How do you view the role of the documentary – artistic and journalistic documentaries alike – in the programming of public service channels?
“I believe we’re witnessing a turn-around now as documentaries are having a renaissance on TV. We see good productions from France, such as FR3 which broadcasts some fantastic documentaries, and on the BBC, which has started showing documentaries in prime time again. Documentary programmes are having success in Germany, too. So the fact that the documentary is being reconsidered for prime-time slots is good international news. On the other hand, I believe that if you want a large documentary audience, you have to lean towards documentaries dealing with contemporary, complicated topics that people want to know more about and that have an emotional dimension. The quality, artistic documentary appealing to a limited audience still leads a troubled existence.”
Do you think there is a risk of relegating artistic documentaries to a ‘ghetto’ as sometimes happens on DR2 (Danish cultural channel – ed.)?
“No, I did that myself for six years, so I don’t think so. DR2, which can soon be seen by 90% of the Danish population, is designed for presenting the more selective and specific programmes and as long as 90% of the population can see the channel, I don’t think there’s any problem.”
How about BBC4, which is also a digital channel…
“…and a cultural channel not targeted on a large audience. The British promote it as the Danes promote DR2 – only the British are five years behind.”
What is your opinion of working with independent producers compared to doing in-house productions?
“It’s very positive because it would be completely insane not to profit from the creative ideas of colleagues working in the private sector and to expect that the public service station is the only one capable of coming up with good ideas. It’s all about networking with production companies that are interested in producing documentary programmes. As far as I remember from DR, half of our documentary programmes were produced by independents.”
Even if they’re more costly?
“Yes, it all depends on how you do the math. If you include overheads on in-house productions, then the costs are the same.”
What about Reality TV? Do you think that these kind of programmes can edge out documentary programs?
“Not on public service stations. We don’t see these kind of programmes – and maybe public service stations should actually be blamed for not being able to come up with a new form of more intelligent reality shows – but we rarely see public service stations offering such brainless programming.”
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