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Ant and Dec take aim at ‘London-centric’ television industry

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Ant and Dec have spoken out against a “London-centric” television industry they say feels inaccessible to young people who are hoping to work in it.

In an interview to the Telegraph, the popular presenting duo said TV was “an accessible place” when they started out in their native Newcastle in the 1990s.

“These days that seems to have gone by the wayside,” said Anthony McPartlin.

“When we were growing up it was all around us,” said Declan Donnelly. “We’d like to bring a bit of that back.”

Ant and Dec started out as child actors on CBBC drama Byker Grove and went on to co-present such shows as Pop Idol, Britain’s Got Talent and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

They have now joined forces with the Prince’s Trust on Making it in Media, a project aimed at bringing young people from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds into the industry.

The scheme will offer successful applicants career guidance, cost-covering grants and meetings with prospective employers and is aimed at 16- to 25-year-olds not in education, employment or training.

A two-week course will take place in London in July and there are plans to roll out the project subsequently in Manchester and Newcastle.

“By the time we’re finished with them they’ll have a real skill set to work with,” said Donnelly, 45. “They’ll hopefully bring real value, a fresh set of eyes and a fresh voice to wherever they go.

“If broadcasters want younger viewers, get young people in to make programmes, in front of or behind the cameras. Otherwise they stay on social media and TV runs the risk of losing them completely.”

“It’s such a great industry to get involved with because the possibilities are endless if you’re willing to work hard,” said McPartlin, also 45.

“We often talk about what we would be doing if Byker Grove hadn’t turned up at our schools and asked us to audition. Dec would be selling mobile phones very successfully in Newcastle, I reckon, because he’s got very good patter.”

“We were two quite unremarkable working-class kids from council estates in the west end of Newcastle,” Donnelly is quoted as saying. “We had never dreamed a career in the media was in any way possible.”

McPartlin, meanwhile, admitted the pair were “really bad” when they began co-presenting Saturday morning children’s show SM: TV in the late 1990s and that they would probably not have succeeded under the harsh gaze of today’s social media.

Ant and Dec are now television’s most in-demand and most highly-paid double act, having reportedly signed a “golden handcuffs” deal with ITV in 2020 worth £40 million.

They appeared with Prince Charles in a 2016 documentary celebrating the 40th anniversary of his Trust and were appointed OBEs by him at Buckingham Palace the following year.

In a press release issued by The Prince’s Trust, Ant calls the Making it in Media scheme “a real passion project for us and something we’ve wanted to work on for a long time”.

“We’re incredibly proud to be partnering with The Prince’s Trust on this and we hope we can help make a difference to some young people’s lives,” Dec adds.

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