22 November 2023


Why our Glasgow indie now has desks in London and friends in Europe

Commissioners still want to talk in London - but Ofcom rule changes would help to shift that

written by Mike Ellen, creative director of Freedom Scripted

Freedom Scripted has recently established a base in London, led by our head of development, Nancy Napper Canter. Our HQ remains very much in Glasgow but post-pandemic we’ve re-learnt the importance of spending a good amount of time in London doing meetings in person too.

We’ve also just set up an address in Berlin and we’re currently working on co-developments with writers and producers there and in Lisbon. Both vibrant cities are home to thousands of bright young digital nomads and creatives, we can learn a lot.

You might ask why, amid all the talk and initiatives around nations and regions commissioning, particularly from our PSBs, we would take such an approach?

Those broadcasters genuinely offer encouragement to indies such as ourselves and we very much appreciate that. They state with the best of intentions that they want drama from Scotland; however, more often than not, that seems to end up meaning in Scotland but from companies headquartered closer to home in London.

While those producers tuck into our lunch in Soho and Clerkenwell, the results on screen can seem a little inauthentic and unloved, having barely touched the sides editorially in the N&R. On the other hand, shows such as Blue Lights, Happy Valley and The Cry all demonstrate how brilliant scripted dramas can be when they are creatively led by exec producers who reside in the nation or region where the story is set

Much of the more dispiriting practice stems from how we’re regulated. Current Ofcom guidance for PSBs on Regional Production reads like a How To manual, for in their words ‘a London headquartered production company’. Perhaps I missed something, but I couldn’t even find an explicit acknowledgement that indies outside of the M25 exist!

To meaningfully deliver on those broadcaster’s best intentions I’d suggest that the next set of Ofcom guidelines should specify a healthy percentage of N&R spend, say 50% of the overall percentage target, to be set aside for productions from indies genuinely headquartered, founded and creatively led outside of London, in the nations or regions in question.

In addition, those incoming producers making shows could be incentivised to co-produce with locally-based companies, as happens in many other territories. A good example here has been Guilt where Happy Tramp, Writer-EP Neil Forsyth and London based Expectation collaborated to make an award winning, authentically set Scottish show everyone was proud of.

The current bottom-up approach is that we only regulate incoming productions with local spend and employment targets. Those rules can be bent, and in fact without the benefit of local knowledge can undermine the production values of the show. Meanwhile the production fee, IP and backend profits all flow back to a few postcodes, usually in London, leaving no sustainable local legacy.

Were Ofcom guideline’s emphasis changed to focus on where creative leadership and IP ownership resides, then spend on local crews and suppliers would naturally follow, the overall quality of UK content would increase further and some profits might be retained in the nation or regions to help develop local indies, creative EPs and slates.

Such a policy could also support the spread of talent throughout the UK. Many of the next generation brightest and best may struggle to afford a decent place to live, even at the outer extremities of Zone 6, whilst with the advent of hybrid working the argument for such a geographic huddle is less compelling. Going forward, cities like Glasgow could be helped in retaining and attracting some of those up-and-comers who would have formerly flocked to, and put down roots in London.

For our part at Freedom from inception we have tried to think internationally, as Europeans. And it makes sense to have boots on the ground in the capital, where most commissioning decisions are ultimately still made, where talent can be wooed and where valuable intel can be gleaned. We may not aspire to be part of a metropolitan group think, but we do want to be part of the conversation.

Perhaps for the foreseeable future like Boswell 250 odd years ago, we need to professionally cultivate ’a love for Scotland and a lust for London’.


channel 4


T. +44(0)141 611 6099
G/A, Atlantic Chambers, 45 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 6AE
New Wing Exchange, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Lost But Found, Kurfurstenstrasse 14, Berlin 10785