Behind the scenes at the Edinburgh TV Festival with Armando Iannucci, Chris Bryant and hungover hacks

By this stage of the TV Festival every journalist is struggling to keep up with the sheer number of events that need to be covered. As we dribble towards the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, some of us are still finishing the last of yesterday's reports... and the sessions keep coming.

You hear desperate negotiations all around you in the press room as the hacks – still recovering from the night before – try to offload events to each another.

"You do Jay Hunt's 'Meet the Controller' at 12.45 and I'll pop into the Pentland and keep an eye on the 'Come Dine With Me' session in case anything exciting happens there," is a typical gambit.

It's a classic stitch-up. Jay Hunt speaks at such a breathless pace, she could probably read out most of the internet in the forty-five minutes of a 'Meet the Controllers' session... whereas nothing relevant or interesting has ever happened at any of the TV Festival's so-called 'fun' events.

Such conversations are more feverish than ever on the third morning as hangovers blur into each other and it starts to dawn on everyone that the headline-grabbing events are all behind us. The loss of internet which blighted the press room (and everyone else attending the UK's most important media event of the year) for most of yesterday morning would be welcomed back with open arms, providing a perfect excuse for entering a lengthy period of radio silence.

Misunderstandings are rife. When word reached the press room that MP Chris Bryant had called Tony Hall a "coward" during the 'Question Time' session, it was bizarrely misheard by one hack as a shorter and altogether more potent word beginning with the letter 'c'. For a few moments it seemed to be a much bigger story than it was.

It was quite a big story nonetheless... as Chris Bryant knew it would be. That's why he said it. He's clearly the kind of public figure who can perfectly calculate the level of outrageousness required to secure the headlines, and calling Hall a 'coward' certainly wasn't an intemperate loss of control.

This wasn't lost on Tory MP Philip Davies who was rolling his eyes at the other end of the panel. He couldn't compete with Bryant's unnerving gift for self-publicity and his own headline-grabbing moment –echoing a famous moment of prime minsterial condescension by saying Nicola Sturgeon should "calm down" – felt neither deliberate or welcome.

Davies is one of those right-wingers who plainly thinks idealism is something people ought to grow out of and looked at times as though he'd been handed the task of telling a roomful of primary school children that Santa Claus doesn't exist. He is so perfectly typecast as a reactionary Tory MP that it started to feel as though he was a coda to Armando Iannucci's MacTaggart lecture... a parody in a grey suit.

An earlier session had given Kim Shillinglaw, BBC2's new controller, an unwelcome opportunity to pass comment on Jeremy Clarkson's departure from 'Top Gear'. Her battle to avoid saying anything quotable gave her remarks a rambling quality that made it sound as though she'd been advised by a PR agency to sound 'hesitant, reflective and sad' and she overdid it a bit.

The dominant theme of the TV Festival has unquestionably been the future of the BBC. It often is. No solutions were found and aspects of Armando Iannucci's inspiring address feel a bit silly in the cold light of day. If the British public "get the slightest whiff that what’s being done to the BBC is purely political," he thundered, "then I urge the relevant ministers to leave the country, get out now, for they really don’t know what’s about to hit their fan."

If only. It seems far more likely they'd just watch another lolcat video on YouTube.

Jason Stone is a media writer and editor of David Reviews

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.