For decades I have, without knowing it, been walking past the place where Broadcasting in Wales began. It launched on 13th February 1923 in the building that’s now a NISA store, opposite Cardiff Castle. I spotted the commemorative plaque only recently.
I was on my way to teach a session about Commissioning on the Contemporary Popular Television module of the Media, Culture and Journalism BA at the University of South Wales. Things have moved on in the soon-to-be 95 years since that first radio broadcast but the new BBC Wales HQ will be only a few streets away from the site where it all began.
Underneath the plaque a local band have scrawled their facebook info. So, walls come in as handy in the internet age as in the days when a Roman soldier might have scrawled the equivalent on the murus of his castrum across the road.
In our 3-hour session, students considered the context and practice of Commissioning for TV and prepared and delivered a pitch for a Peak show for Saturday night, to sit with the BBC’s mega-successful Strictly Come Dancing.
Strictly is a wonderful example of a format re-invented successfully. The original Come Dancing aired in 1950 when ballroom dancing was the norm. The current format has taken a dance form that’s no longer mainstream and, with a clever injection of celebrities-in-jeopardy (as they risk acclaim or ridicule on the dancefloor), has harnessed the skill and glamour of ballroom dancing to produce a melange of treats for a peak time audience.
Controller, Entertainment, BBC One, Kate Phillips is currently looking for such a proposal. In their bids the students showed an excellent grasp of commissioning principles.
I was struck by a remark from one team when presenting their idea, that ‘people are curious about others’. This is an important insight. TV is a key bridge across the gap between individuals. Commissioning feeds that two-way process.