Bevan Lee: ‘Broadcasters encouraging audience conversations makes my blood run cold’

Bevan LeeSeven’s network script executive Bevan Lee has said broadcasters encouraging audiences to have social media conversations during shows “makes my blood run cold” and claimed new media is allowing people to make programs “without paying their dues”.

Speaking on a panel discussion on “what has the web done to culture?” chaired by comedian Wil Anderson at Google’s Big Tent event in Sydney today Lee, whose credits include Home and Away and Packed to the Rafters, said he fears Aussie content may struggle to compete internationally because of uncertain future funding models.

On social media interaction, which broadcasters like Seven are keen to encourage to build audiences, he said: “I’m really worried about the audience. They want to get more involved in the production. What I see as one of the biggest problems is when I hear things about facilitating the audience talking to each other throughout the program.

“It makes my blood run cold because there is a creator and you owe him the duty of coming to his creativity and your choice is to like it or not like it.”

He pointed to the finale of hit US drama Dexter where some of the audience complained they did not get the ending they wanted. “What the audience seems to want to do with this new media is hijack the creator,” he added.

“My response was ‘bugger you’. You came with the creator, you stayed with him right to the end and even if you didn’t like it, he didn’t let you down, you let him down by not trying to come with him.”

He likened the conversations on social media during show to talking in the cinema, or going to the opera and “singing along with the aria”.

But fellow panelist, Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron, said they were “delighted” if someone posts on Facebook during one of their performances.

On people wanting to make shows without  having “paid their dues” in the industry he pointed to the example of Lena Dunham’s acclaimed series Girls, saying: “In Girls, for every one scene that I think works, I see three scenes that I think would be better if she had written them ten years down the track. That is what I fear of the loss of the concept of craft skills.”

He spoke of the rise of “niche programming” facilitated by new media, which led to a few breakout hits such as The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, which he admitted would not have been made left purely to commercial broadcasters.

But, he said he fears a new form of “cultural snobbery” will come out of new media, “there’s a certain attitude in this country in particular which is when a show is popular you wonder about its cultural worth,” he added.

“I do not write stuff I watch, I write stuff because it’s what comes out of m for a broad audience. I’m good at what I do because I instinctively stay with my roots and I hope the new media does not give rise to an elitist snobbery.”


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