Interview with Sir Peter BazalgetteDate Posted: 10 December 2018
On 3rd December, the Club was granted the opportunity to interview that evening's guest speaker, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chairman of ITV. Here's what he had to say to Paul MacKenzie-Cummins and Dougie Collier from Clearly PR & Marketing Communications on behalf of the Club.
How has the media changed since you started your career, and what does the future hold?
Well in one word, digital. The internet era is going through the media like a typhoon on heat and everything is changing. Every model is changing, and some models may disappear altogether. The part of the media that’s under the most pressure, as we know, is the print newspaper business but even there, there are some interesting elements.
Other traditional models [like] radio survives, TV, films and so on – this is Riepl’s Law. Wolfgang Riepl was editor of a German newspaper in 1930 and he came up with this idea of innovation in media.
Loosely translated, he states that innovation in media tends to add to what went before, rather than replace it. They tend to be more like the car and the train, than the car and the horse. And if you think of radio – it was meant to replace newspapers and TV was meant to destroy film etc., etc.
So, we’re not going to see the death of our newspapers anytime soon then?
The funding mechanism for newspapers is under extreme pressure, but if you have a really interesting product where you can build a subscriber base, as is the case with the FT and New York Times, you will prosper. There will still be demand for trusted and reliable sources - for proper journalism.
I think the one drawback of the contraction of the newspaper business is that there are fewer journalists being trained. In an era of ‘fake news’, where the internet is the home of rumour, gossip and paranoia, properly sourced news written by trained journalists is absolutely essential to democracy.
There has been a proliferation of the media in the last few years, with more players coming onto the scene. How do you ensure ITV remains relevant and retain your audience base?
The thing is, [the likes of Netflix and Amazon] are frenemies - Netflix does not take advertisements and so while it competes for viewing titles, it doesn’t compete for the advertising dollar. What’s more, ITV has got a lot of TV channels that sells and makes programs all over the world. We have an international production company and our largest customer, next year, after ITV’s own channels will be Netflix. A Frenemy.
How do the creative industries in general overcome that issue of diversity?
First, just to define the problem. Broadcasting and journalism have a larger responsibility to be diverse because it’s not just a business, it’s also about our cultural and democratic life. So, it should be representative of all communities.
One of the keys to this is the apprenticeships schemes. Just this afternoon I have been meeting with apprentices at ITV from ethnic minorities and people with disabilities who are doing a great job having come in for the apprentice scheme - the apprentice scheme is a way of getting people from a wider group of people together and interested in the industry.
I recent authored a report for the government industrial strategy on the creative industries, and one of my proposals was that there should be much greater effort put into creating materials highlighting the career paths available in the creative industries in schools.
Say you’re from a deprived background and you have parents who are ambitious for you, they might be very interested in you becoming a doctor, or a dentist, or a lawyer, or an accountant and brilliant if you do, or a scientist. But there are great career paths for creative, talented kids in the creative industries, too. It’s just that there isn’t an enough information on it. So, work to be done on both ends, both demand and supply.
Is there a responsibly among business to make employees more aware of people from different ethnicities, racial backgrounds, genders, orientations, whatever, social economic backgrounds as well?
We’ve got some good talented non-executive women on our board as well now, but that doesn’t happen by accident. You have to make an effort. One of the things I argue in my book, The Empathy Instinct: How to Create a More Civil Society, is that we are tribal by nature.
One of the bases of bias and racism is the fact that we are instinctively loyal to people of our own culture, religion, colour and even the same football team. We tend to be hostile to people outside our tribe and that is a natural instinct. But racism could be called a natural instinct – It is culture and education that helps you overcome such prejudices and helps you reach out beyond the boundaries.
What are you most proud of in terms of the programs you have brought to our screens?
The biggest buzz you get is from creating a show that a lot of people watch. If you had a spark of an idea that ended up getting 11-12 million people viewing it, this is the biggest pleasure. If I write a book and it sells 7,500 copies, that’s not bad. But getting 12 million people to watch a TV show is not an easy thing to do, it’s a lot of luck and being in the right place at the right time, no doubt, but that gives you the biggest charge.
Is there a single piece of advice you were told when you were starting out in your career that’s kind of stuck with you and held you in good stead?
Well, I don’t know if I was told this but certainly my advice would be that when people say I’ve been lucky, I always say no, no there’s no such thing as being lucky. There is such a thing as making your own luck and I always say that the best thing you can do is seize opportunities, seize them. Don’t hold back, seize opportunities. And that-opportunities a raise all the time you have to seize them. Carpe diem.
Have there been any major setbacks that you’ve faced and what lessons did you learn in the way you had to overcome those to come out the other end?
Everybody has their ups and downs but I do believe in Churchill’s mantra: KBO - keep buggering on. However grim it looks, keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep going.
Do you think that’s going to have an implication on the media industry in this country
There’s massive uncertainty and we want it resolved and for certainty to return. That has a bearing on a lot of things, particularly on advertising – something that is an act of confidence. It is also a barometer of the economy. So, yes it has an effect on media, it has an effect on our business because its uncertainty, that’s what we want to remove.