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Bringing the (street) drama

MEDIA MOGULS: Jasmine and Tabitha

IT’S been a week of planes, trains and automobiles, with events happening all over the place. There was the annual MOBO Awards in Scotland (more on that next week), which will be aired on the BBC this week.

But before that, I caught up with Channel 4’s Tabitha Jackson, a lady I’ve admired from afar for a while now. I became aware of her after noticing the Channel 4 Street Summer season, which recently featured shows like How Hip Hop Changed the World and Life of Rhyme.

When I watched all these shows I was blown away, but was both excited and gutted. Excited because finally, a mainstream broadcaster had covered the vast UK urban scene in a respectful and qualitative manner. Clearly big budgets, an attention to artistic detail and getting the right talent involved was considered, with the inclusion of acts like Akala, Jonzi D, Cookie Crew, Noel Clarke and many more.

But I was gutted because this is the stuff I’d been dying to make myself during my years at MTV and other broadcasters, and felt it should have had air time many years ago.

I know how tough it is to convince senior TV management teams to make content like this and how hard it is to get it right. So I joined Tabitha for a chat to see just how she’s made all this happen.

I expected to meet a London born and bred hip-hop lover. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Tabitha is a beautifully mannered, friendly, soft but authoritatively-spoken lady, who knows what’s current and has her finger on the pulse.

She told me: “I was born in Coventry and I was brought up in a tiny rural village in Warwickshire called Napton on the Hill. It was a really rural upbringing. I was adopted. My dad was the local vicar and I think when people look at me, they don’t expect me to have had the upbringing that I did.”

Tabitha explained that her speciality might not have been hip-hop, but it was TV just because she ended up watching so much of it.

“Living in small village without a driving licence meant that I watched a enormous amount of television,” she said.

“I remember actually watching the first night of Channel 4 and I was absolutely glued to it – it was amazing.

“I think that’s why I have that connection with Channel 4 because as I was growing up and being shaped, Channel 4 was part of that.”

I understood exactly how Tabitha feels. I recall Channel 4’s launch too, as I attended the opening night party and grew up thinking they were my generation’s broadcaster. And of course my first few years in TV were at Channel 4.

Now the commissioning editor for arts at Channel 4, Tabitha explained how the Street Summer season came about.

“It happened just before I started the job and I went for a drink with Roy Ackerman, who’s been in the industry for years. His advice to me was never give up on the mainstream. ‘Yes you’re doing arts,’ he said, ‘but don’t think that means you have to be on the sideline.’

“I then thought, I know I want the arts to be about what’s around us and what people are doing. You can’t look out the window or walk down the street without some manifestation of it. Street dancers on the television, Banksy making films; this stuff is not niche, it’s mainstream. Yet originally, I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand the discipline and the rigour of it and I wanted to in the same way that I have been taught I should understand the rigour and the discipline of ballet. So it was born out of curiosity’’.

This summer, Tabitha made all young people feel connected and engaged with our media by screening the Street Summer season. We need more people like her in our world!

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TRULY INSPIRATIONAL


TALENTS: Jasmine with music brand consultant Daren Dixon and Inspirational You founder Sonia Meggie

RECENTLY, I was asked to chair the regular Inspirational You seminar, which focused on ‘succeeding in the entertainment and media industry.’

Well, readers – how could I refuse? Especially when they told me the panellists were DJ Steve Sutherland, ITN news editor Robin Elias, BBC Breakfast producer Anthea Lee, former Head of Choice FM Ivor Ettiene and Tinie Tempah’s manager Dumi Oburota.

I arrived to find a delicious spread of canapés and drinks on offer to settle our rumbling, post-work stomachs. The panel later introduced themselves and then the advice, experience and anecdotes came thick and fast.

One thing that became very apparent to me was that many newcomers to TV don’t understand the structure of jobs within the TV structure. So I promised to run up a chart, which I put on my personal blog the very next day.
Steve also shared tips on how artists should and shouldn’t approach DJs and Robin talked about how he saw the newsroom platforms changing and offered tips on things he looks for in future staff.

In addition, Anthea talked about elements she looked for in a music act to see if they fit the “BBC sofa commercial household name” remit; Ivor talked about networks and career moves within the radio industry; and Dumi told his fascinating story about learning all he knows about music management by reading books, observing the scene and asking loads of questions.

The brainchild of entrepreneur Sonia Meggie, Inspirational You was, once again, a very enlightening event.

*Jasmine Dotiwala is a TV producer, director and broadcast journalist. Email her at jasmine@hiphop.com

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