The Banff World Media Festival will use its 35th anniversary as an occasion to look ahead, according to fest exec director Ferne Cohen.
“As with the industry in general we define ourselves as evolving and forward-looking,” she says.

Accordingly, conference seminars will inquire into what content will look like in the next 35 years. Substituting “media” for “television” in the fest’s title in 2011 recognized the quantum shift to creating content for the Internet and other advanced digital delivery forms.

“We strive to be the most important gathering and marketplace focusing on the content development and production piece,” Cohen says.

More than 2,000 industry executives will hold or attend master classes, and make deals, in a picturesque setting that once inspired the sobriquet “the Sundance of television.”

Central to every Banff edition are the coveted Rockie Awards, with 156 nominees and winners in 26 categories chosen by blue-ribbon global juries. Contenders run the gamut from “The Big Bang Theory” and “Doctor Who,” to “Secrets of the Irish Landscape.”

In the serial drama category, U.K.’s “Downton Abbey” and heralded U.S. skeins “House of Cards” and “The Bible” will do battle with Korean pediatrics drama “Good Doctor” and Israeli thriller-mini “Hostages,” which spawned a U.S. remake.

Ben Silverman, founder and chairman, Electus, will receive the Award of Excellence in Digital Innovation.

“(Ben’s) achievements in producing outstanding digital content are both inventive and inspiring,” Cohen says.

Reinforcing Banff’s forward focus, its lifetime achievement honoree remains vital and active. Having made his bones in print and early TV, former CBS anchor Dan Rather continues to “speak truth to power,” as he puts it, through investigative reports and long-form interview profiles for AXS-TV.
The newsman will both interview keynoter, Lionsgate TV Group chairman Kevin Beggs, and assume the hot seat for his own one-on-one.

Rather looks forward to sharing his “passion for journalism” with broadcasting insiders. “If I can [talk] about the importance of quality journalism, of integrity, that alone will be worth the trip.”

He has some pungent thoughts on media and international understanding. With unprecedented access to quality foreign content, Americans fail to avail themselves of “those obscure places on the remote.” Overseas viewers, by contrast, may be inundated with “if not the worst, certainly not the most representative of our culture.”

Banff, he argues, “is one of the few times on the calendar you have a chance of saying, ‘How can we get other countries the best of television on a worldwide basis?’” And will he use his time to nudge attendees in that direction? “The short answer is, I’ll sure try.”