RTS confab focuses on U.K. TV industry


LONDON -- The executives and policymakers headed to the Royal Television Society's biennial conference are expected to focus on a series of meaty issues facing the media biz, everything from spending cuts at the Beeb to marketing ploys to reach younger consumers.

The RTS conference, which opens today on the grounds of Kings College Cambridge and runs through Saturday, provides a platform to examine the state of the industry and look at the trends impacting its future.

Two years ago, Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan used the event as a forum to seek government financial support for the commercial broadcaster, a move that has since been greenlighted by the Treasury.

This year, Culture Minister James Purnell will deliver the opening address, his first industry outing as secretary of state since his appointment two months ago. That will be followed by a Q&A session moderated by British Sky Broadcasting CEO James Murdoch.

BBC director general Mark Thompson is expected to come under pressure to defend budget trims that have affected key program brands this year at the BBC. The cuts are likely to open a public debate about whether the pubcaster should spend more on its core news and entertainment services and ax its poorly performing digital channels to pay for it.

Other highlights include an appearance by News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin, who will appear on a panel about creativity and content alongside RTL Group CEO Gerhard Zeiler, BBC chief creative head Peter Salmon, Wall to Wall chief executive Alex Graham and All3Media creative director David Liddiment.

The group will discuss how to protect and originate creative ideas and how to market content to consumers.

John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts, the world's biggest video game publisher with revenue of $3 billion a year, will deliver a keynote about the growing user appetite for immersive and interactive content.

The debates are likely to continue into the night and off the conference floor, with dinners hosted by Disney and RTL Group on consecutive nights.