I'm feeling strangely respectable at the moment, because I've written an article for Broadcast magazine. It's in this week's print edition, live on their website now, and reproduced below with permission. And yes, I really do love America's Next Top Model. And Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model. You should see me during makeover week. Anyway, comments are open on this, for debate, links, etc, but I will be wielding the Meat Hammer of Deletion for any trolling, derailing, or devil's advocate time wasting. Here's the article:
New award for reality shows is an insult to writers, says James Moran.
Bafta must recognise wordsmiths
17 November, 2011
Each year, Bafta has two awards ceremonies to celebrate the best of UK TV. The televised event features glamorous actors in posh outfits; the Craft awards, however, aren’t screened as they feature the people who viewers supposedly aren’t interested in. Like writers. You know, those unimportant people who make up stories in their heads from nothing.
The televised ceremony heaps praise on the nominated shows, and many of the winners talk about the brilliant scripts that got them excited about the project. But you won’t see the writers at the awards, unless the producers allow them to come up on stage, or if the writer is a producer. There’s the Dennis Potter award, for ‘significant writing contribution to television’, but nothing for the creators of shows that might sweep the televised awards. Even Dennis Potter himself, if he were still alive, would be relegated to the Craft section.
TV is driven by writers. You can’t make a soap, a drama, a comedy or narrate a documentary without a script, so it’s baffling to be sidelined like this. Maybe they think we’re not photogenic enough. That’s clearly nonsense. Lots of writers have got that smouldering, broody artist thing going for them. Because that’s what’s important, right? Looking good on the red carpet? Don’t worry, we’ll scrub up and dress nice for you, Bafta.
Worse still, in the Craft awards, there is only one writing category. There should be at least two, to separate drama and comedy. You wouldn’t make Downton Abbey and Peep Show compete for ‘Best TV Show’, because they’re completely different experiences, so why lump all writers into one box?
In the main show, there are six acting awards in total. Drama and comedy shows are rightly split into single drama, drama series, mini-series, continuing drama, comedy and situation comedy.
Directing, while still hidden in the Craft awards, gets three categories – factual, fiction and multi-camera. Sound and editing get two each. But we just get ‘writer’, one award to cover the entire spectrum. What sort of message does that send?
Last time this issue came up, John Willis, then chair of Bafta’s TV committee, said there were “a finite number of categories for each ceremony”. If that’s true, why have they just added a new category for reality shows?
I have nothing against the genre – I love America’s Next Top Model – but you can’t claim there’s no room for writers and then squeeze in an extra category. The “finite” number of categories should be allocated more evenly.
It all affects how writers are perceived, and Bafta seems to be saying that writers aren’t important. I’m sure it doesn’t really think that – Bafta does lots of fantastic events with screenwriters, for example – but it really does need to address this issue.
Sure, in the great scheme of things, it’s hardly genocide. But writers get devalued and ignored enough, without getting left out of the one event where they should be celebrated. British TV features some of the finest writing in the world. It’s about time Bafta recognised that, in public.
➤ James Moran’s credits include Spooks, Torchwood, Doctor Who and Primeval and the horror film Severance. He blogs advice for writers at jamesmoran.blogspot.com