Skift Take

The BBC never satisfied Wheeler's on-screen ambitions. Luckily, this new effort won't have to contend with the British broadcaster's issues.

Last week the Melbourne-based video production company Chemical Media announced that Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler was taking a strategic investment in the company. While he will have no day-to-day duties, he will be actively involved advising the company and participating in projects both behind and in front of the screen.

When Skift spoke with Wheeler in early fall (see “Skift Q&A: Lonely Planet’s Founder on Ethics and the Future of Travel”), he spoke of his disappointment with how the BBC handled video production during the time it owned Lonely Planet. Ironically, the travel brand’s new owners NC2 Media have taken an more active interest in video than the BBC since purchasing the brand in April.

In a statement Chemical Media’s Executive Producer Tony Jackson said, “Tony Wheeler is an astute investor and one of the most influential travellers alive. With his pedigree and our experience making travel content, we’re well placed to be a world leader in travel and adventure programming.”

We emailed Wheeler to learn more about what is happening at Chemical Media.

Skift: Does Chemical Media consist of any of the ex-LP video people that left the company following the BBC acquisition?

Tony Wheeler: Chemical Media consists of all the ex-LP video people! Effectively LPTV – apart from the BBCW people in L.A. – upped and left, moved round the corner, rented office space, editing suites, etc., and started again.

Skift: What level of involvement do you plan on having at the company?

Wheeler: When I first became involved it was just going to be as an investor and on the board. But then “Tony Wheeler’s History of Travel” popped up and if that gets off the ground then I’ll have a lot more involvement. All we’ve done so far is brainstorm the idea and just before Christmas spent a day in Sydney shooting a promo reel. They’re taking that and other ideas to Real Screen in Washington, D.C. at the end of this month to try and get it off (and other ideas) off the ground.

Skift: Does this mean that Chemical Media is going to dive deeper into travel content production? If so, are there any immediate plans?

Wheeler: Already underway: “Nomad Chef,” a culinary travel & adventure series and “Bobby Chinn’s Detox!”, a health and well-being travel show. I’ve seen the rough cut of the first “Nomad Chef” program, Vanuatu. The second is Arnhem Land in Australia. Plus there’s “History of Travel,” but there are a bunch of other interesting ideas.

I think “History of Travel” has huge potential and will bring in a bunch of historic travellers I’ve often felt as if I’ve been following. Joseph Banks on Captain Cook’s expedition for example, I’ve often said that what he did was like a tourist on a Close Encounters of the Third Kind trip, bumping into people from Polynesians in Tahiti to Maoris in New Zealand and Aboriginals in Australia who’d had no previous contact with the outside world. Or Thomas Coryate who walked all the way to India from Europe in 1613 – and died there. A couple of years ago I tracked down the place he was born in England and the place he died in India.

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Tags: lonely planet, tv

Photo credit: Wheeler in what's left of a Panguna copper mine in Papua New Guinea. Courtesy Tony Wheeler / Tony Wheeler

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