The project so far - April 2009


Over the course of March and April 2009, the project team has carried out an initial phase of interviews with key figures in the television industry. Alongside channel controllers, commissioners and independent producers, this also includes Luke Johnson (the current Chairman of Channel 4 who is also a successful entrepreneur) and the award-winning business journalist Andrew Davidson. Many thanks to all of the interviewees who have taken the time to contribute to the project so far.

Luke Johnson is Chairman of Channel 4 Television and Risk Capital Partners. He currently writes a weekly column for the Financial Times and has written for the Sunday Telegraph for eight years. He was Chairman of PizzaExpress during the 1990s and is currently an owner and Chairman of Giraffe restaurants and Patisserie Valerie. He has also owned companies in recruitment, dentistry and retailing, and appeared in the BBC business programme Back to the Floor.

Robert Thirkell spent fifteen years at the BBC during which time he created groundbreaking business programmes and established the BBC Business Unit. He is responsible for some of the BBC's most successful factual formats, including BAFTA winners Troubleshooter, Back to the Floor, and Blood on the Carpet, and is widely credited with bringing new mainstream audiences to business programming. Having since become an independent producer, he has recently worked on Jamie’s School Dinners and Big Chef Takes on Little Chef.

Roly Keating, former Controller of BBC Two, is currently the BBC's first Director of Archive Content. Under Roly’s tenure (from 2004 to 2008), BBC Two launched a raft of influential and popular returning series with a focus on business, including Dragons' Den and The Apprentice.

Andrew Mackenzie was an award-winning programme maker before joining Channel 4 in 2003 as a commissioning editor. He became Head of Factual Entertainment in 2007 and is currently responsible for the upcoming business programmes Gerry’s Big Decision and I’m Running Sainsbury’s (both of which to air in 2009).

Ruth Pitt is currently an executive producer at Century Films and is responsible for the recent BBC2 series Million Dollar Traders. Beginner her career in journalism and radio before moving into television, she founded her own production company before becoming Head of Documentaries at Granada Television and then Creative Director of documentaries in BBC Religion and Ethics. She returned to the independent sector in 2006. 

Daisy Goodwin began her career as an arts producer at the BBC before moving to Talkback Productions in 1998, first as Head of Factual and then as Editorial Director. During her time there she worked on Jamie’s Kitchen, Property Ladder and the first series of The Apprentice. Since setting up Silver River, her own production company in 2005, she has developed Natural Born Sellers for ITV and the upcoming I’m Running Sainsbury’s for Channel 4. 

Dominic Bird is the executive producer of Dragon’s Den and has worked on the show since the first series aired in 2004. Beginning his career as a producer on GMTV, he has also produced Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two and Glastonbury Calling for the BBC.

Andrew Davidson has written the interview page of the The Sunday Times Business section since 2003. Prior to that, he wrote a similar weekly interview for the Financial Times and a monthly interview for Management Today magazine. He has also contributed to many of Britain’s newspapers and magazines, and won awards for business writer of the year (Periodical Publishers Assocation) and magazine writer of the year (The Work Foundation).


Over the summer months, the project team will be presenting their findings from the first stage of research at a number of international conferences.

‘Selling an Entrepreneurial Lifestyle: The Television Worker Onscreen and Off’ at The Big Reveal II: Lifestyle Television Conference, University of Brighton, UK, 29-31 May 2009.

‘How television programmes such as The Apprentice work to normalise and encourage entrepreneurial activity in society’ at the Creative Entrepreneurship and Education in Cultural Life International Conference, Columbia College, Chicago, USA, 15-18 July 2009.

‘Representations of Entrepreneurship on the Small Screen’ at the 4th European Conference on Entrepreneurship and Innovation, University of Antwerp, Belgium, 9-11 September 2009.