Monday, 27 April 2009

How to save public service broadcasting. Ish.

OK, so I've had an idea. It's probably not that original, but it is workable and could help generate some extra dosh to help the areas of telly that need a bit more investment. Regional news, current affairs, children's telly - with the latter I, as usual, declare my self interest as someone who makes lovely programmes for the wee nippers.

It's not rocket science, but it could be implemented quickly, and it has the benefit that the commercial broadcasters have been pushing for it for a while - if not in the form I'm proposing.

It's a three step plan:-

Just say yes to allowing ITV, C4, Five, Sky and all to have companies pay them to use their brand of product on a show. Watch American Idol clips online - do the Coca-Cola cups and ads behind Ryan Seacrest's tiny head really make the show a disgrace? Just like The X Factor or Britain's Got Talent, this show exists simply to create a star that makes money for Simon Cowell and co., so it's just an exercise in product placement (ie the potential star in our minds) anyway.

No product placement on kids' TV, or current affairs, or where there's a conflict with editorial issues/impartiality etc: simple, sensible rules.

Ta-dah! That's it! Any money they raise they've got to spend IN ADDITION TO CURRENT FUNDING on regional stuff, current affairs or kids.

Would you care if Ken Barlow asked for a pint of Boddingtons instead of a jug of Newton & Ridley in the Rovers' Return? It would make Corrie seem more real to me. Well, slightly less surreal - let's face it, that soap has many good qualities, but realism ain't one of 'em.

And if a daytime makeover show said "this lovely Ikea kitchen", or "this bedroom suite from John Lewis", would the world collapse?

Of course not. And if it could pay for a few original UK-sourced childrens' programmes, some regional current affairs shows and/or news, surely that's a real Billy Bonus? Someone from ITV said (hey, I'm not that good a researcher, obvious innit?) that sponsorship didn't raise much initially but not it's £50m - that's a lot of Spotlight North-Easts I'd think.

Obviously there are wrinkles - why would the broadcasters bother to push for this funding if they couldn't use it for what they want? Well, put a limit on the money raised, and say anything under that goes on PSB stuff, anything over can be spent on 'owt: Ant'n'Dec's salaries, executive bathrooms or more episodes of Family Fortunes With Vernon Kay. I'm sure PACT, Save Kids' TV and other bodies can get together and help the government come up with a figure.

What if the public hates the fact, say, everyone on an ITV drama series drives a Ford? Limit it to three years, then review it. If the public hate it, scrap it.

We'd be like American TV - blantant plugs, nasty ads, yadda blah bleurgh. Hmmm.. really? 24 has every car being a Ford for example, Ford even sponsoring entire episodes without ads. Desperate Housewives is apparently packed full of product placement - I don't watch it so can't vouch for it, but a lot of people I know watch it ironically, and clumsy plugs for products would surely spoil that?

The only downside is the poor guy who has to pixellate the Coca-Cola cups on ITV2's repeats of American Idol would lose his job. Sad... but surely he's going a bit crazy after putting a circular blur on a cup frame-by-frame for hours and hours and hours. It'd be a kind thing to do really.

I've written to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham suggesting all this - hey, there's a productive morning! Now back to writing a show with Adair Bear in it.

No comments: