You don’t expect the penultimate session of the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival to be the most important and far reaching of the whole event. By the final morning, many delegates are partied out, hungover and either fast asleep, or on their way home. However, at this year’s penultimate panel, ‘Meet the Controllers: Multi Channel, Entertainment’, MTV dropped a bombshell.
Not that this was their objective. Clearly they were there to sell the channel, which Steve Regan, MTV’s Senior Editorial Director, Commissioning & Production, did by talking up the station’s reality TV output, his involvement in ‘Geordie Shore’, the numerous threats he had received for bringing it to air, his early sexual awakenings watching Russell Brand masturbate live on TV (sic) and by his colleague, David Booth, Senior Vice President of Programming and Content for MTV Brands International, discussing MTV’s marketing strategy in a manner that did nothing to disperse the image of Russell Brand masturbating on live TV…
After forty minutes listening to this without once hearing the word ‘music’ or any reference to it, I felt compelled to use the Q & A at the end of the session, to ask them the question “Would you ever consider commissioning music programming? The answer, from Steve Regan, was, quite astoundingly, a simple and emphatic “No!”. His colleague, David Booth, then entered damage limitation mode, suggesting that MTV played lots of music, albeit incidentally, as the soundtrack to its reality shows…to assorted groans, snorts of derision and face palming from the audience.
Perhaps their most ridiculous suggestion was that music has no place on MTV because “music is niche.” Um…wasn’t that the whole point of MTV in the first place? In the 1980s, mainstream television channels showed hardly any music programming because TV execs believed that music was ‘niche’, a myth that the launch of MTV debunked almost overnight.
But is what was true in the ’80s still true today, or do Regan and Booth have a point? Is this a brave new world? A world in which the MTV generation have stopped listening to music and produced progeny whose only currency is reality TV? I searched YouTube for clips of Geordie Shore, the most popular of which, Meet The Cast Of Geordie Shore: The UK Jersey Shore has been viewed a total of just over one and a third million times in a year. MTV USA’s ‘Jersey Shore’ does slightly better. It’s most popular YouTube clip, Jersey Shore Best Moments – From Laughs to Fights has been viewed just over 1.5 million times in a year. By contrast, the biggest music video of the 1980s, Michael Jackson’s Thriller has, in the last three years, received almost 120 million views, whilst the rather more contemporaneous ‘Bad Romance’ by Lady GaGa, was, in the past two years, viewed 489 million times. Prima Facie these figures seem to suggest that it is ‘reality’, not music that is niche and that if MTV showed less of the former and more of the latter, it might actually regain some of the audience it has spent years arterially haemorrhaging (arguably due to its lack of music programming).
MGEITF 2012 Highlights included Charlie Brooker’s Alternative MacTaggart Lecture; a screening of the season premiere of the new series of Doctor Who, ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, followed by a Q&A with writer, Steven Moffat; a Masterclass in the making of the BBC’s ‘Horrible Histories’, chaired by comedian Al Murray; and the Richard Dunn Memorial Interview, for which film and television veteran, Michael Apted, flew in especially from L.A., to discuss his work directing everything from the pioneering ‘Seven Up!’ documentary series’, to James Bond.
As one would expect, there were also sessions with all of the main channel controllers and Masterclasses covering a wide variety of popular programmes from ‘Sherlock’ to ‘The Only Way Is Essex’. Below are videos of some key sessions. More are available (and will be forthcoming) on MGEITF’s YouTube channel.
Charlie Brooker’s Alternative MacTaggart Lecture:
Horrible Histories Masterclass with Al Murray:
Richard Dunn Memorial Interview – Michael Apted:
© 2012, Paul D. All rights reserved. Moral Rights Asserted.