Former director of news and programmes at Al Jazeera English, Steve Clarke, said he couldn’t resist the challenge of helping Big Pictures chairman Darren Lyons in his quest to set up a new TV production company.
Clarke has been appointed CEO of Big Pictures Productions, a new division of celebrity photo and video agency Big Pictures, owned by Lyons, also known as ‘Mr Paparazzi”.
Given the task of using the company’s library and ongoing operations to launch a raft of television series, Clarke said: ‘If you can’t resist a challenge, you can’t resist a challenge. It’s a very exciting venture. I’ve always been in at the start of exciting ventures that happily have succeeded.
‘When we started talking about launching a TV production arm to add to what is already an established and successful company, I thought it was a rather irresistible challenge.”
Clarke’s first task is to recruit ‘the right team of producers and researchers”, and to look at the existing content already available in Big Pictures’ expansive image and video library.
Speaking to Press Gazette just four days into his job, he said he already had plenty of ideas: ‘I’ve spent most of the time here looking at what’s available and jotting down ideas for programme series and documentaries, and by the end of the second day I’d filled a notebook. Ideas are very cheap but turning them into reality is a skill, but the possibilities are endless.”
Clarke resigned from Al Jazeera English two months ago after three-and-a-half years with the channel, starting off as the only journalist and leading the recruitment launch to hire another 500.
He said he only ever intended to stay a maximum of two-and-a-half years in a job that involved so much time ‘travelling and juggling”.
Talking about his return to England earlier this year, he said: ‘I had no idea what I was going to do when I came back. I thought I was going to have six months doing nothing but the garden and training my puppy. I got a phone call from a few people and met with Darren and we started talking over a few ideas.”
Prior to Al Jazeera English, Clarke was controller of factual programmes at Central and Carlton Television and news editor at ITN.
He said: ‘It’s a little bit different from things I’ve done in the past, but the more I look at newspapers and magazines in England – I’ve been away for four years – it seems 70 per cent of magazines are generated by celebrity news, and the same with newspapers and more and more on TV.
‘At the end of the day, that’s apparently what people want to read and see.”