An Audience with Michael Grade

There can only be a handful of CVs as intimidating as Michael Ian Grade, Baron Grade Of Yarmouth, CBE’s (Director of Programmes at LWT, president of Embassy TV in the USA, Controller of BBC1, Chief Executive of Channel 4, Chairman of Pinewood and Shepperton Film Studios and Executive Chairman of ITV Plc. are just a few of the high profile roles he’s flitted through).

He’s The Man, The Big Dog, The Boss of TV bosses.

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Here’re five Top Grade television insights …

  1. You have to go on believing your audience are not stupid.
    Produce clever content for thinking viewers – in this way broadcast television will remain the go-to source for fulfilling, quality entertainment. Online sources are threatening the broadcast space, but the main channels’ careful production of intelligent formats, scripts and ideas consolidates television’s role in shaping society, culture and consumer behaviour.
  1. Everything involves choices.
    The whole creative process is decision-ridden at every turn, decisions which often must be made intuitively. Be critical of shows – are they boring or clever? – and think hard about each stage of production to make interesting and creative, but practical, choices.
  1. Commissioners are increasingly risk-averse due to commercial pressures.
    The fragmentation of programming across broadcast, digital, satellite and internet-based channels means that advertising revenue and therefore budgets are squeezed. Commissioners are in the ‘no’ business, and are now reluctant to invest in programmes that are too ‘cutting edge’.
  1. Never underestimate the difficulty of comedy.
    Getting drama wrong is a bit of a bummer, getting comedy wrong is ‘a public humiliation.’ A good script, a good cast and a good audience are crucial for a successful show, otherwise you’ll be left with ‘a rotting kipper’.
  1. Stay true to your vision.
    If you have an idea for a show, stick to your guns and pitch it as you imagine it to be without catering to perceived tastes, trends or quotas. Originality, invention and surprise are the most important elements of any production – from scripting, to shooting, to editing.

Michael Grade NFTS

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