The remit of Radio 4 is to be a mixed speech service, offering in-depth news and current affairs and a wide range of other speech output including drama, readings, comedy, factual and magazine programmes.

The station should appeal to listeners seeking intelligent programmes in many genres which inform, educate and entertain.

The digital station Radio 4 Extra is the principal outlet for the BBC's archive of speech entertainment, including comedy, drama and readings.

More information on the remits for BBC Radio 4 and BBC 4 Extra can be found on the BBC Trust website.

Anybody wishing to work with Radio 4 must read the guide to Working with Radio 4 (PDF).

 

Commissioning opportunities

Radio 4 schedules 13,000 programmes across 14 different genres each year and has a special commissioning process.

If you are a independent production company and wish to hear details regarding the Radio 4 or 4 Extra commissioning rounds, you will need to be part of the Radio Independent Supplier Database and can find more information on the How to pitch page

All Radio Production companies on the database will receive copies of the guidelines for the main commissioning round, held in the spring, and for special tenders.

These contain guidance on:

  • the commissioning process and timetable
  • who is eligible to bid for particular slots
  • editorial, audience and price requirements
  • how to write and submit programme proposals 

The spring 2015 (Main and Drama) commissioning rounds have now closed and the results have been published in Proteus. Please search under 16/17, round 1 (for main) or round 5 (for drama).

Autumn 2015 comedy round 

The only slot open for new ideas in this round is 1130 Comedy.  Offers are capped at two per supplier, as available business is very limited.

 

All other comedy slots are open only for submission of returning business.

 

Timetable:

Guidelines published                       Friday 18th September

Pre-offers deadline                        Thursday 8th October, 1200

Pre-offers results                            Friday 16th October

Final offers deadline                       Tuesday 10th November, 1200

Results released                              Tuesday 8th December

 

Programme ideas

BBC Radio 4 is essentially a commissioning centre, not a production department and we are unable to accept unsolicited programme ideas which have been sent directly to the network.

In order to submit an offer to Radio 4, you will need to work with a production department/supplier. Please see Ideas from the public page for more information. 

Book at Bedtime, Book of the Week and Short Stories

This business is tendered and won by selected producers. Additionally the BBC Writersroom  occasionally post competitions for short stories on their website under "Opportunities".

Scripts  

For unsolicited scripts please see the BBC Writersroom website

 

Rolling commissions

The ad hoc round (Round 8) is always open for rolling commissioning and reactive ideas. From now until 31 March 2016, this round will be in Proteus as Round 8 2015 - 2016.

All programmes commissioned outside of the main rounds require Proteus proposals before conditional commissions can be confirmed.

These may be for

  • individual programmes within a batch or output guarantee that your company or department has secured.
  • an idea you are pitching between rounds because it’s a great idea and can’t wait until the next round.

Please note, however, that the scope for pitching between rounds is narrow. In comedy and drama it is extremely narrow and normally related to availability of talent.

Process:

  1. Email the relevant commissioning editor, with a copy to the commissioning assistant. 
  2. At the same time, enter a Proteus proposal and submit it to the network.  

Rolling submissions are always entered in round 8 of the current financial year (not necessarily the year in which the programme will transmit). 

E.g. to pitch an idea for Archive on 4 (brief number 47088) to TX in 2016-17, you select:

‘20152016 – 47088 – 8 – Archive on 4’

If you are unsure of which brief number or commissioning year to use, please check with Amanda Benson.

  1. If entered into Proteus by last thing Friday, this will ensure inclusion in the next weekly meeting of the commissioning team.
  2. It is assumed that every programme is offered at the guide price unless you make it clear in your short synopsis that it will be over or under the guide.
  3. If the proposal is to be commissioned, you will receive a Conditional Acceptance email as normal, and the status in Proteus will be adjusted accordingly.
  4. If it is Shortlisted for further consideration, you will receive an email confirming this.
  5. If it is Rejected, you will not receive an email but will be able to see this information in Proteus. 
  6. If you have not heard back in a couple of weeks, or seen a rejection in Proteus, then do contact the commissioning editor to enquire.

 

Forthcoming tenders

Feedback, Something Understood and Gardeners’ Question Time will will be tendered in autumn 2015.

