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ITV Producers’ Forum – Peter Fincham on ‘Social Partnership’

At ITV’s Producers’ Forum, Director of Television Peter Fincham described a social partnership dimension that he wants to add to the commissioning process.

More details will follow in due course, following a short consultation process with producers.

An extract from the speech is below:

I want to talk a bit about the relationship between a broadcaster and suppliers. This is something I’ve been discussing a lot lately with my colleagues. I’ve seen it develop over many years from both sides of the fence and I would say that broadly there are two dimensions to it. A business dimension of course. We always want to agree budget levels and terms of trade. We’re all in the same boat here, we’re all running businesses and we want you to thrive and prosper – it’s in our interests that you do. I hope you like our business affairs team. They are lovely people. They are here. If you’ve only heard their voices down the phone, introduce yourselves to them.

Then there’s the editorial dimension. Again, we are all in the same boat. We want to make great shows together. People say we’re in a new golden age of television. If that’s the case, what an opportunity it represents. Believe me, in all genres and on all levels, we want to keep raising our sights. You’ll hear more about this from the genre directors.

But today I want to talk about something else, which is the social partnership that we enter into when we make a programme or series together. We’re not in the widget business, we’re in television. What we do collectively reflects the world we live in, and how we do it reflects the world we work in. So I want to introduce, alongside editorial and business affairs, a third dimension to commissioning which I’m calling the social partnership.

Let me give you an example. ITV is the first broadcaster in the U.K. to accredit as a Living Wage employer, affirming our commitment to ending in-work poverty. The living wage, as I’m sure you know, is higher than the national minimum wage. If that’s what we’re paying then when you make a programme for us using largely or in many cases entirely ITV money, we’d like you to do the same.

Another example – does your programme have a CSR element – corporate and social responsibility – and if so, what? We’ve tried to make a real difference in ITV in this area in recent years. As well as successful returning shows like Endemol’s Soccer Aid, which raises funds for Unicef, we have our annual pre-Xmas fundraiser Text Santa which is growing each year, and we run daytime shows and entertainment shows which regularly raise significant sums for charity. It won’t apply to every programme in every genre – of course not – but one of the great privileges of working in television is the power it has to do good in the world.

More to think about – who do you employ? What opportunities do you create for new entrants to television, from people from diverse backgrounds of all kinds? That’s all part of the social partnership.

Recently, of course, there’s been a great deal of talk about diversity and onscreen representation. Rightly too. The percentage of the U.K. population of BAME background – that’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic– is roughly 14% but the percentage of BAME talent you see on screen is lower than that. We’re members of the Creative Diversity Network – in fact, for the past year and half we’ve been chairing it – and as you may be aware there have recently been some significant announcements – funding from the broadcasters who are involved, a permanent executive, and for the first time proper monitoring of on-screen representation. We’re completely supportive of this and ought to aspire to match the percentage of the population across our output.

Diversity on screen isn’t only about BAME representation, of course, but frustration has been building up within the BAME community about the pace of change and there have been calls for this to be backed up by enforceable quotas. My position on this is as follows – I’d prefer us to make a real change without externally imposed quotas. Over the past ten or fifteen years the number of quotas dictating the nature of ITV’s output, in current affairs and elsewhere, has been dramatically reduced. That hasn’t stopped us introducing new ideas and programmes in areas usually associated with regulation – examples include investigative current affairs in Exposure, politics in the Agenda, arts in Perspectives and foreign news in On Assignment. These have all launched in the past few years and are all current and successful in our schedule. No directive from Ofcom influenced any of them. Television has always been and remains a highly regulated industry but increasingly our competition is from Amazon, Netflix, and others who aren’t constrained by the same sort of regulation at all. We should be careful what we wish for.

But diversity is a complex problem and nobody in this room can honestly claim that we’ve cracked it. Can we, working together, make a genuine and sustainable difference? That’s the challenge we need to rise to.

ITV has been chair of the CDN for the past year and a half and we have put significant work and resource into working together with the other broadcaster, and non-broadcaster members, to take steps towards real shared action.

For example, ITV, alongside all the other CDN members with a large commissioning function, have agreed to take part in a joint Broadcaster Commissioning Leadership Programme. This programme aims to identify experienced BAME professionals working within our industry and to give these individuals rounded experience in TV commissioning, at a competitive salary, over the course of 12 months. All the major broadcasters have committed to a minimum of one development opportunity.

And for the first time this year everyone in the ITV commissioning team has, as part of their annual objectives, been asked ‘to play a full part in maximising the growth of diverse talent and increasing diversity on screen’. We’d like to share this objective with you as our suppliers. At the Producers’ Forum next year we’ll report back to you on that as well as the other important feedback within our Producer’s Survey.

Some of you may know Sara Hanson, ITV’s Head of Corporate Responsibility, through our work with the CDN. She will ensure that there is a dedicated person within her team to support our commissioners and everyone who supplies our programmes as well as monitoring progress.

In terms of this social partnership, we will work with you to develop the exact form, we want to do this in consultation with you – and to that end, some of you can expect to hear from YouGov, as part of that research into developing it.

Again, to be clear, I’m a believer in light touch regulation, light touch commissioning, respecting suppliers and respecting talent. I don’t want to us to be in the position of telling you what to do if I don’t have to, so we need to do something together, and that’s what the Social Partnership is about. We have a clear commercial reason for doing so – if we don’t reflect diversity on screen we can’t expect diverse audiences to watch our output.

I do believe that in recent years there’s been a change of climate which is already having an effect in drama, in factual programmes, and in important but less discussed area such as the choices of contestants in entertainment shows. The current, highly publicised debate itself contributes to that change of climate. But we need to do more and through the social partnership, we can ensure that the focus remains.

Peter Fincham

Director of Television