From MacTaggart to ‘MasterChef’: A look at this year’s Edinburgh TV fest

The international TV industry is gearing up for the 35th annual MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival which kicks off tomorrow.
August 26, 2010

The international television industry is gearing up for the 35th annual MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival which kicks off tomorrow (August 27) and runs until Sunday.

The annual MacTaggart Lecture is always a hot ticket and this year is no exception: the keynote speaker is BBC general director Mark Thompson who will take the podium amidst heightened political and internal tensions. On Friday Thompson is expected to address a number of touchy subjects including the licensing fee negotiations the network is about to enter into with Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition government. He is also expected to articulate some kind of a response to BSkyB chairman James Murdoch who was critical of the public broadcaster’s size and executive salaries in an incendiary address last year.

Other sessions expected to draw sizeable numbers include broadcaster Steve Hewlett’s on-stage interrogation of British secretary of state for media Jeremy Hunt, the screening of filmmaker Shane Meadows’ latest TV drama This is England ’86 and the Futureview address from Sandy Climan, the CEO of 3D tech company 3ality Digital. A MasterChef Masterclass will pit ITV2′s Zai Bennett against BBC Bristol factual head Ben Gale in a cook-off. And ‘All Superindies are Bastards’ will feature Endemol UK CEO (and outgoing exec chair of the festival) Tim Hincks on the panel, as well as clips from disguised producers venting spleen regarding the current production climate in the UK.

Twitter will also play an integral role at the festival for the first time. Delegates will be able to tweet questions to channel controllers who will be looking ahead to the 2011 season. Factually-focused sessions include ‘How Reality TV Saved Documentary’ featuring Jersey Shore producer Jackie French and Channel 4′s deputy head of documentaries Simon Dickson, and ‘TV’s Got Dance’, a dance-off that will open the festival. Other enticing and provocatively-entitled sessions include ‘Branded Entertainment: Goldmine or Minefield’, ‘RIP Scheduled TV?’ and ’3D: Will it go beyond Football, Films & F***ing?’

The festival also announced Wednesday that ITV’s director of entertainment and comedy, Elaine Bedell, will replace Endemol CEO Tim Hincks as the festival’s executive chair. Hincks took over the job in 2006 from Dawn Airey. ‘The festival is in the safest of hands, allowing me to gracefully retire and spend more time with my shareholders,’ he quipped in a statement.

Bedell was the festival’s advisory chair last year and will take the reins at the end of this year’s event on Sunday. Since moving to ITV from her previous role as BBC’s controller of entertainment commissioning in March, 2009, Bedell has overseen some of Britain’s biggest shows, including X-Factor, Dancing on Ice, Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity….

The MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival 2010 will take place August 27-29. For more info visit

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Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.