The Hunting of the Independent Television Producer: Snark or Boojum?

Authors: Rawstrone, K.

Start date: 14 April 2015

The title refers to Carroll’s nonsense poem in which a mythical creature, the Snark, is sought and [spoiler alert], when found, turns out to be a Boojum, a very different kind of animal.

The Snark in this case is the British Independent Television Producer, characterised over the past three decades variously as progressive, creative, entrepreneurial and innovative - free from the restrictive bounds of the broadcaster, heroic and risk-taking. But when one finds this creature, upon analysis, its mythical characteristics blur and dissolve, revealing a far more negotiated, dependent and contingent identity – a Boojum after all.

That there is a nonsense in describing a sub-set of television producers as “Independent” does not, I argue, abdicate the word of its usefulness in television production discourse. As in Carroll’s poem, the seemingly meaningless word motivates a set of narratives and practices around which people collect, are included, excluded and defined through their negotiation of positions in relative power.

What, then, has been the usefulness of the term “Independent” in British Television Production? Who has written its narratives, in what social, political and economic contexts and to what ends; and why is the mythical Independent Television Producer so difficult to find?

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