End credits roll for the controversial hit maker who transformed TV3
INTERVIEW:Ben Frow spearheaded TV3’s evolution from acquisitions-led channel to reality show pioneer
HE’S THE kind of executive for whom keyman insurance was invented, but Ben Frow, director of programming at TV3, has announced that he is to leave the station after five and a half years.
Frow, an Englishman who has previously served as head of features and entertainment at Channel 4 and a similar role at Channel 5, said he didn’t have a job offer lined up.
“I hope that my reputation is good enough for someone to come after me and offer me something. And if not, I’ll be unemployed,” he said. “I just know it’s time to go. It’s time for fresh blood.”
The creator of TV3’s independent production unit and the man who rebranded Channel 6 as 3e, Frow is credited with spearheading TV3’s evolution from an acquisitions-led channel to a purveyor of home-produced reality shows, whether they were an Irish twist on overseas formats such as The Apprentice or Come Dine with Me, or his own, wilfully headline-generating creations.
Asked what he is most proud of from his time at TV3, Frow instantly replied “Tallafornia . . . because it pissed so many people off and it made so many people happy.” Tallafornia was “the quintessential Ben Frow programme”, he explained, “in that it was based on a title I came up with and then I had nothing to do with it”.
It’s up there with Nigella Bites in terms of his career achievements, he believes – Frow oversaw the arrival of that show on Channel 4 in 1999. It, Jamie’s Kitchen and How Clean is Your House? were the three biggies on his CV, but Tallafornia managed to surpass them in terms of the volume of gossip it sparked. A second series and a Christmas special, Talleluia, are on their way.
Frow has previously expressed frustration with TV3’s comparatively low budgets, the dominance of RTÉ and the seemingly neverending advertising recession that has cramped his style. TV3 chief executive, David McRedmond, has put it like this: “I’m fed up of saying we do a brilliant job with limited resources. I want to be able to say we’re doing a terrible job with loads of resources.”
It was McRedmond who brought Frow to TV3 in 2007 and delegated programming responsibility to him.
“I was wooed essentially by David McRedmond. I really didn’t want to be wooed, but he persisted,” Frow said. It was the chance to “play with my own train set”, rather than always have to work underneath a channel controller and a head of scheduling.
Was the money good? “Yeah, it was very nice but I only saw half of it. The recession hit and I never got the bonuses. The salary got slashed by 20 per cent within a year. But you know, it’s not about the money, it’s about making programmes.”
Yesterday, McRedmond said Frow had left “a distinctive and brilliant mark on Irish broadcasting” and that he was “extremely sad” he was leaving at the end of the year.
Frow said he wouldn’t necessarily return to the UK. He is certainly well known there, however, and a channel controller job would be nice: “Give me a channel that’s failing.”
Don’t expect to see RTÉ as part of his next job title. “I think that’s highly, highly unlikely. I’m too opinionated for them.”