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Lord Puttnam warns broadcast media: “It must engage”

Lord David Puttnam delivered an unashamed masterclass for IBC that embraced filmmaking, journalism, broadcast media, political influence and his current passion for climate change, and generated a standing ovation from delegates.

Lord Puttnam said that the technology at IBC was clearly getting better and better, especially in IBC’s Future Zone, but that perhaps broadcast media was getting worse and worse at actually helping us to understand what was going on around us.

He was critical of UK broadcasters and their coverage of the recent Brexit debate. “There was no challenge to the Brexit lies. Broadcast media was pathetic in how they followed the ridiculous impartiality rules.”

He backed up his comments with film clips, in particular his own The Mission (1986) and what he described as the most perfect two minutes, 18 seconds from the movie.

He praised George Clooney’s Oscar-winning Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) where the real-life hero of the film, Edward R Murrow (speaking in 1958) argued that “unless TV started again to teach, and to illuminate, and to inspire then it was no more than merely wires and lights in a box”.

Lord Puttnam stressed that he wanted Europe’s public broadcasters to start explaining, and not simply following the money.

Puttnam said the message was every bit as important as the medium. Indeed, this passion to tell it as it is, but also to entertain, is why he is returning to filmmaking.

He has scripted a climate change story about Greenpeace’s Arctic 30, the multinational crew of the Arctic Sunrise who took part in a protest against Russia’s drilling for oil in the Arctic in 2013 and were arrested by gunpoint.

The film tells the story from one of the activist’s point of view. “And we follow her journey,” he said.

Asked whether he agreed with Sir Martin Sorrell’s statement made at IBC that the UK’s Channel 4 should be sold, Lord Puttnam said the publicly-owned channel should stay public (“profoundly wrong to privatise it”), and continue to plough back its profits from advertising into programme making.

He also argued for a tax on the English Premier League, and on gambling and even on each email sent (one cent), “which would stop people sending them, and also hitting the ‘reply to all’ key!”