While Channel 4 may be battling for its future amid government calls for its privatisation, the success of one of its dramas – one of the most talked about pieces of TV of last year – is hitting home the channel’s undeniable popularity with viewers.
It’s A Sin leads the field at this year’s BAFTA TV awards – with two craft awards already in the bag and six more up for grabs at Sunday’s ceremony.
The drama, which was set in London from 1981 to 1991, followed the lives of a group of gay men and their friends who lived during the HIV/AIDs crisis in the UK and was written and created by Queer As Folk and Doctor Who screenwriter Russell T Davies.
One of the stars of the show, Nathaniel J Hall, told Sky News earlier this year: “A programme like It’s A Sin would struggle to get programmed on a privatised Channel 4. In fact, the production was turned down by a number of other channels. Channel 4 fosters diverse and engaging TV that reflects modern Britain…
“It’s the gleaming gem in the UK’s outstanding broadcast portfolio. Privatisation will be the death knell of its creativity and fierce independence.”
Channel 4 has 44 nominations in total, with three of It’s A Sin’s stars, Callum Scott Howells, Omari Douglas and David Carlyle, going head-to-head in the best supporting actor category.
Years and Years singer Olly Alexander is in the running for the best leading actor award for his role in the show.
The second-most nominated TV show, Landscapers, which is co-produced by Sky and stars Olivia Colman and David Thewlis, has already taken home three craft awards and is up for two more on the night. Sky has 26 BAFTA nods overall.
Landscapers saw Colman working with her husband, writer Ed Sinclair, and has earned her a nod for best actress.
She told Sky News she would have turned it down if the script wasn’t great: “I might have said I’m not available, I’m picking the bobbles off my tights or something, but I was really excited when I first read it. It’s just the originality in it and the inventiveness.”
Inspired by true events, Colman and Thewlis play a mild-mannered married couple whose lives are upturned after dead bodies are discovered in the back garden of a house in Nottingham.
Away from the future of public sector broadcasting, streaming services are also fighting for survival. Following a boom in popularity over lockdown, millions of people are now cancelling their subscriptions as they struggle to make ends meet due to the cost of living crisis.
In stark contrast, the BBC iPlayer had its best quarter ever, with programmes streamed 1.83 billion times between January and March.
The BAFTA TV nominations mirrored that trend, with seven nods for Netflix and 47 for the BBC.
Elsewhere, the Virgin Media Must-See Moment Award – the only one voted for by the public – looks likely to go to the BBC for its powerful silent dance segment with eventual winner – and first ever deaf contestant – Rose Ayling-Ellis in Strictly Come Dancing.
One of last year’s Must-See Moment winners, Diversity member Jordan Banjo, told Sky News it shows how the awards mirror public attitudes.
He said: “It really does reflect how people are feeling… It’s a conversation and kind of our culture in that year summed up.”
Talking about Ayling-Ellis’s history making performance, Banjo went on: “Rose and Giovanni’s performance, as much as it’s a wicked performance, and it’s incredible how talented she is – I’m in awe watching her perform – the fact is, that she represents a community, which by the general norm, wouldn’t go on Strictly, wouldn’t be there performing, wouldn’t have representation. But Rose is there doing that in one of the most hair-raising, beautiful pieces of dance I’ve ever seen.”
On the night, Scottish actor and comedian Billy Connolly – affectionately known as the Big Yin – will be named the recipient of this year’s BAFTA Fellowship.
Connolly, who has said he does not let his Parkinson’s disease dictate who he is, will be celebrated for a career spanning more than five decades.
George Ezra will also perform.
The Virgin Media BAFTA TV Awards ceremony will celebrate the best of British television at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Sunday. Hosted by Richard Ayoade, it’s live on BBC1 from 6pm.