BBC Four has a built an unrivalled reputation as the home of television of intelligence, wit and verve. From Lucy Worsley’s intoxicating history of the home to Waldemar Januszczak’s re-invention of the Dark Ages to Saga’s Nordic angst in The Bridge, BBC Four offers a cocktail of programming unlike any other in British broadcasting.
The channel has a new tighter focus on Arts and Culture but it still welcomes ideas of any genre, and going forward the watchword for BBC Four is innovation. We’re always on the lookout for ideas that re-invent our core genres: that bring new form or new talent (or even new ways of financing!) to our central subject areas.
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 be working more closely with BBC Two to schedule special seasons and theme nights as well as building seasons in its own right. Typically, newly commissioned content will be the centerpiece 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
A History of Art In Three Colours
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 Sound of Cinema: The Music That Made The Movies, A History Of Art In Three Colours, Order And Disorder and Dark Ages: An Age Of Light which have become 'category-killers' for the channel.
Storyville remains an important home for original and fresh single Documentaries that take the world as their precinct. Special event pieces have also become critical to the channel. These include the major Goodbye Television Centre featuring a whole week of programming celebrating Television’s best-loved studio, Danny Baker’s season on the importance of the album or Planet Ant: Life Inside The Colony where George McGavin built an entire ant colony from scratch as well as major performance premiers such as George Benjamin’s Written On Skin From The ROH.
A Very British Murder With Lucy Worsley
The channel has attacked its new arts and culture remit with wit and gusto introducing two successful new strands: What Do Artists Do All Day and Secret Knowledge, while event programmes such as A Night At The Rijksmuseum offered fresh views of major cultural events. The channel has scored major wins with highly focused single pieces such as The World’s Most Beautiful Eggs: The Genius Of Carl Fabergé and Simon Shaffer’s eclectic survey of the world of wind-up masterpieces in Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams.
Meanwhile the channel continues to look for major new landmark series, but driven by talent and an attitude which makes the content bigger, fresher and more engaging than a simple survey. Series such as A Very British Murder With Lucy Worsley, The High Art Of The Low Countries and Handmade In Britain are great examples of these central lynchpins of the BBC Four landscape.
BBC Four is also a central home to the BBC’s new Arts At strand, which celebrates the very best in British culture and the arts as it happens around the country.
Music and Performance
From its inception, BBC Four has been a strong supporter of music and performing arts programming. In the last year we have broadcast multiple concerts from the BBC Proms, films and performance by George Benjamin and Lang Lang At The Roundhouse and biography with Maestro Or Mephisto: The Real Georg Solti alongside major series and seasons such as the upcoming Eighteenth Century Season.
Popular Music Documentaries also figure strongly in the BBC Four schedules with Friday music nights still performing strongly as well as successful recent programmes on everything from World Music to Freddy Mercury to Fairport Convention.
Programmes that contribute to BBC-wide seasons such as Danny Baker's Great Album Showdown (part of The Golden Age Of The Album season) or Sound Of Cinema: The Music That Made the Movies (part of the Sound Of Cinema season) remain important parts of the schedule. We welcome ideas for engaging and insightful Documentaries on music or the performing arts that reveal the compelling life stories of great artists, but we are also interested in refreshing and popular takes on the history of music such as The Richest Songs In The World with Mark Radcliffe.
As the original home of The Thick Of It and Twenty Twelve, BBC Four has always been an enthusiastic home of new Comedy. We’re always on the lookout for new scenarios and talent that will roll up their sleeves and engage with the world in fresh and original ways. It’s also important that our new Comedy should speak to the BBC Four audience as the recent success of Brian Pern: A Life In Rock proved so well.
Although fully originated Drama is no longer part of the BBC Four offer, we still believe that eclectic and intelligent Drama remains at the heart of BBC Four. The ongoing success of our Saturday Night acquisitions with series such as The Bridge and Salamander is part of that, but we are also always interested in co-production or acquisition opportunities from any part of the world.
The tone of the channel
The perfect BBC Four programme is rich in content and pleasure but never talks down to its audience. We are always looking to be innovative, to find new forms, approaches and voices that are authoritative yet surprising and approachable.
What unifies our audience is not age, wealth or place of origin but attitude - not a type of viewer but one who is 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 un-interrogated, or for easy generalisations or empty hyperbole. They are fascinated to see expertise and unfamiliar viewpoints expressed with passion, conviction and authority.
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 page.
Latest BBC Four news
With a Hinterland feature-length special confirmed for Easter Monday on BBC One Wales, the return of the brooding noir detective DC Tom Mathias was never in doubt - according to Richard Harrington, who plays him.
The BBC has today announced a number of entertainment commissions from producers right across the country. The programmes, due for BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three and BBC Four, will cover everything from humour to high stakes in formats which put physical agility, mental ability and magical prowess to the test.
Kim Shillinglaw, Controller BBC Two and BBC Four, today announced an ambitious range of new science commissions across both channels.
Oscar and Bafta-winning actress Juliette Binoche; papyrology expert Margaret Mountford; classicist Natalie Haynes and art historian Alastair Sooke will feature in BBC Four’s season of programming celebrating the unique legacy of Greek art, sculpture, philosophy, poetry and theatre.