The digital TV switchover in London was quite the event and who better to turn off the giant analogue transmitter in Crystal Palace than BBC hero, ex BBC 2 Controller and creator of some of the best loved television programmes ever to come out of Britain? We caught up with Sir David Attenborough to hear his thoughts on the future of television, cinema and the film makers of the future…
Do you think the switchover will reignite a love of traditional television in the modern world, when TV delivered via the internet is growing?
I don’t think it will change anything much because the audience has become used to the fact the we’re constantly improving the picture and we’ve done that for the past 70 years. We started off at 409 lines, black and white and every technological advance has improved things. The shift from analogue to digital does that as well.
“Nobody in their right mind would have purchased an analogue TV in the last ten years – people are interested in programmes and they don’t register the very important element that the transmission system involves and that’s exactly as it should be”
Do more channels equal more opportunities for programme makers?
Well, it does but you also have to bear in mind that the amount of money going around to make television programmes is limited. If there’s going to be 50 new networks, who’s going to pay for them? It would be a great pity if it meant that major productions that need major money should be be enfeebled by taking on small budget and rather trivial programmes.
Does the arrival of affordable professional grade and flying cameras surprise you?
It is exactly as it should be. I don’t think that professional broadcasters should have a monopoly of the airwaves and I think it’s very healthy that people should be making their own programmes.
“If they have the techniques and the skills to attract a bigger audience then that’s great and the established broadcasters better look out for those kind of people with those talents and either learn that talent or hire those people”
Is this low cost gadget phenomenon where the next generation of documentary makers are coming from?
Well it always has been really, you know. There’s a lot of hokum talked about documentary expertise and in the old days if you had a 35mm camera and a separate crew, the equipment was very difficult and to make a documentary, you had a whole host of problems. How to get the subject in focus, lots of problems with lighting and so on but that doesn’t happen any more.
In the same way as your business, broadcasters can now make documentaries very easily so that you no longer focus on the technology but focus on content. If you’ve got people with good content and ideas and they can tell a story, that’s the important thing. It’s no longer about how you use a clapperboard or continuity or all of those things we used to worry about.
Do you think cinema has the same appeal as 50 years ago?
Yes, but the cinema is facing a lot of competition now. In the early days of cinema, it was completely new to be able to see someone’s face 50ft high on the screen. Cinema had no competitors. In my boyhood, we went to the cinema once a week and it didn’t matter what was on…