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ED TV Fest 2015 Leaders’ Debate

This year saw the first ever TV Leader's Debate take place at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. Hosted by Sky News' Kay Burley.

The debate saw the leaders of our main TV channels, BBC One's Danny Cohen, ITV's Peter Fincham, Channel 4's Jay Hunt, Channel 5's Ben Frow and Sky's Stuart Murphy take to the stage to discuss talent, diversity and Netflix and Amazon.


Talking about talent and the threat that the likes of Netflix or Amazon might pose in poaching their best talent, Peter Fincham said "this idea that they're taking away large numbers of talent from broadcasters, I don't think is accurate if I'm honest.


When asked by Kay Burley where his channel ITV would be without Ant & Dec, he said "We love them. We hope to have them for a long time to come. They're quintessential ITV talent."


Sticking with talent, Stuart Murphy made it clear that "Sky is not the place for new talent. People come to us for familiar faces."


Speaking about the biggest challenges he faces for BBC channels, Danny Cohen revealed that "finding drama writers" is incredibly difficult. This could explain why the standard of drama on the BBC hasn't yet lived up to the standards of previous years.


He also went on to admit rather openly, that "Silicon Valley is ahead of us, (In terms of the use of technology and data), and the BBC have a lot to learn.


As you can imagine, with so many people from all the channels on one stage, talk turned to rivalry and Channel 4's Jay Hunt made a semi-apology to ITV's Peter Fincham before going on to say that "Between 8pm and 11pm, Channel 4 have overtaken ITV", to which Peter responded "I don't really know what you mean, but The X Factor starts on Saturday!"


Channel 5 boss Ben Frow believes that overnight ratings are still very important, whilst Jay Hunt, whilst admitting to looking at overnights, believe +7 (days) ratings are more accurate. A show like Made In Chelsea she told us can add an extra two million on top of the overnights through catch up services.


When asked by a journalist about repeats, the leaders got very defensive and even questioned why that was an important question to ask. ITV's Peter Fincham said "there is no stigma in repeats. We've repeated a lot during the summer but as this autumn is all original programming", with Channel 4's Jay Hunt adding "Repeat is not the dirty word it once was."


Despite what audiences might think Danny Cohen revealed the number of repeats on BBC One to be between 5% and 7%, much much lower than what I thought.


The argument was also made by Jay Hunt that Netflix is basically a repeats service. They take what broadcasters have made and repeat them constantly. It seems with the current box set culture and catch up as popular at it is, they're right, in many ways, repeats are making a comeback (no pun intended).


During the debate Peter Fincham exclusively revealed that at the start of the new series of The X Factor, they're going to release all the start times of The X Factor this year, so that the BBC have a chance to not allow Strictly Come Dancing to clash. Something Danny Cohen in this session, and Charlotte Moore (BBC One Controller) couldn't confirm wouldn't happen.


Peter Fincham also said that aside from the Strictly and X Factor clash, he's tried and tried to stop drama from clashing, however no one wants to listen.


Diversity was the next topic discussed and Channel 5 boss Ben Frow said "we take it very seriously." whilst BBC One boss Danny Cohen admitted that the BBC were doing "...OK, but need to do better."


The biggest challenge he believes in driving diversity forward, is that "We keep doing the same thing year in year out, and don't think enough about diversity." He told us how producers will always look at last year's call sheet first, and invite them back as they did a good job, rather than try and branch out and employ more diverse people.

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