Expect slower commissioning decisions, warns Richard Klein

Richard Klein Richard Klein: 'I want to have fun'

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In-house producers and independents may have to wait longer than in the past to discover whether or not their ideas have got the green light, warns Richard Klein.

After four years in the job, the BBC Four controller says that he is 'very clear about what may or may not work', but that DQF will slow up his decision making.

'I've got less money, less hours to commission, fewer decisions to make,' Klein explained at the Televisual Factual Festival in London on Wednesday. 'I'm slightly wary of making decisions before I've collected a range of ideas.'

The channel took a heavy hit from DQF, losing all its original drama, history and entertainment programming, with documentary commissions halved. 'It's a fairly substantial loss,' admitted Klein. 'I think it will be visible; it's hard to disguise that level of change on a channel.'

Fewer colours

'When you lose entertainment and history from your palette you have fewer colours to paint with,' he added.

But he didn't believe the channel was 'broken', and said that it would continue to use 'wit, ideas and authorship' as a way in to subjects.

'My intention is to make the channel feel as much fun as it does now,' he told delegates. 'I don't know if it will.'

Start Quote

People who watch BBC Four aren't some weird sub species... They are every people like the rest of us. They will have mainstream interests”

End Quote Richard Klein Controller, BBC Four

Klein said that he didn't want to define BBC Four as an arts channel, believing that would alienate many of its 11m viewers - 'a very narrow group of people define themselves as arts people' - and he called for more mainstream ideas to come his way.

Think mainstream

'Let's not start out niche and small,' he urged. 'People who watch BBC Four aren't some weird sub species… They are every people like the rest of us. They will have mainstream interests.'

Despite a 10% smaller budget, he wants programme makers to think big. He pointed to After Life - for which a glass box containing a kitchen and garden was left to rot in Edinburgh Zoo - and said 'we managed to make it work' despite it being 'very expensive'.

'Those kind of ideas show the channel is alive, that it has a pulse,' he reasoned.

And he was still game for a laugh, with a witty approach from programme makers still top of Klein's wishlist.

He pointed to examples like Jo Brand's For Crying Out Loud, Scrapheap Orchestra and the trail for BBC Four's US Season which featured a bevy of all-American cheerleaders talking about Jackson Pollock and Jack Kerouac. 'That's funny,' insisted Klein. 'We're meant to be a bit up ourselves.'

'I want to have fun,' he added. 'What am I there for? To pleasure my audience and give them a good time.'

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