It has been a busy year for Amy and I as we work on what is for us a significant and timely project. We’ve been encouraged by the genuine enthusiasm people have for the genre and thus for the research. The centrality of this programming to so many, both personally and professionally, has been reinforced to us as we talk to more and more people.
Over the past 12 months Amy and I have interviewed 25 television and arts professional connected with arts broadcasting. These have been both local and international contributors, from Cardiff to London and even LA!
Across all of them the key theme emerging is that the arts on television, and the culture of production from which it emerges, is changing – sometimes in positive and productive ways and in other ways which might threaten its sustainability on the airwaves. For all of those we’ve spoken to, losing arts from terrestrial television would be a major loss to the cultural and creative identity of the UK.
Along with talking to those associated with the genre, we’ve also begun the process of sharing the research. In November I gave a paper entitled ‘It needs to reinvent itself or die’: The Production Ecology of Arts Television to a public audience at Cardiff University. The paper gave an overview of the research to date and began to sketch out some of the key themes emerging from the interview data.
The project also received good news in September when Amy successfully transferred to PhD following a viva with an external examiner. This formal review is an important stage in the doctoral process and we were delighted when Amy passed with flying colours. Maire Messenger Davies (Ulster University) commented that progress on the research was good and made recommendations for proposed future work.
It was also a productive year for us in terms of writing and we expect the first article from the research to be submitted for peer review to a leading academic journal in next few weeks. We are very much looking forward to seeing our work in print and sharing some of our analysis of the issues facing arts broadcasting.
It promises to be a big year ahead too for both us and the genre. We will continue the process of coding and analysing the data we’ve collected. Some fascinating themes are emerging and we look forward to sharing those with you in due course. We’ll also tentatively begin to look beyond the UK at the landscape for arts television in other countries. As public service values are challenged and evolve across Europe there is considerable value in cross-national comparison. Reaching out to international colleagues through collaboration and presenting at overseas conferences like ECREA will allow us to build those connections and the capacity of the research.
The Year Ahead
It also promises to be an interesting year ahead for arts television. Both the BBC and Channel 4 will hopefully know more about their respective futures in the coming months. Their future funding will have an inevitable impact on their arts provision. Indeed news emerged early in 2016 that the UK government is exploring proposals to hand BBC funding and commissioning power to other organisations, with arts and children’s part of the proposals.
It also promises to be a fascinating year for content with the possibility of the BBC’s Civilization remake later in the year and the announcement that Joseph Fiennes will play Michael Jackson in a one-off drama for Sky Arts.
To end, we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to the project and engaged with the research. Working with industry, academia, policy-makers and the public is proving to be hugely rewarding and we look forward to a productive year ahead.
Caitriona and Amy