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Screenwriters accuse Bafta of obsession with starlets

Arifa Akbar
Saturday 16 January 2010 01:00 GMT

Television screenwriters have criticised the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) for sidelining them in favour of "glamorous starlets" and relegating their awards ceremony to the "back room".

Tony Jordan, the creator of Hustle, spoke out alongside Danny Stack, who has written for EastEnders, and Katherine Way, a writer for Casualty and Doctors. They accused Bafta of undervaluing them, claiming the organisation's awards ceremonies were too focused on photogenic celebrities.

They added that the ceremony which recognised writers, called the Craft Awards, which are not televised, confined writers to the "back room". They called on Bafta to honour them in the main Television Awards, which are screened on terrestrial television every year, alongside the acting talent.

In an article for The Stage, Mr Jordan, a former lead writer for EastEnders who has also written for Life on Mars, acknowledged that it was up to "each organisation to decide on which awards it should give out", but said he felt the televised Bafta awards appeared to focus on putting celebrities on screen.

"I do think that the writer's role is somewhat played down by the Bafta awards. After all, everything begins with the word. As they are so frequently gushing about an actor finding his or her character and performing all the complexity and depth of that character, surely they should be equally gushing about the person who created that character in the first place," he said.

Mr Stack added: "I think screenwriting is undervalued or dismissed and worse, condescended to, when everyone pays lip service to how important it is in the whole process. I think Bafta should put it front and centre with the main awards and categories."

His views were echoed by Ms Way, who claimed that there should be two writing awards, one for drama and another for comedy. "How do you compare the writing of Criminal Justice, say, with the writing of a new sitcom?" she said. Anne Hogben, the deputy general secretary of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, backed the writers' calls, adding: "Bafta is obsessed with glamorous starlets. They prefer to keep writers in the back room, along with the make-up artists."

However John Willis, the chairman of Bafta's television committee, said there was "a finite number of categories for each ceremony" and added that the awards are reviewed annually. "The committee's decision was that the Television Awards should include the programmes and performers, while the writers, along with the directors, music composers and other crafts would be honoured at the Craft Awards," he said.

Mr Willis added that writers are often highlighted in the Television Awards as one of four people who have made the most creative contribution to a nominated drama show.

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