According to Eddie Morgan, editor of BBC 2’s The Culture Show, America’s most loved family is as
worthy of the label as opera, ballet and art. ‘We will cover popular culture, high culture, middle culture, whatever you want to call it,’ he says. ‘For me, the more interesting question is – is it any good?’
In the case of The Simpsons, the answer has to be yes. A special Culture Show celebrating the 400th episode with creator Matt Groening helped attract more than 1.6 million viewers.
A new season of The Culture Show kicked off this week. The show now lasts 50 minutes and presenters Lauren Laverne and Mark Kermode will be joined by Simon Mayo for a film debate each week.
There is no studio; each programme is shot on location at a cultural event such as the Manchester International, Port Eliot and Edinburgh festivals.
The show peaks with figures exceeding 1.5 million but the average audience is just below one million.
Morgan says when you consider the National Theatre attracts 900,000 visitors per year, to have this number watching just one show is impressive.
With the axing of ITV’s iconic South Bank Show, The Culture Show is now practically unrivalled by other terrestrial channels. Morgan says ITV may have made a mistake: ‘Its overall programming budget is £800m a year. Out of that it could still afford an hour a week, especially if it wants to attract ABC1 viewers.’
Now the BBC will benefit from those viewers and so could PR professionals.
The Culture Show’s audience is younger than might be expected. Viewers range in age but the 25- to 44-year-olds are in the majority.
The show produces content featuring contemporary acts and figures including Elbow, The Gossip, film director Sam Mendes, Angelina Jolie, Metallica and Steven Spielberg. The show has also recently featured Icelandic band Sigur Rós, Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh and a 78-year-old pianist.
But while content is wide-ranging, the team likes to pick and choose. ‘It is very selective about what it wants to cover, and securing a feature is no mean feat,’ says Gavin Lewis, creative director at Resonate.
He adds: ‘If producers do bite, they will have a clear vision on how it will look and will pursue every avenue to make it happen, so it pays to be tenacious about what you want.’
Morgan cites as an example of this vision a recent slot with Martin Scorsese. The PR team wanted to discuss his latest film but Morgan persuaded the legendary director to talk about Caravaggio, and how the painter had inspired his films.
‘We try to persuade PR professionals that to take a risk can be much better,’ says Morgan.
Audience Average is just under one million viewers
Channel BBC 2
A minute with... Eddie Morgan, editor, The Culture Show
What makes The Culture Show different?
Most culture programmes are watched by people aged over 55, but we have success with a younger audience that is educated, curious and interested in the eclecticism and energy of Britain’s culture.
The South Bank Show was recently axed – is there still a demand for arts programming?
Look at the popularity of festivals such as Glastonbury, The Big Chill, Bestival and the Edinburgh Festival to name but a few. They are all exploding with energy and people flock to them. There is so much going on.
How can PROs work with the show?
Give us lots of notice. We’re planning the spring 2010 series. I am constantly surprised that people ring saying they have an event tomorrow.
Advice on dealing with you
It is nice when people allow us to get on with it, rather than trying to manage everything. When we had David Simon, writer of The Wire, on, we interviewed him handcuffed in a Baltimore Police-style interrogation room.