THE writer behind Robson Green’s series Wire in the Blood has hit out at ITV’s decision to axe the show.
Film-making in the North East suffered a bitter blow after ITV announced it would not be commissioning another series of the internationally acclaimed police drama – despite it netting audience figures of 4.5 million an episode in the last series, and being broadcast in around 30 countries across the globe.
The series is produced by Robson’s Newcastle-based company, Coastal Productions, which is thought to have generated more than £13m for the region’s economy by choosing to film at sites across Newcastle, Northumberland and County Durham.
Northumberland-based crime author Val McDermid, who wrote the books on which the series was based, branded the move a “disgrace”.
She said: “When Sandra Jobling (Wire in the Blood’s producer) was given a Royal Television Society award a couple of years ago, it was estimated she had brought in about £13m to the economy in the North East.
“She has been so committed to filming in Newcastle, Northumberland and Durham, even at times when there were a lot of easier options elsewhere.
“There are jobs there that will leave because of this. There are people who come back to the North East year after year to work on Wire in the Blood.
“Those jobs will go, and they will go down south to London or Manchester, and the North East will lose its voice on TV. It’s just a disgrace. People could say it’s self-serving, because it’s my book. But it’s not about the money, it’s about the voice of the North East.
“It seems that ITV are commissioning programmes from production companies in London rather than the North East, and it makes me extremely angry on a personal, political and social level.”
Coastal is the only production company in the North East making prime-time drama, and was set up 12 years ago by Robson and Sandra Jobling with the specific aim of making feature films and TV dramas in the North East.
Wire starred Robson as eccentric clinical psychologist Tony Hill in tales of violent murder.
The move is the second blow for regional programming in less than a fortnight – after ITV revealed it was not commissioning another series of Yorkshire-based Heartbeat.
Despite Coastal’s difficulties with ITV, Val still hopes Wire fans may one day see the series continued.
She said: “I know Sandra is talking to people about other options, but it’s tough times at the moment. We are not giving up without a fight, and that’s the hallmark of the North East.”
VAL McDermid’s concerns about the state of the industry echo those of chief executive Tom Harvey of Northern Film & Media.
Speaking to The Journal last month, he warned that the region’s film-making industry is at serious risk.
Before Wire was axed, he had already invited MPs and TV production crews to a meeting at Newcastle’s Live Theatre on February 16.
He is concerned about the loss of shows such as Byker Grove, 55 Degrees North, and children’s series Alistair Fury, and how the moves affect the identity of the North East.
Northern Film & Media has lost 100 TV professionals from its database in just the last 18 months, as work has dried up.
Now with the loss of Wire, this month’s meeting has become even more critical.
Mr Harvey said: "This is a very sad day for North East network TV. Coastal Productions have done a fantastic job of securing prime-time drama for the North East.
"It is hard to underestimate how important Coastal Productions, Sandra and Robson, are to the North East. That is why Northern Film & Media has been working hard with Coastal to find a long term solution to current difficulties through our Network TV Investment Fund. Northern Film & Media’s warning that the North East could disappear from national TV screens is fast becoming a reality."
Dismay at decision to kill off crime series
NORTHERN Film & Media has been inundated with concerned calls from figures both in and outside the industry following the decision to axe Wire in the Blood.
Top TV writer and Sunderland professor Michael Chaplin, whose credits include Monarch of the Glen and Dalziel and Pascoe, said: "This is obviously very bad news for Coastal, TV professionals in the region and the film and TV industry as a whole. We have just lost the last remaining returning TV series produced in the region and the consequences are obvious and serious."
Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon, said: "I personally fear that this all part of part of ITV’s drive to cut costs and compete with other broadcasters on a lowest common denominator basis. I urge them to have a rethink and for Ofcom to urgently look into this matter of our region disappearing from national screens."
Peter Atkinson, MP for Hexham, said: "To lose this jewel in the crown, which is filmed and produced in Newcastle and Northumberland, is a sad example of the gradual decline of support for network TV production in the North East.
"I hope today’s announcement acts as a catalyst for local action in support of Northern Film & Media’s campaign to bring more TV production here."
Location manager Gareth Williams, who worked on Wire in the Blood among other projects, said: "We have reached a critical sparseness of commissioning in the North East now that threatens to kill off any prospect of a recovery.
"There are a couple of hundred highly talented and very experienced TV and film professionals in the region and many more hundreds of talented, educated and enthusiastic young hopefuls.
"But every time we have an immodest gap in commissioning we lose half of our skills base. It takes 10 years to replace them."
North East may fade from TV screens