Wednesday 2 February 2011

A plan to save quality British TV

I, like many others, headed to the cinema to see The King's Speech at the weekend and loved it. Clearly it is wonderfully acted, as a very simple story becomes gripping and, I found, drew me in to the tension surrounding the abdication of Edward VIII and the slide towards war.

The film had a solid stamp of Britishness about it. A story about a British king might be expected to have this but, if produced by Hollywood, there is always something lacking (maybe they use the wrong kind of fog?).

Then, last night, saw the debut of Sky Atlantic. This is Sky's attempt at sweeping up all the great American TV shows we love here and running them first on one channel. The channel's look, feel and content is inescapably all American.

This got me thinking, in the present environment where British broadcasters are struggling, the BBC is being asked to make savings and ad revenues are falling, why doesn't the best of British come together to take on America? A channel showing Downtown Abbey, Red Riding, Upstairs Downstairs, Occupation, Life on Mars, The Long Firm and the latest Jane Austin amongst others would really showcase the best of British.

Each broadcaster - BBC, Sky, ITV - plus independent production companies would join forces to create a British HBO. It would show the very best of their original drama content; with an obvious nod toward period dramas which are the hallmark of British film making. Then, the all American family sat in Baltimore, Boston or Baton Rouge can get their fix of Britishness in the same way Sky Atlantic brings America into our living rooms. At the same time our broadcasters find a new revenue stream and a reason to keep producing great new drama.

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