Edinburgh festival touts success, not scandal

The crisis gripping British TV, sparked by scandals over rigged phone lines and faked documentary footage, has not diminished the reputation U.K. TV enjoys in the U.S.

This is according to Washington-based Discovery topper Jane Root who, speaking at the Edinburgh Intl. Television Festival, urged Brit web heads and producers to stop beating themselves up and remember that, globally, British shows have never been more successful.

“The eyes of the U.S. networks are on British talent and creativity,” Root said on Sunday, the last day of the three-day confab. “This can spawn things like ‘The Office,’ entertainment like ‘American Idol,’ and factual programs like ‘Planet Earth.’

“The British invasion into U.S. television has changed the fortunes of the U.S. networks.”

Root, a former BBC senior exec, spoke as it emerged that the head of Blighty’s leading terrestrial webs are to hold a summit next month in an attempt to ensure the recent spate of incidents that have sapped viewer trust, according to opinion polls, do not reoccur.

She said the spats that affected documentaries like RDF Media’s “A Year With The Queen,” the subject of a BBC inquiry after a trailer for the program featured footage edited out of chronological order, were of a different order than the scams involving phone line quizzes.

“You just can’t go around relieving the public of their cash under false pretences. It’s called fraud,” Root insisted.

Speaking at the confab earlier, U.S. author Lionel Shriver accused TV networks of over-hyping stories like the trials of Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson and castigated British terrestrial webs for following their U.S. counterparts downmarket.

Shriver, who lives in Blighty, said that TV webs regularly inflated stories to the point where they provided a distraction from more important issues.

“Do not underestimate your audience,” Shriver urged her listeners. “They deserve better than ‘How To Look Good Naked’ and ‘How Clean is Your House?”

She did, however, praise shows like BBC costume saga “Jane Eyre” and Channel 4’s much-feted “Longford,” the story of a British politician’s relationship with a convicted murderer.

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