TV industry in turmoil, says Floella Benjamin, as Bafta hands out the gongs

by 24britishtvMay 13, 2024, 5 a.m. 23
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The television industry is “in turmoil” and needs “creative survival solutions” from the UK government, the children’s television presenter Floella Benjamin has said, as she accepted her Bafta fellowship on Sunday.

Lady Benjamin, best known as presenter of children’s programmes such as Play School, was praised in a video recording by Prince William at the Bafta Television Awards for being “an unwavering champion of inclusion” and for her power to “remind us of the power of empathy”.

The veteran television star said that whenever she had spoken out throughout her career she had been told “shut up or you’ll never work again”, but she had made it her mission for half a century to get broadcasters to “have diversity and inclusion in their DNA”.

During a glittering evening on the banks of the Thames, during which compelling crime drama Top Boy won best drama series, Benjamin used her speech to call for more help for the television industry and “high quality, regulated content” for children.

“Our industry is in turmoil, facing new technology, cuts and unemployment,” she said. “So government must provide creative survival solutions as we navigate this rapidly changing landscape.”

On a night that closed a chapter of prestige television – with 2023 seeing finales ranging from The Crown, Succession to Happy Valley, as well as Top Boy– the Bafta chair, Sara Putt, echoed the sentiment.

Speaking before the awards Putt had said the UK was a nation of “natural storytellers” who had created a “brilliantly mixed economy” of television, but in a speech to attenders she acknowledged that it had been “a really tough year for so many in our industry. For freelancers, indies, PSBs and broadcasters alike”.

Top Boy, which came to a “powerful and potent conclusion” at the end of last year, won two awards, with Jasmine Jobson accepting the Bafta for best supporting actress with a shout out to her niece. “My baby girl, Auntie Jasmine did it, I did it!,” she said.

Royal drama The Crown left empty handed after leading the field with eight nominations, while Happy Valley collected two awards. Succession went home with one award: best supporting actor for Matthew Macfadyen for his role as Tom Wambsgans in the HBO drama.

After winning the Bafta for leading actress, the star of Happy Valley Sarah Lancashire thanked writer Sally Wainwright and the BBC “for giving this very British drama a very British home”.

The show also won in the most memorable TV moment category – the only award voted for by the public – for the series’ final kitchen showdown.

Accepting his Bafta for leading actor for his role in The Sixth Commandment, Timothy Spall lovingly called acting “a soppy old thing, standing up pretending to be someone and pissing around in costume”, but said it was a “beautiful thing” to tell the story of people who had been through horror.

“When it makes a difference and we can all share in the human condition […] even though acting is a silly stupid thing, it’s lovely,”

In glorious sunshine, the stars of British television made the obligatory tour down the red carpet into the ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday afternoon, as crowds in London’s South Bank tried to catch a glimpse their small screen favourites.

Among the tuxedos and ball gowns were some more unusual outfits, including a strong showing from comedian Joe Lycett, who dressed as Queen Elizabeth I, replete with a silver cape and full Elizabethan ruff, thanks to a lost bet. Collecting the entertainment performance Bafta for his Channel 4 show Late Night Lycett, he said: “Thanks to my mum and dad, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII.”

Opening the annual ceremony, co-hosts Romesh Ranganathan and Rob Beckett joked that stars accepting their awards should keep their speeches short and sweet. “If you find you’re lost for words, good. Keep it that way,” quipped Beckett.

The pair became emotional as they collected the comedy entertainment award for their show Rob and Romesh Vs. But Ranganathan was soon back to the gags, saying: “Can I just say what great awards these are … it’s a recognition of true talent and genius.”

Winning the award for best entertainment programme, Strictly Come Dancing presenter Tess Daly thanked Bafta “for making it worth putting on the Spanx on the hottest day of the year”, and thanked everyone involved in the show which is celebrating its 20th year. “It has been the most wonderful series,” she said.

Daytime TV presenter Lorraine Kelly beamed as she accepted the special award from Succession star Brian Cox to a standing ovation. Holding it aloft, she joked: “I’m on the telly tomorrow, but I’m going to celebrate tonight”.

Picking up the award for best female performance in comedy for her role in Black Ops, Gbemisola Ikumelo left the tears to others with a exuberant acceptance speech, joking that her agent would be telling her next employers: “Yesterday’s price is not today’s.”

Mawaan Rizwan, who won the Bafta for best male performance in a comedy, thanked his therapist, noting it was not the best week to discuss his reliance on external forms of validation.

Factual Entertainment

Celebrity Race Across the World (BBC One)

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