So what happens when a bunch of construction consultants suddenly find themselves running a television station. And why would they ever want to?
Lord Reith, the man who invented the modern BBC, got it right when he declared that its role was to educate, inform and entertain. Easy to say – not so easy to deliver.
We are fortunate to work with professional communicators on a daily basis at the BBC’s Portland Place Studios, White City and its New Media City in Manchester. Our role is project management rather than TV programming and most of our folk are more likely to recognise Sir Stuart Lipton than Bruce Forsyth. However, working alongside the modern broadcast media has helped us to examine the way we communicate with those inside and outside the business, and is one of the reasons we started our own infotainment TV channel, Gleeds TV.
Undoubtedly, television is the most effective communication medium that exists today, and the internet is probably the fastest growing and important development of the future. If you combine the two you are able to communicate across continents for a cost that makes traditional paper communication redundant. Why fell forests for a company newsletter when for a fraction of the cost you can create a rolling news service that appears on desktops at the click of a mouse?
GTV originated from internal discussions that originally presumed a 10-year gestation from conception to birth. In fact, a combination of modern technology and enthusiasm saw the baby emerge in a tenth of that time.
If you aim to launch a TV station that is going to educate and inform, you also have to entertain the audience to keep them interested. This is not as easy as it sounds – unlike Mr Murdoch or Mr Grade, our staff are professional consultants rather than creative luvvies. Often they are more at home with a computer than a clapperboard.
The communications department that runs GTV has worked hard to involve colleagues but had to reject suggested content such as “Cost Managers’ X Factor” or ”Project Management Makeover”. However, serious content has come from the most unlikely of sources and the thought of having a communications medium that can be updated on a rolling basis has meant that a new commission or an interesting event can be filmed and put on screen relatively quickly.
We had to reject suggested content such as ‘Cost Managers’ X Factor’ or ‘Project Management Makeover’
We have opted for material that can inform, with international, national and regional news specific to each office bought in from professional providers. Education uses an Open University-type approach, whereby
in-house trainers perform to camera rather than being based in an office. Entertainment programming is more management-based than show business and comes as series of special programmes that have an industry focus but with a Gleeds slant. We’re fortunate that we have clients that we’ve worked with for many years. They can provide content that is genuinely entertaining, simply by being interviewed by a fellow industry professional.
As well as undertaking interviews myself, we are fortunate to have Sir Steve Redgrave, who will be presenting content from Beijing during the Olympics. He brings a host of sporting contacts that we believe will help us develop an Olympic theme that matches our own international development.
GTV will be available in all our offices from Sydney to Shanghai and from Warrington to Warsaw. We have always adopted a “think global, act local” philosophy and it helps that our international offices are financed, owned and staffed entirely by our own organisation. Content will be in English, but we see local programmes developing as the service matures, and the rolling news captions could be in the local language. There is no reason why the Polish equivalent of Ken Shuttleworth cannot be interviewed by the head of our Polish operation.
It is important that a visitor to the Warsaw office feels that the content is not purely UK-based, which would destroy our “act local” culture. Nevertheless, clients are often buying into the fact that we are bringing a specialist expertise across the world as an organisation operating in a global context. GTV helps to reinforce this.
The future? We are at an early stage of the development of GTV and I’m not preparing my acceptance speech for a Bafta just yet. Nevertheless, we are in an industry that appears rich in work but poor in available talent to undertake projects. The advent of mass communications techniques are far more likely to appeal to the iPod generation who gain 95% of their information from a screen. As they walk into our reception and watch the new medium, I hope they feel that our industry is 21st century rather than grounded in Victoriana.
Richard Steer is senior partner in Gleeds