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BBC Four - What we're looking for...

BBC Four unashamedly expert undiluted and in depth

janicehadlow.jpgController: Janice Hadlow



BBC FOUR is what intelligent, mixed-genre television looks like in the 21st Century - lively, energised and full of ideas that will stimulate and challenge. The channel relishes big ideas and embraces thought-provoking television - especially programmes that are made with wit, creativity and verve. FOUR offers viewers greater depth, diversity and context that they would expect to find on most mainstream channels - but our programming mix also includes warmer, more accessible shows that are genuinely enjoyable to watch.

In the coming year, we plan to develop further our current strengths, nurture our most successful brands, and increase the impact, ambition and originality of our output. The channel will continue to schedule special seasons and theme nights. Typically, newly commissioned content (which may consist of distinctive factual programming or drama) will be the centrepiece of these events, but they will usually be supported by high-quality acquisitions and archive programming that will increase the scale and impact of our offer.

Programme Aspirations for BBC FOUR

Specialist Factual and Documentaries

BBC FOUR will always find space in its schedules for challenging subject-matter that will satisfy the intellectual curiosity of the most demanding audiences. Through our factual programming, we hope to make a significant contribution to the BBC's wider knowledge-building mission, by commissioning sophisticated, authored pieces that are rich in ideas. We are particularly interested in receiving more propositions that will deliver ambitious, thought-provoking (and occasionally provocative) specialist factual singles and series - definitive programmes such as Art Of Germany, Opera Italia, A Century of Fatherhood, Chemistry: A Volatile History and Writers In Their Own Words which have become 'category-killers' for the channel.

Observational documentaries have also performed well for the channel, as illustrated by Museums, another entertaining and enlightening series by the film-maker Richard Macer, Tweed from Ian Denyer or Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children from Jezza Neumann and Xoliswa Sithole

BBC FOUR is a mixed-genre service that embraces the arts, science, history and all aspects of contemporary life in Britain and abroad. The channel has always had a strong international focus, and we want to retain the global scope that has been evident in so much of our constructed and observational documentary output (from To Kill a Mockingbird at 50 and Indian Hill Railways to Syrian School and Storyville).

BBC Four The Story of British Sculpture

BBC Four Arts: Romancing The Stone: The Golden Ages Of British Sculpture


In recent years, BBC FOUR has consistently demonstrated its commitment to high-quality drama productions. We have commissioned a number of screenplays that have attracted some of Britain's finest actors who have delivered acclaimed performances in films of the calibre of Enid, The Road to Coronation Street, Mrs Mandela, Canoe Man and Lennon Naked. Although many of our originated dramas have been inspired by the lives of real people or actual events, we have been open to intelligent, imaginative works in any genre of drama. 

We will continue to commission high-quality factual dramas, but in 2011 we will broaden the range of our drama portfolio still further with adaptations from a variety of literary genres - from Women In Love and Room at the Top to Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

BBC Four Corrie The Road to Coronation Street

BBC Four Drama: Corrie: The Road To Coronation Street

Comedy and Entertainment

Having commissioned a number of acclaimed series including Getting On, Charlie Brooker's Newswipe and The Thick of It, the channel has scored significant success with its comedy and entertainment formats in recent years. Victoria Coren's fiendish quiz, Only Connect, has established itself as a regular feature of Monday nights.  BBC FOUR remains receptive to ideas that promise to deliver genuinely intelligent, creative and enjoyable shows that are in tune with the values of the channel and our audience.

Music and Performance

From its inception, BBC FOUR has been a strong supporter of music and performing arts programming. In the last year, we broadcast 17 concerts from the BBC Proms; films and performance on Chopin and Elgar; ballet by Kenneth MacMillan, a month of opera with documentaries by Antonio Pappano, Rolando Villazon and Daniele de Niese alongside full-scale and a second series of Sacred Music. 

Popular music documentaries also figure strongly in the BBC FOUR schedules, through such programmes as Legends and Classic Albums, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masakela, Tom Petty, Songwriters' Circle, Latin Music USA and Metal Britannia.   We welcome in particular ideas for engaging and insightful documentaries on music or the performing arts that reveal the compelling life stories of great artists, and identify the experiences that inspired works of genius.

Recent programme highlights

In Dirty South, Rich Hall turned his acerbic wit on his homeland once again as he sifted truth from fiction in Hollywood's version of the southern states of the USA. In classic movies such as Gone With The Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire and Deliverance, Rich discovered a South that is about so much more than just rednecks, racism and hillbillies..

Sophie Okenedo and David Morrissey starred in Mrs Mandela, Michael Samuels' nuanced account of how Winnie Mandela went from innocent country girl to a fighter against apartheid.

Michael Wood's Story of England enlisted the people of Kibworth in Leicestershire to tell the story of the last millenium through archaeological finds, family records and official documents.

Directed by Peter Capaldi and written and performed by Jo Brand, Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine, Getting On depicted life on an NHS geriatric ward.

The tone of the channel

Our programmes aspire to be unashamedly intelligent, lively, surprising, thoughtful, ambitious, original, international in outlook and connected by a wide-ranging interest in the world.

BBC Four Mad Men

BBC Four Drama: Mad Men

Our audience

What unifies our audience is not age, wealth or place of origin, but attitude -  not a type of viewer but drawn by a type of viewing.

For them, television must compete with radio, books, print journalism, online and digital media, and a host of interests and passions. Watching TV must be time well spent. They have little time for the mediocre, the uninterrogated, or for easy generalisations or empty hyperbole. They are fascinated to see expertise and unfamiliar viewpoints expressed with passion, conviction and authority. Our viewers value powerful narratives, told with passion, intelligence and verve.


Want to know more about BBC Four?

If you would like to know more about BBC Four programmes, content and schedules, please visit the BBC Four channel website.

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