FEATURE SCOTTISH TELEVISION
z x r r l ‘ I .
Cheered by the news that they won’t face a challenge for their franchise, Scottish Television are broadening their horizons, and looking to build a thriving TV industry in Scotland. Tom Lappin
hears the plans from Programme Director Alistair Moffat.
o borrow one of those cliches so beloved of their news reporters. there‘s a wind of change blowing through the offices ofScottish Television. Not so many years ago, STV was a rather sad little outpost of the ITV network, occasionally offering half-hearted, underfunded alternatives to the mainstream fare, looking forward to their one big night at Hogmanay, but otherwise doing little to depart from the safe. uninspired norm. A bit like the Scottish Daily Express really.
Since the mid-80s. however, things have picked up considerably. Under the
leadership of Gus Macdonald. Scottish (as it
renamed itself in a spirit of‘lfyou‘ve got it ﬂaunt it‘) has grown in confidence. Established in the popular consciousness throughout the country by Taggart‘s craggy visage regularly scowling on the ITV network, the company has adopted a distinctly more prominent profile. Cocky even. some might say. In the recent TV franchise bids, Scottish owned 20 per cent of Sunrise TV who are bidding for the TVAM franchise. They have also declared an interest in future plans for Channel 5. As a surprising bonus. Scottish‘s own franchise was unchallenged.
Alistair Moffat. Director of Programmes at Scottish since last year. admits to being surprised by this. ‘We were expecting a challenge. and there was certainly a challenger waiting in the wings before Christmas. We decided not to worry about the opposition. but to concentrate on our own programming. And the fact that there wasn‘t a challenge is cheering. in that it‘s
recognition ofthe fact that we are a tough
Moffat is taking nothing for granted. as the final franchise decisions won‘t be taken until October. However. it seems certain that Scottish will be able to begin putting their
f ambitious plans into action. The first
priority will be to establish the station‘s
home profile in Scotland with over 1000
hours a year of local programming. It is a policy designed to take into account the changing pattern ofTV with the onset of new channels. ‘As television globalises with satellite and cable coming in, there‘s going to be a lot of broadly similar programming,‘ says Moffat, ‘and we‘ll get the situation where the viewer will be zapping from channel to channel looking for a Scottish accent. And that‘s the one branded characteristic that we‘ve got that satellite and cable don‘t have.‘
However. 1000 hours of local programming is beyond the capacity of Scottish‘s own resources. which is where the independent producers come in. Before the
franchise bid. the station signed a number of
deals with Scottish independents to produce programmes. To its credit. it is heavily committed to the expansion of the television industry in Scotland. Last year. some £57 million of ITV production went to independents. but not a penny came to a Scottish company. It‘s a situation Moffat is
When you make a drama in Scotland, you don’t just have to make a drama, you’ve got to save the nation as well.
keen to remedy. ‘We‘ve got to broaden the base of talent by using the independent sector.‘ he says. ‘lt‘s just a question of development and involving them. bringing them on as a sector so they can play in all the areas. not just a few.‘
In this way. he argues. the industry can only benefit. ‘We are going to be in a position by the beginning of 1993 of being one ofthe biggest producers of television programmes in Britain. because we‘ll be making so many local programmes. a fair amount of Gaelic. and a fair amount of network. By the mid-90s we‘ll be turning out
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30—40 hours ofpeak-time drama a year if I‘m
successful. That sort of thing is worth about £20 million worth of work. and means we could build a significant industry in Scotland. What that does is create a critical
mass oftalent. with the skills. the energy and
creativity to make the programmes. When that happens it spins off other ideas and attracts more work. We want to get into an area where people come to us with ideas and skills and creativity to contribute.‘
It‘s a bold and optimistic line. only slightly
weakened by Moffat‘s reluctance to talk specifics. This is understandable (‘I never talk about things I have in development.‘ he says. ‘There‘s a Hollywood phrase “Loose lips kill scripts“ which is very true‘) but it is slightly alarming to discover that the station‘s network push next year will be led (along with the reliable Taggart) by The Advocates. a series that had a pilot run earlier this year. and was mauled by the critics. This isn‘t exactly a bright new beginning. ‘When you make a drama in Scotland, you don‘t just have to make a drama. you‘ve got to save the nation as well.‘ Moffat laments. ‘I thought The
12‘l‘hc List 14— 27Junc 1991
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