On November 14th Channel 4 closes it’s search for new presenters to work on the Paralympics. Now while I wish everyone who takes part good luck, it does amaze me that yet again a British TV company has undertaken a search for “New Talent” while ignoring the sea of existing talent out there.
It’s not only C4 that seem to be obsessed with the New. The BBC have just carried out a country wide search for new disabled actors. Yet I know of many hyper talented disabled actors that have been working for years that never get onto TV. I only need to think of the superb Graeae production of Reason To Be Cheerful that is running at the minute, which is a show so crammed full of talent it bursts off the stage. Some of those appearing in this show have been on TV, but let’s admit it disabled people do not exactly fill our screens.
As for presenters… that really is a joke. As an award winning TV presenter, with many very talented friends who also have spent years working in the industry only to be forgotten, it makes me quite cross to hear of yet another talent search. I’ve worked in TV for over 20 years and the industry seems to undertake a New Talent search in some form or other about once every five years. If you were part of the last search you can kiss your career goodbye. It normally ties in with you deciding that this is going to be your career and that you should start asking for the same money as the able bodied presenters you work with. Funny that. But it does mean that time and time again all of our major TV companies spend time and tons of money training this new talent while leaving the old talent and all their skill to go to waste. Don’t forget that all of us old talent types also have fans and leave a gap in the TV world’s output.
So why all these searches? Well let’s ignore my cynicism and not go with the New Talent is cheaper argument, and try to find other answers. I suppose there are loads of people out there that would be great presenters and actors and these article to find them, which is a good thing. It also shows that these channels are trying to get more disabled people on screen, and let’s face it the Paralympics should have disabled presenters fronting the output. These are great reasons to look for disabled talent. But not to ignore the huge number of disabled people who have already shown how talented they are.
The main problem with these searches is where is the work. The C4 search that happened at the start of the 2000’s found some superb on screen talent, yet all of these did pretty much nothing. Even those of us with huge showreels, and awards to boot, still spend most of our days writing embittered blogs about not working instead of being used to front TV. Disabled actors get to play bitter twisted cripples or tragic souls who can’t take being disabled any more. Not exactly pushing their talent. I have lost count of the number of auditions for roles that were so stereotypically crap.
Perhaps the TV industry should look at their production talent while they carry out their disabled talent searches? Then whoever is discovered this time won’t be ignored, forgotten or saddled with jobs that crush their drive to carry on in the industry. And pay them the going rate please!
I just hope that this a turning point how disability is shown on TV. Fingers crossed that we will start being seen as part of society, and be included as such. Presenters will do articles on stuff that isn’t about disability, and may even end up as key celebrity talent. Actors will start playing realistic characters, and may even play roles where their disability isn’t even mentioned. Then I won’t need to write my embittered rants, and will either be up there with these new guys or watching them wishing them well.
PS. Having said all that I shall be entering the C4 search myself. Let’s just hope that whoever is judging allows me to considered as New!