Every year, actors from the world of television are honoured for their work by BAFTA at a glitzy and lavish ceremony.
Meanwhile, around the same time of the year, actors from the world of theatre assemble at the Olivier Awards, an equally stylish event.
Both are attended by the great and good of their respective industries, but there is one noticeable difference between the two.
The BAFTA awards are screened on BBC1 for the whole of the UK to enjoy. The Oliviers are not.
Up until 2003, they were filmed and screened on BBC2 (after the event itself) but since then the ceremony has not enjoyed similar prominence.
Yes, it has been broadcast live by BBC Radio 2 since 2010, but visual content has thus far been restricted to streaming online or content via the BBC’s red button service. Neither compares to mainstream television.
Which is why it’s great news that the ceremony, from this year, looks set to return to mainstream television. But not on the BBC – on ITV.
As reported by The Stage this week, it seems that the Society of London Theatre and ITV are close to reaching a deal to have the ceremony screened on ITV1, with an edited version shown on the same night as the awards itself.
It’s something of a coup for SOLT, which has wanted to see the awards brought to a wider audience for some time.
And why not? The US seems to make a big song and dance (no pun intended) about the Tony Awards, it’s about time we did the same with the Oliviers.
The ceremony this year was fantastic. A real celebration of the theatre that we have in the West End, featuring performances from some of the best shows around, with some of the finest talent we have on the UK stage.
And this is talent that deserves to be seen – needs to be seen. Just as the BBC believes performers who appear on TV and in film need to have their moment in the spotlight through the BAFTA awards, so our theatre stars need their chance to shine.
But it’s more than just giving performers and creatives responsible for our shows the recognition they deserve. At a time when the arts world is under more funding pressure than ever, having the awards shown on ITV will be a great reminder to everyone, not least the government, of how important theatre is to the UK, both culturally and economically.
And if culture secretary Maria Miller is struggling to find time to meet figures from the arts world, let’s bring the arts world to her.
Not only that, but given the severity of budget cuts taking place at the moment, this year’s broadcast might help us all take note of where the arts is at the moment, how great it is, and how much is at stake if the powers that be don’t nurture it.
The BBC may not want it – and there will be many people within the Corporation who will consider that a real blow – but hats off to ITV for seeing the merit in screening the ceremony. Having been at this year’s event, I don’t think the broadcaster, or its viewers, will be disappointed.