Guidelines published 15 September 2015
Submissions deadline 6 October 2015 at noon
Results issued w/c 16 November 2015
New contracts begin April 2016


Book of the Week
 and Book at Bedtime will also be tendered in autumn 2015. 

Guidelines published Late August 2015
Submissions deadline 29 October 2015 at noon
Results issued Early December 2015
New contracts begin April 2016

 

Short Readings will be tendered in early 2016, with exact dates to be announced but to fall roughly as follows:

Guidelines published Early December 2015
Submissions deadline Late January
Results issued Early March 2016
New contracts begin April 2017

 

Current tenders 

The tender for Gardeners’ Question Time is currently held by Somethin’ Else.

The tender for Feedback is currently held by Whistledown.

The tender for Something Understood is currently held by Unique, Falling Tree and Whistledown. The tender for Afternoon Drama is currently held by:

  • Brill
  • Boz Temple Morris
  • Catherine Bailey
  • Corporation for Independent  Media
  • Goldhawk Essential
  • Pier
  • Somethin’ Else
  • Sparklab
  • Sweet Talk

The tender for Radio 4 Short Readings is currently held by:

  • BBC Northern Ireland – Drama
  • BBC Scotland - Drama
  • BBC Radio Drama - London
  • BBC R&M Factual - Bristol
  • Heavy Entertainment Ltd
  • Pier Productions Ltd
  • Sweet Talk Productions Ltd
  • The Waters Partnership t/a The Waters Company

The tender for Book of the Week is currently held by:

  • BBC London Readings Unit
  • BBC Scotland
  • Heavy Entertainment Limited
  • Loftus Media Limited
  • Pacificus Productions
  • Pier Productions Limited
  • Sweet Talk Productions Limited
  • The Waters Company

The tender for Book at Bedtime is currently held by:

  • BBC Bristol
  • BBC London Readings Unit
  • BBC Northern Ireland
  • BBC Scotland
  • Pier Productions Limited
  • Sweet Talk Productions Limited
  • The Waters Company

The tender for 4 Extra Short readings is currently held by:

  • Pier Productions Limited
  • Sweet Talk Productions Limited
  • The Waters Company  

 

Further information

Programme-makers are advised to read information on the Pitching to RadioHow we do business and Delivery timeline pages before submitting proposals.

Radio 4 is a commissioning network and operates very differently to other radio networks. If you have any questions about the commissioning process, please contact the Radio 4 commissioning team on 020 7765 3366.

 

Radio 4 Extra

Acquisition checklist

BBC Radio 4 Extra purchases a certain number of ready-made programmes each year that match its editorial remit – archive or acquired comedy, entertainment, drama, readings and features. If you are interested you will have to be able to deliver and agree to the points in the Radio 4 Extra acquisition checklist. You may be asked to deliver the information in the acquisition checklist before final agreement is made and before a final contract is signed. Please send your programme information to Rachel Tappin (Business Manager, Radio 4 Extra).

 

Roles

Sioned Wiliam is Commissioning Editor for Comedy, responsible for all comedy output.

Mohit Bakaya, Commissioning Editor for Factual, takes lead responsibility for history, current affairs, politics, natural history, science and religion on the Network.

Tony Phillips, Commissioning Editor, Arts, takes responsibility for music, arts and poetry documentaries – including the Saturday 10.30 feature - and arts strands including: Open Book, The Film Programme, BookclubSaturday Review, A Good Read, Word of Mouth, With Great Pleasure.  Tony is also Commissioning Editor for the World Service where he is responsible for documentaries, World Service Arts, World Bookclub, The Forum and Heart and Soul.

Jeremy Howe is Commissioning Editor for Drama and Fiction and is responsible for all drama output, the Book at Bedtime and Short Readings.

Denis Nowlan, Head of Station Management, BBC Radio 3, Radio 4 & Radio 4 Extra, is responsible for planning the commissioning process.  He is also commissioning editor for the independent strands Feedback and Gardener’s Question Time and The Kitchen Cabinet.

All commissions are signed off by Controller Radio 4, Gwyneth Williams.

 

If you would like to know more about BBC Radio 4 and 4 Extra programmes, content and schedules, please visit the Radio 4 station websites

 

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