Brian Ferguson: Edinburgh’s festivals deserve better coverage

Glastonbury gets wall to wall TV coverage. Picture: Getty
Glastonbury gets wall to wall TV coverage. Picture: Getty
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I find it hard to get too excited about the wall-to-wall television coverage of Glastonbury each year.

There is a certain appeal about not having to go through the almighty endurance test of survival and or endure the hefty hit on the wallet that the festival demands. But despite the extent of the BBC’s vast Glastonbury operation, an extended stint in front of the TV has nothing like the same appeal as experiencing a weekend of sheer musical escapism in person.

Feasting on bands for up to 12 hours a day, new discoveries, the joy of being reunited with past musical heroes and inevitable late-night carousing cannot be replicated on one’s sofa.

Although my days of T in Park attendance are (probably) behind me, I can still recall the disappointment at how the TV highlights failed to capture anything like its heady atmosphere.

Technology has certainly moved on a fair bit since then, of course. And securing broadcast coverage can now make a huge difference to the following of an artist or band, thanks partly to the power of social media and the sharing of high-quality footage long after the event is over. Then there is the exposure for the event itself, a critical factor in building an audience for future years.

Which is why many of those involved in Edinburgh’s festivals regularly cast envious glances towards the kind of coverage that events like Glastonbury and T in the Park gain.

It has long been a source of frustration that little of what unfolds in Edinburgh each August makes it onto the nation’s TV screens – or the world’s PCs, tablets and smart phones.

Things have improved from the position just a few years ago, when there was the odd broadcast of a classical concert, and a handful of radio recordings from the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

The BBC’s pop up studio at Potterrow now has round-the-clock radio shows during August, with audience tickets often in huge demand. But precious little makes it on to mainstream TV and it is mystifying why BBC Scotland and STV do not make more of such a world-renowned event on their doorstep.

With the 70th anniversary of Edinburgh’s first festivals looming in 2017, it is little wonder that generating greater broadcast coverage and building a global digital audience are key aims.

They could start with securing broadcasts of the hottest tickets at the Book Festival, the big comedy discoveries of the Fringe and the must-see plays of the International Festival. Specially-curated galas and late-night cabaret would make for great television.

With First Minister Nicola Sturgeon among the speakers at this year’s Edinburgh TV festival, perhaps the Scottish Government will have a role to play in securing a much better deal for the nation’s biggest cultural showcase?