I experienced credit rage the other night. Yes, there is such a thing. I was watching a programme and, when it ended, was keen to know who an actor was. It was a difficult task, to say the least, as the programme was squeezed into a small box following its last scene and I could barely make out any of the names of those involved without crouching down in front of the TV with my magnifying glass. It was highly frustrating, and I still don’t know who the performer was.
Which is why I am delighted that Sky has agreed to give more space to a programmes’s credits. The programme I had issue with wasn’t on Sky, I might add, but the fact the broadcaster has taken action is a positive thing.
It is amending its credits after it conducted research, which found that more than a third of its customers like to read credits, with around the same number claiming they are important for viewers.
But even more interestingly, almost three quarters recognised that credits are important for actors.
That’s not a figure to sniff at. And it backs Equity’s long held view that credits are important for actors, because they allow future employers to clock who somebody is.
Obviously this doesn’t really apply to those actors whose faces we all know so well – the likes of Suranne Jones, Rupert Penry Jones, Ruth Jones, and anybody else whose surname is Jones.
But what of those lesser known actors who have not yet built such a profile. Credits you could argue are vital for them in building a reputation for the future.
And it’s not just actors either.
Sky’s research found that its viewers also think credits are important for production staff – such as writers, directors and producers.
And it’s true. If you’re like me, you’ll wait for the end credits at the end of a film in the cinema, to see who wrote the music, sang the title song, directed it, designed it and so on. Why shouldn’t these people have a clear and prominent credit on television too?
Can you imagine going to an art gallery to see a piece of work but having no clue who created it? Okay, that’s not a great comparison, but you get the idea. The point is credits are valued by viewers and cast and crew alike. The research clearly shows this.
And Sky’s piece of research is not the first. In fact, you could say, Sky’s changes have been a long time coming, given Equity has been campaigning on this issue since 2004.
Earlier this year, the union published the results of a survey of more than 10,000 people, which found that 95% believe splitting a screen at the end of a programme makes credits hard to read, and 89% get annoyed by it.
Equity took this research to all the major broadcasters, and Sky, so far, has been the only one to make changes. But I hope that the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 take note now, and look to make their own changes. Because it’s no argument to say that more prominent credits is just the cry of performers and creatives looking for glory.
In fact, Sky’s research found that more than half of its viewers would like credits to fill the whole of the screen. Sky hasn’t opted for this – giving a programme’s credits half a screen instead. That’s better than nothing (before they were squeezed into a small box). But I’m curious why, when the viewers said they would like full screen credits, the broadcaster hasn’t opted to do this? I am guessing it’s because their desire to advertise what’s coming up next is still greater than giving cast and crew the full credit they deserve.
But as I said, it’s a step in the right direction. And one that other broadcasters need to follow. And quickly.