“Theatre-Broadcast Conversation”

TV On Monday, the Radio Theatre in New Broadcasting House hosted an event called “Theatre-Broadcast Conversation”, presented by Tony Hall and with writers like the brilliant Abi Morgan in attendance. Given the title, it might have given some of us hope that BBC drama head Ben Stephenson might have been overruled and that more filmed theatre would be returning to television or some such. But no.

Much of the conversation was about utilising theatre and a way of allowing writers to experiment and for new television writers to find their feet. The whole topic of actually showing any of this theatre of television only seems to have been addressed quickly then moved away from:
"The panel then moved to the subject of digital initiatives, like screenings of theatre events. Vicky Featherstone said that while she broadly felt this accessibility was a good thing, she warned of the danger to touring theatres and the wider “theatrical ecosystem” in the regions (who may lose out on bookings in favour of a screened event). Abi Morgan talked about the difficulties for writers when pieces written for the stage are filmed and screened, saying that if the writer knew their work was going to be screened they might have written it differently."
Same old, same old and theatre's fear that television will steal their thunder.  It's a bit of a straw man and actually very similar to the fear that film companies initially had for their stuff being broadcast and taking viewers away from cinemas.  Some notes:

(1)  The fees paid to theatre companies for the rights to show their work will surely offset fears of audiences not turning up except ..

(2)  Having their work on television will surely be a great promotional device causing people to turn up and watch more theatre because it breaks down barriers.  People don't stop going to concerts if they see a band performing the same music on television.  Glastonbury is still over subscribed.  More people have gone to see classical music because of the Proms.

(3)  Look back in time.  Were theatre box offices hit when loads of theatre was on television?  Have people in general stopped going to the Globe because they're releasing everything (almost) on dvd now?

(4)  Don't screen anything which is still in circulation, wait until tours are completed, have windows like the film industry where something isn't broadcast at least for a year or two.  Creatives seem to be under the misapprehension that we want theatre to be broadcast live.  No.  It's that we want any theatre to be broadcast at all.  Which it isn't.

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