Is there hope for TV docs?

October 7th, 2009 posted by Helen Jack
BBC Storyville's Nick Fraser

BBC Storyville's Nick Fraser

This week, Quinn Bender reported on the MovieSet blog from Vancouver International Film Festival about the impassioned speech given by Commissioning Editor of BBC’s Storyville, Nick Fraser. Letting rip at international TV broadcasters, Fraser condemned most for disregarding ‘the most important cultural artifacts of our time’, pointing some of the blame towards the uprise in TV programming which puts ‘spectacle and format ahead of substance and originality’.

Fans on Shooting People’s Facebook page have been vocal in their debate over whether Fraser’s comments are justified. One user comments in agreement, saying ‘the most common complaint about TV remains “Ive got 100s of channels but nothing to watch”; and no-one at the top takes time out to think that both these issues are content driven. You bet he’s right.’ Whilst UK documentary filmmaker Rajesh Thind adds, ‘TV is a populist, mass audience form of media and is valuable for being so. Some of it is low brow and some of it isn’t and that’s interesting and democratic. It all has a role – whether to educate, inform, entertain or simply to be mental popcorn, and all those roles are valid if people want that.’

Funding cuts and lack of creative courage amongst broadcasters fans the flame of Fraser’s comments, though it would be wrong to ignore some of the more innovative and encouraging schemes which do exist in the UK. Take for example our 4Docs It’s Good to Know…A Film Competition run in association with the Co-operative, an organisation making waves with it’s support of docs (see their partnership with Dogwoof‘s recent campaign films). Giving filmmakers the chance to have their film screened in front of a large audience on Channel 4, we can forge some hope that there are still broadcasters open to new filmmakers and new stories.

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