 80 we" ‘ harshest commercial realities, they
5 are creating rather less controversy.
Graham Greene is generally known I a Patrick Chalmers, ControllerofBBC
This week Network BB C, S g poised to exploit the changes as to dislike the ﬁlms which have been ’ |
Scotland where the ramifications in the
made of his books (excepting those such as Fallen Idol and The Third Man for which he wrote original screenplays.) He is also a far better novelist than he is playwright, so it is a brave Radio 4 which is broadcasting several plays and dramatising several of his novels for their two week Graham Greene season beginning on Sat 14 Nov. The ﬁrst piece is an adaptation of an early book, The Confidential Agent. In the introduction to the Bodley Head’s excellent Collected Edition of his work, Greene writes ‘This was a novel written in six weeks . . . l was struggling with The Power and the Glory but there was no money in the book as far as I could forsee . . . so I determined to write another ‘entertainment’ as quickly as possible in the mornings while I ground on slowly with The Power and the Glory in the afternoons.‘ Lacking an initial idea for the story he ‘fell back for the first and last time in my life on benzedrine. For six weeks I started each day with a tablet and renewed the dose at midday. Each day I sat down to work with no idea of what turn the plot might take and I wrote, with the automatism of a planchette. 2,000 words instead of my usual stint of 500 words.‘ The result can be heard on R4, Sat 14, 7.45pm.
Greene paid a high price for his addiction. It left his nerves in shreds and contributed to the breakdown of his marriage. (As he had begun writing it to keep his wife and two children in the ﬁrst place, it is perhaps as salutary a reminder as an) of the tyranny of justifying one’s desire to work as being for the sake of others.) In the introduction Greene writes ‘the career of the writer has its own curious forms of hell’ and his own hell, with its suicide attempts has been well documented in his two autobiographies. Nothing, however, can diminish the power of his writing. He has rightly been called a seductive writer and much of the forthcoming season should be rivetting stuff. The Third Man, which he was asked to write as a film for director Carol Reed (he found he had to write it ﬁrst as a story, though never intended for publication, which he then turned into a screenplay) is broadcast on R4, Sat 21, 7.45pm with Ed Bishop and Ian
Hendry. (The character Harry Lime incidentally got his name not from the fruit but from the lime which was used in prisons to destroy the bodies of hanged men). The Book at Bedtime from Mon 16, 10. 15pm is The End of the Altair, Our Man in Havanna is serialised in three parts from Sun 15, 2.30pm and one of his comparatively few original plays, The Potting Shed is the Monday play on 23 Nov, 8.15pm, Just time to mention . . .
From this years Bayreuth Festival comes Werner Herzog’s Lohengrin, Sun 15, 1.40pm;
programme about televisionl
comes from Scotland discussing the problems facing Scottish programme makers. As the ITV network shows signs of Opening its doors wider Nigel Billen looks at the
current state of play.
On Wednesday, John Lloyd, a Livingston teacher, will get his chance to argue fora greater say for Scotland in its own broadcasting when his viewers’ say is taken up in by the BBC’s Network programme, coming for the iirsttime from Scotland.
His is one oi the growing number of voices from tv professionals and viewers which are questioning the current deal that television receives in Scotland and looking forward to the implications of changes already in the pipe line. ‘
Until relatively recently the centralised status quo of British tv has hardly been challenged. Even with the advent of Channel Four, with its commitment to independent companies built into its charter, tv has remained a closed system, with the power held firmly in the South.
Despite its regional divisions, the BBC has always been seen as a centralised broadcasting organisation. When tTV was set up it was deliberately given a federal structure in orderto reflect the need for more localised broadcastingilowever, although Scotland has long been served by three ITV stations, Grampian in the North, Border in the South and Scottish covering the heavily populated central belt, here too the programme-making power is dominated by the South. But soon sweeping changes are going to give Scottish programme makers their best yet opportunity to reach network audiences.
