Casualty

I sung the praises of the BBC’s Natural History Unit in a Commons debate yesterday, and this confirms how justified such praise is. Fantastic pictures. The basic thrust of what I was saying is that the BBC should stick to what it’s good at – and wildlife programmes are top of the list. Not quite sure how anyone confused a dugong with a mermaid though. I suppose it’s dark down there. (See left – a dugong. Not a mermaid).
The ‘Keep Casualty in Bristol’ campaign has also picked up speed. I’ve always been wary of taking up populist (as opposed to popular) causes) but with Casualty I think there are two arguments. One is a tad sentimental I suppose: Casualty has been filmed in Bristol since 1986, and unlike say Eastenders where they never seem to venture out of Albert Square, a lot of it is filmed on location. Holby is Bristol. Moving it to Cardiff and expecting to people not to notice the difference is just plain silly.

Have just been talking to MP-in-waiting Paul Smith, who was Chair of the Council’s Leisure committee when the spin-off, Holby City, started. (Stephen Williams was his Lib opposite number!) He was called by a journalist who wanted to know whether he was worried that Bristol would become associated in the public mind with death and disease and horrible accidents, and that people wouldn’t want to come here as a result. Can’t remember what he said his on-the-record response was, but his off-the-record verdict was something along the lines of don’t be so bloody ridiculous. Quite.

Anymore, on a more serious note, Casualty is estimated to bring £10m a year into the local economy. Its success is one of the reasons why Bristol has become a hub for creative industries. Many local people got their first experience of working in TV from Casualty, whether as actors or extras, set designers, camera operators, technicians, writers, or on-set gophers. Students come to Bristol to study media and broadcasting, knowing there’s a good chance they’ll get work experience on such programmes, or be able to draw upon the skills and experience of people who have worked in the industry. OK, Casualty (and presumably Holby City, Holby Blue, etc) isn’t the be all and end all, we’ve still got Skins, Teachers (is that coming back?), and more. But it’s the thin end of the wedge and I think we should be fighting to keep it here.

The Director General of the BBC happens to be addressing an all-party group in Westminster on Tuesday on Ofcom’s public broadcasting review, so will try to collar him there.

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