Award-winning Blakeway North founders made redundant

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Sarah Murch and Alison Lewis have been made redundant by Blakeway North’s parent company, Zinc Media.

It comes despite Zinc Media Group PLC publishing a trading update, which stated that it was “pleased to announce […] better than previously forecast revenues since lockdown."

The update pointed to £2.5m of new production won during lockdown and £6m of "new business opportunities” which were “highly advanced with clients.” The group also stated that there would be “better than forecast” revenues during the period.

Prolific North has tried to contact CEO, Mark Browning today, but has yet to receive a response. (see update below).

He told Broadcast that the move was due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had caused £2m of TV production to be paused:

“There is no escaping the fact that the Covid crisis is having a significant negative impact on the TV sector, and the wider UK economy. While Zinc Media Group is navigating the economic crisis, and declining TV commissioning budgets better than we had forecast back in March, we are still facing significant headwinds in our businesses,” he said.

“It’s clearly very disappointing that we have had to make this decision, but we are living through the most difficult of economic environments, which is forcing unpalatable decisions in every area of TV and beyond.”

He stated that Blakeway North would continue, but would do so from a “lower cost base.”

Sarah Murch founded the indie in 2008, having previously run the documentaries team at Granada TV. Lewis, who also started out at Granada, joined her in the same year.

Since they began, the company has won multiple RTS Awards, an Emmy, The Golden Eagle Award, The Prix Jeunesse Award and many more.

It has produced shows for BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and five. Last year it was named as one of the Best Place to Work in TV.

Zinc Media Group was previously known as Ten Alps, and operates Blakeway, Brook Lapping, Films of Record, Blakeway North, Reef Television, Tern Television and Zinc Communicate (formerly the Ten Alps Communications division).

 

UPDATE  3.08.20 Zinc Media has provided us with the following statement:

Zinc Media is reluctantly having to make some changes to the structure of Blakeway North.  These changes have been necessitated by the current Covid situation which has put a huge amount of pressure on all media businesses. This crisis has forced us to look at the profitability of all our businesses and, where businesses remain loss-making in their current form, make the necessary changes to help bring that business back to full health once the Covid restrictions are fully lifted.  

Blakeway North makes exceptional programmes from its Manchester base. Zinc is committed to ensuring that the company can continue to do so in the future, so is restructuring the division at the moment.  Some redundancies will unfortunately have to be made, but the changes allow for the introduction of a new structure from which we will build again in the future.  We want to thank both Sarah Murch, Blakeway North’s Managing Director, and Production Executive Alison Lewis, whose roles will be made redundant as a result of these changes.  They have made a huge contribution to the company over many years, and we are pleased that they will continue to work with us delivering programmes until early 2021.

Zinc remains totally committed to the nations and regions of the UK and to its teams in Manchester, Belfast, Aberdeen, Glasgow and London.  These are challenging times for all businesses and, with an equally unpredictable future ahead for all of us, we need to make sure that we are in the strongest possible position to best serve our current and future clients. 

The company has also provided CEO Mark Browning's statement in full:

"There is no escaping the fact that the COVID crisis is having a significant negative impact on the TV sector, and the wider UK economy.  While Zinc Media Group is navigating the economic crisis, and declining TV commissioning budgets better than we had forecast back in March, we are still facing significant headwinds in our businesses.  

"The Group’s transformation plan was supported by a significant cash injection back in January.  Our plan then was to invest in all our businesses and put them on a road to growth, improved margins, and profitability in 2021.  Profitability in 2021 is still our destination, but the road we must take to get there has changed due to COVID.  We are still investing in new markets, as seen by the recent appointments in both TV and the re-positioned Zinc Communicate, but we can’t do all the investment initiatives we originally planned as the wider market conditions have changed.  Every division has had to adapt its strategy in the light of COVID.  For Blakeway North this means transitioning the division to a lower cost base while we work through the economic crisis.   

"The team in Blakeway North, led by Sarah and Alison have built a wonderful small indie over the last twelve years.  They have made some of the Group’s most memorable shows, and returning series.  They have picked up a huge number of awards, and built a highly supportive and collaborative culture.  It’s clearly very disappointing that we have had to make this decision, but we are living through the most difficult of economic environments which is forcing unpalatable decisions in every area of TV and beyond. Over the coming months we will review the market conditions and our plans to put Blakeway North on a secure financial footing.  We remain committed to operating a strong portfolio of profitable labels in the Nations and Regions."