The Importance of Creating Mechanisms for British Broadcasters to Tell Campaigning Stories

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The director of Mr. Bates vs the Post Office, James Strong, has emphasized the need for British broadcasters to establish a mechanism that allows for the continuation of telling campaigning stories through various mediums. Since the airing of Mr. Bates in January, Strong has been inundated with requests for help from individuals wanting to shed light on a wide range of issues, from small stories to corporate scandals. He believes that setting up a mechanism where individuals can approach broadcasters with their ideas for dramas is crucial in ensuring that important stories are represented.

Avoiding the Fate of Becoming a “Unicorn”

Strong expressed his desire for Mr. Bates not to become a “unicorn,” emphasizing the importance of British broadcasters supporting factual stories. He highlighted the success of Mr. Bates, which has become ITV’s most-watched show since Downton Abbey, and its impact on bringing the post office scandal to the forefront. Unlike past scandals depicted in TV shows, the post office scandal stands out for being a live issue that has prompted real change, particularly in terms of compensation for victims. Strong urged broadcasters to continue to support such impactful storytelling.

Despite the challenges faced in funding local shows like Mr. Bates, Strong pointed out the commercial value that these productions bring, citing the show’s success and its sale to other countries, including the U.S. He emphasized the importance of supporting productions that shed light on important issues and drive real change in society. Strong commended ITV’s decision to fast-track a drama about the contaminated blood affair, highlighting the significance of tackling live scandals through television dramas.

The success of Mr. Bates has had a profound impact on its audience, with BBC Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark noting that the show prompted 400 people to come forward with their stories. Wark highlighted the role of television dramas in empowering individuals to speak out about their experiences, particularly in cases where they may have felt unable to do so in the past. The ability of dramas like Mr. Bates to engage and mobilize audiences is a testament to the power of storytelling in effecting social change.

Reflecting on the creative process behind Mr. Bates, Strong noted the challenges of selecting and excluding certain stories to ensure the show’s impactfulness. He emphasized the importance of striking a balance between including enough characters to tell the story effectively while also maintaining a cohesive narrative. Strong acknowledged the difficult decisions that had to be made in the editing process to prioritize the effectiveness of the storytelling and the impact it would have on the audience.

The creation of mechanisms that enable British broadcasters to continue telling campaigning stories is crucial in driving social change and raising awareness of important issues. By supporting factual storytelling and dramas that tackle live scandals, broadcasters can empower audiences to engage with and respond to real-world events. The success of shows like Mr. Bates demonstrates the power of storytelling in effecting change and shaping public discourse. As the landscape of television continues to evolve, it is essential for broadcasters to prioritize the creation of impactful and socially relevant content that resonates with audiences.


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