Mentoring the creative process for Chinese TV

China Central Television (CCTV)

In November 2018, 25 senior producers, mainly from the top channels of China Central Television, were hosted by the China Media Centre, as part of its programme of Innovation development courses for Chinese broadcasters.

As well as offering lectures by UK media experts, the course also aims to help the producers develop their new programme ideas, giving each development team a specialist mentor to provide creative and production input. The ideas brought over by the Chinese visitors this time feature singing, travel, science, natural history, talk, and user-generated content, reflecting the wide range of topics covered by the 16 channels.

The ideas are already at an advanced stage of development, but the team might be looking for a signature element to help the show cut through the competition, or for a way to engage younger viewers, who are increasingly attracted by the offerings of China’s online platforms. So, in truth, their concerns are often very similar to broadcasters the world over.

The job of the mentors is to provide advice and support, without trying to impose UK solutions on Chinese problems. Chinese viewers expect more variation in their formats, with scale and spectacle a key requirement, and celebrities more likely to appear in entertainment and reality shows than members of the public. There are also the more extensive requirements of the government regulator to take into account.

On the final day of the course, the development teams pitch their ideas to each other, with the mentors in attendance to ask questions and offer feedback. The standard is high, and none of the presentations would be out of place in a UK commissioner’s office.

Watching the skill and confidence of the pitching teams, it’s easy to foresee a time when TV formats originated in China will be joining those from Western nations in the global marketplace.

China Central Television’s participation in CMC Innovation courses has resulted in three major series going into production during 2017. All were developed by a CMC team including Course Leader David Morgenstern (formerly BBC Head of Development), leading UK Producers and script specialists.

  • Man against AI (机智过人) has already been broadcast and established itself as a popular reality series. The show tests human brainpower against AI. In developing this idea, the CMC Innovation team developed a collaboration with staff at FST’s Robotics Lab. The series format involves smart, AI-powered bots taking on human competitors in complex trials involving face and voice recognition.
  • Incredible Legend (非常传奇) has already been aired. It is a reality programme featuring the journey of Chinese top celebrities as they learn the ancient arts of Chinese cultural heritage, including the Dragon Dance, face-changing in Sichuan opera, etc.
  • National Treasure (国家宝藏) is in production and will be broadcast early 2018. NT is a studio entertainment show featuring nine national museums in China and their role in China’s cultural history.

Shanghai Media Group (SMG)

Shanghai Media Group, a leading Chinese communications corporation, sent a delegation of 15 young TV producers and directors to us to learn more about the creative process. Under our guidance they developed four potential programme formats. One proved to be a big weekend entertainment hit, generating enormous advertising revenue for SMG.

Read the full case study on our business case studies pages.

National network for CPD opportunities

A national network was established in 2007 to coordinate continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities from business out to Universities. The network receives CPD tenders from business and distributes them to contacts across Universities in the UK. It is going to be formally launched on 14 July and is renaming itself The Training Gateway.

The Training Gateway will be launched by Lord Sainsbury and Peter Luff MP in July at the House of Commons. This will be a business launch for senior representatives from government and business support organisations. The aim is to promote the network as a one stop shop for businesses and brokers to source training programmes.

To support this event they asked UK universities for a range of case studies exemplifying effective engagement between business and universities around CPD. Seventy case studies competed and only five were chosen. A case study detailing the innovative CPD work being done by the China Media Centre was submitted and was chosen as one of the five to be presented at the launch. It will also appear in a publication for the event and hopefully a HEFCE publication.

Westminster's best practice professional training in Commons spotlight

A best practice case study from the University's China Media Centre (CMC) helped form the centrepiece for the official launch at the House of Commons of a new high profile national business engagement network.

The network The Training Gateway connects the business community to every UK university, enabling businesses to procure high quality corporate and professional training.

Westminster's case study of its work training Chinese government press officers was one of only four chosen by organisers to showcase the success of effective engagement between universities, business and other organisations.

CMC director Professor Hugo de Burgh said the Centres work with a group of Chinese press officers was seen as a good example of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

We have provided eight courses for 380 of the most senior media handlers in China, with the teaching being carried in both here at Westminster and in China.

The innovative interactive format of the courses encompassed theoretical and practical elements and was seen as representing a best practice example of engagement between higher education and businesses and other agencies, he said.

Lord Sainsbury, former Science and Innovation Minister, and Peter Luff MP, chairman of the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee, hosted the reception to launch The Training Gateways new web portal.

Westminster's case study was one of 70 submitted for inclusion at the Commons launch event.