Media: Switched on to TV

ITN news trainee Louise Turner learns how success breeds success, at Edinburgh's television festival
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The Independent Culture
FILM FESTIVALS show films. Arts festivals show art. So where is the TV at the TV festival? I went to my first television festival expecting to find a forum of creativity, the top names in the business discussing the next big thing. I envisaged directors showing their work, illustrating the medium at its very best. In reality, there was a predominance of suits talking policy and strategies.

Screenings were surprisingly scarce, revealing the festival's main purpose, which is to talk business not promote ideas. Perhaps a more apt name for the gathering would have been "television conference".

That aside, the festival was very enjoyable, a unique opportunity to see in the flesh those who make television happen. Of course it was also an unmissable chance to spot stars - and I was blessed enough to see Eastenders' very own Dot Cotton. The other stars of our small screen appeared to have stayed at home.

With all the talent at the TV festival it was surprising how little questioning went on in the sessions. There were some embarrassed silences when the issues opened to the floor. In some cases, the panel had to nominate chums in the audience to ask questions. For a group who should be so full of ideas, they were a dumb-struck disappointment.

One of the dominant themes of the festival concerned women's future in TV. The revelation that "women are going to be the new profession leaders" appeared a threatening point in this traditionally male-dominated world. A less surprising theme was the prev- alence of sex on our sets. To gauge what turns on the British public, exclusive research was carried out into responses to sex scenes. Delegates attended the "dramatic sex" session to vote on erotic clips. The surprise finding was that young and attractive couples were the biggest pleasure to watch.

This was the first party I had spent in a museum- the impressive Dynamic Earth Museum - and looking at the exhibits seemed to be more entertaining than the event itself. Having suffered the party for long enough I returned to the George Hotel to discover where the television executives had been drinking the night away.

The George becomes the centre of British broadcasting for festival weekend. It is far from the glitzy and glamorous place I had imagined, but is a Mecca for TV talent. Channel controllers and commissioning editors are targeted by programme-makers pitching ideas from every direction.

Networking success seems to come to those who are already successful. The other TV hopefuls are left clinging on to their extortionately priced drinks, smiling wanly at every passersby just in case they happen to be important. Second-glancing and blatant staring are common occurrences.

Sadly, as a Television and Young People (TVYP) delegate, I was not an instant target for networkers. The attitude of the television world to aspiring young hopefuls was summed up by Richard Eyre in the opening lecture when he waved and said hello to the TVYP group in a voice usually reserved for addressing toddlers.

As a news trainee at ITN, I felt patronised by my treatment at the festival. Apart from a few individuals, the majority of professionals saved their energy to talk to those who were of more use to them. TVYP is a fantastic scheme that gives young people access to television's big event. The master classes and workshops available show what paths are open to those entering the broadcast media and give an insight into the industry. However, delegates tend to be chaperoned between locations, as on a school outing, and this makes them inaccessible to others.

At the end of the weekend, I was exhausted. Non-stop sessions and attempts to network left me with an empty stomach, hours of sleep to catch up on, and few additions to my contacts book. I now have one week to prepare for my first step up the TV career ladder, and I hope one day to return to the festival and see everything from a rather different perspective.