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Media industry chiefs to get honorary degrees

Two women who have had a huge impact on British television are becoming honorary graduates of the University of Salford.

Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children’s and CEO of BBC North, and Cat Lewis, Founder and CEO of Manchester-based production company Nine Lives Media, are both set to receive their Honorary Doctorate of Arts awards during ceremonies at The Lowry in Salford next week.

As Director, BBC North, Alice Webb was responsible for the BBC’s successful and ground breaking move out of London to its current state of the art headquarters next door to the University’s MediaCityUK campus. She also has responsibility for the network’s children’s content, as Director, BBC Children’s.

The BBC announced its biggest investment in children’s content in a generation earlier this month, with an additional £34m across three years to 2019/20. The broadcaster will reinvent the way it serves its youngest audience, with enhanced online services for children and new forms of content produced in MediaCityUK.

Meanwhile, Cat Lewis began her television career at the age of 15 when she worked as a presenter for children’s programmes in the North East, before going on to gain her first degree and then an MA in journalism. She has gone on to win an International Emmy, two BAFTAs, and five Royal Television Society awards.

Nine Lives Media is one of the largest factual producers in the North West, one of just two independent production companies which makes Channel 4’s flagship Dispatches current affairs programme, and also makes content for BBC Panorama.

Cat Lewis’ Nine Lives Media recently won the BBC tender to make Songs Of Praise in partnership with Cardiff based Avanti Media, and was recently chosen as one of the 50 most creative companies by the Daily Telegraph and Creative England.

She also sits on the UK Advisory Panel of the Creative Industries Foundation, is chair of the RTS North West, a BAFTA judge and is on the panel for Women in Film and TV in the North.

Beth Hewitt, Director of the Nations and Regions Media Conference and Senior Lecturer in Media Practice at the University of Salford, said: “The contribution which both Alice and Cat have made to the television industry is outstanding, and it’s absolutely fitting that the University of Salford, based in the heart of MediaCityUK and with such close links to the BBC and to a wide range of independent producers, should be honouring them.

“These are incredibly exciting times for television production in Manchester, with the BBC announcing a radical shake-up of its children’s department, with huge investment going into the creation of homegrown content right next door to our own campus and with a serious attempt to take on US based rivals such as Netflix and Amazon.

“Meanwhile, Nine Lives Media and other independent production companies are continuing to go from strength to strength, demonstrating the huge opportunities that exist for broadcast graduates here in Salford. The North West’s creative and digital industries wouldn’t be as dynamic as they are without the powerful leadership of people like Cat and Alice, and I’m incredibly excited to be providing them with honorary degrees.”

Alice Webb said: “I am truly delighted and humbled to be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Salford.  It is particularly special to me because in part it is in recognition of what I have contributed to the North West – my adopted home.  I will treasure this award and enjoy it for years to come.”

Cat Lewis said: “I’m delighted to receive an honorary degree from the University of Salford. Here at Nine Lives Media, we’ve employed a lot of graduates of the University of Salford’s School of Media and the Arts.

“They’ve all been taught to an excellent standard which doesn’t surprise me because I know many of the lecturers and those who run the courses have extensive track records in TV production.”

Cat Lewis receives hers on Wednesday July 19 and Alice Webb receives her honorary degree on Friday July 21

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