PSB’s vital for regional stories, says ‘Sherwood’ creator James Graham


BBC crime drama Sherwood would never have been picked up by a global streaming service, said show creator James Graham, discussing the role and future of British public broadcasters.

Speaking at the Outside The Box 2023 conference in London on Thursday, Graham highlighted the role that pubcasters play in allowing creators to tell distinctive regional stories.

“Over the course of six hours, I got to explore the specific cultural identity of the red wall, and how north Nottinghamshire is different from south Leicestershire and south Yorkshire. I love Paramount+ but I don’t know if they’re going to be as keen to talk about that.”

The playwright and screenwriter, who was also behind Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War, continued: “If you’re a drama commissioner at Netflix or Disney+… they are looking for British voices and British talent, which is great… but it has to reach a wider global audience ­and I just know that Sherwood would not have found a home [on those services].”

In conversation with Banijay UK chairman Patrick Holland, Graham noted the uncertainty that has surrounded the future of the BBC and Channel 4: “As we start to discuss a future without PSBs or less PSBs, you’re going to [risk losing] these region specific and even British specific stories.”

He added that global streamers, such as Netflix and Amazon are “utterly perplexed” by potential government threats to the pipeline of British content and talent, such as the freezing of the BBC licence fee and the recently canned proposals to privatise Channel 4.

Graham said that the industry needs to begin shouting about public broadcasting successes: “We normally wait for a crisis to begin talking about it. We never in advance of a crisis, in the good times, [point out] what’s brilliant about 10 million people watching the finale of [BBC One crime drama] Line Of Duty at the same time [or] when [Fleabag creator] Phoebe Waller-Bridge goes off and wins lots of Emmys and her storytelling goes all around the world.”

Holland, who took the helm of Banijay UK last year, meanwhile said that the UK broadcasting model is envied the world over and shared his concerns that if the industry fails to realise this that “the goose that lays the golden egg [will be] killed”.

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