Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Casualty (2)

Went along to a joint meeting of the Performers Alliance and NUJ parliamentary groups this morning, where the speakers included Stewart Purvis from Ofcom, Tony Robinson, and Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC. Was actually very interesting and I know rather a lot more about public service broadcasting then I did yesterday.

Jumped in first when questions began and raised with the DG some of the things I brought up in the Chamber on Friday, including moving Casualty from Bristol to Cardiff (with vigorous support from my good mate, Tony Robinson, who was also a speaker and thinks it's a ridiculous idea too).

Although the DG said a decision hasn't been made yet, he seems set on the idea of having a 'drama village' in Cardiff, where Casualty would be filmed along with Dr Who, Torchwood, etc. He says it doesn't mean there will be less BBC production in Bristol, which will become a hub of 'factual programmes'. Some reps from Equity came up to me afterwards, and said they're backing the campaign too, not because of the impact on the show's stars, who will go with the show, but on its extras/ bit part actors who tend to be local and rely on Casualty for a steady supply of work. Although programmes like Teachers, Skins and Mistresses have also been filmed in Bristol, by independent companies who have then on-sold them to the BBC, they usually only film six or so weeks worth at a time - not enough to keep actors in work.

They also agree that losing Casualty could be the thin end of the wedge, as people with media skills or the ambition to work in media drift away to Cardiff instead. OK, we'd still have the Natural History Unit, but jobs there were cut by a third in 2007, even though it's seen as the jewel in the BBC's crown.

Final bit of lobbying for the day was done by accident, at the AGM of the All-Party Group on Somaliland, when the Chair, Alun Michael MP, happened to mention Dr Who was filmed in his constituency. Hands off 'Casualty', I told him. How can you go from scenes of Clifton Suspension Bridge to scenes of Cardiff docks without expecting anyone to notice the difference? Actually we could do with a suspension bridge, he said.

New poll on website - should Casualty be kept in Bristol?

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