‘The next few months are critical’, claims Gus Macdonald, programme controller of Scottish Television, fresh from success at last week’s meeting of top ITV bosses in Jersey. For the first time at that meeting the Big Five companies (Yorkshire, Thames, LWT, Granada and Central) that dominate ' lTV have agreed to free more of the network slots for ITV companies outside what has been seen as their cosy cartel. The details have yet to be announced but in theory at least it means that Scottish Television will be able to look beyond Taggart and Take The High Road to a wider range of programmes made in Scotland for the UK network. One of the reasons the election results in Scotland so shocked the Government was, according to Macdonald: ‘because there is no current affairs from scotland on the UK network. It's extraordinary when you think about it. Here we are, ten percent of the population, an important entity within the UK, and yet we’re effectively
industry are likely to be far spread. It is not just the Scottish ITV stations that
prestige programming and a fairer share of the programme making budget. The independents, who have already found a receptive market in Channel Four can hope also to see a share of the action. The independents are set to benefit anyway from legislation currently being planned following the Peacock Commission report. The exact nature of the bill (or bills as now seem likely) to be introduced are still anybody’s guess, but it is almost certain that one of the clauses will give statutory access to BBC and ITV torthe independents- possibly even quoting the much vaunted figure of 25% of all programmes. The problem torthe independents in Scotland is making sure that they do not lose a disproportionate share of the action to the London based independents. Thus far at least they can see Gus Macdonald as an ally. He has been campaigning for ‘1D°/o for Scotland’, that is a ten percent share in British programme making to match
figure is as much symbolic as a hard and fast amount; ‘We’ve got to influence the White Paper due out in
will decide the future of broadcasting torthe next ten years. We have to get a paragraph into the bill which ensures that the IBA and the BBC Board of Governors take step to get production in the National areas in proportion to their ability to provide and their population. Even something as vague as that would help. After all, Channel Four’s whole character is based on one vague paragraph.’
Government that seems to be centrist in leaning, according to Macdonald. ‘We already have the very centralised institutions of Channel Four and the BBC, so ITV’s regional structure is
the Government to want to destroy that. The backbenchers have a sympathy and an involvement with their ITV stations that they don’t have with the BBC Regions which are too big and too poorly resourced’. Macdonald points out the political success of Welsh Channel Four so passionately campaigned for; as far as the Government is concerned, ‘40 million is a small price to pay to make tv programmes thatturn language activists into tv producers.’
It is a battle that still has to be won but even victory won’t bring about anything as immediately dramatic as the Welsh language channel. Nevertheless, as Macdonald points out, success will bring with it not just more Scottish made programmes, but more Scottish jobs. ‘Brookside brought 110 job to Liverpool. Just a new soap in Scotland would create more jobs than
Ford brought to Dundee.’
hope to benefit as they embark on more
Scotland’s share of the population. The
December orJanuary and the bill which
It is not an unrealistic hope, despite a
unique. it would be very bad politics for
? Scotland declined to speak to me until
afterthe Network programme. a spokesman for BBC Scotland telling me that he wanted more time to prepare BBC Scotland’s position on the issues likely to be raised. Behind the scenes at all levels of the BBC much is happening underthe guidance of its new Chairman, but some Scottish programme makers are worried they haven’t been more vociferous in Scotland. John McGrath who recently made Blood Red Roses for Channel Four believes ‘BBC Scotland should be up in arms lighting for a greater share of the BBC production in the UK. I’m disappointed they are not fighting harder publicly. If they were able to get their ten percent there would be no problem about them increasing their output and absorbing independent production into that increase.’
The independents are not entirely happy with the position at Scottish Television either despite Gus htacdonaid’s bone that it the ITV stations in Scotland get somewhere nearten percent of the ITV networkthey will be able to keep their core staff busy making network programmes and devolve ‘25 percent of the local output to independents’. But the independents want more than local programmes to get their teeth into and they believe they have identified a reluctance from Scottish Television to support Scottish independents who want to make network programmes.
The situation, from either side is not a straight forward one. Scottish Television, despite changes in the way ITV is to chose network programmes, will still have to negotiate with the Big Five for network programmes. lf legislation guarantees the independent access to ITV, they will have a similar fight on their hands if they are not to lose out to English programme makers. Only a successful ten percent campaign will necessarily improve the overall prospects for Scottish tv.
If the campaign isn’t successful now, Scotland may surrender its only opportunity to be an voice of any size in broadcasting of the future. After the mid 1990s, broadcasting in Britain may change for good, with all the existing channels being opened up to more and more commercial interests and with satellite television beginning to make its international approach dominate. If Scotland doesn’t have a strong production base by then it will be more and more difficult to retain a distinctly Scottish broadcasting service.
In April next yearthe Independent Programme Producers' Association
will looking at how best programme makers in Scotland tackle the potential and the problems of the revolution in broadcasting on its way, with a conference entitled ‘Television in a Small Country’. The conference will look at theEuropean experience, and assess what support Europe can give in defence of national broadcasting. Stay tuned.
20 The List 13 — 26 November 1987