Who we are and how we commission

Just over a third of the licence fee comes to BBC Television. BBC Television commissioned over 20,000 hours of programmes last year and invested an estimated £1.2 billion in the UKs creative industries.

Danny Cohen is the Director of BBC Television. 

Find delivery contacts across Television.


The commissioning process and commitments

How the BBC commissions content and agrees contracts is governed by the Code of practice and the Business framework.

The commissioning process is for producers from independent companies and BBC in-house teams to pitch their proposals. Find out more about where to send ideas from members of the public and individuals on the Ideas from the public page.  

We operate a genre based commissioning process and commissioning opportunities can be found on the TV Genre page. Commissioning in TV is a collaboration between channels and genres. To get a programme commissioned it has to work for both.  

 

What we're looking for

Twice a year channels and genres reflect on programme performance, what's been commissioned and future needs. This informs the ideas they are most looking for from production companies and in-house: the development priorities. These are updated with any changes throughout the year.

When Commissioners have something over and above these priorities they hold briefings for suppliers. These could be online or face to face. Relevant suppliers are informed about these as they come up.

One-to-one meetings with Commissioners will be to discuss ideas in play, not to brief on what we are looking for. This ensures  we have time to develop the best ideas.

Securing a meeting with a Commissioner will be based on the strength of the ideas submitted.

 

What happens to ideas

An idea will be looked at first by the genre. If they think it is a good addition to their mix they may ask the producer to develop it further. When they think it’s ready they will take it to the Channel Controller. The creative dialogue will evolve through conversations with both the channel and genre and will be managed by the Genre Commissioning Editor.

 

The decision making process

BBC Television is committed to making commissioning decisions as fast as possible: entering into a dynamic and respectful dialogue with producers whose ideas are in play. We will give feedback on ideas we have actively been developing but this will vary by genre depending on the volume of proposals coming in, the nature of the idea and the characteristics of the genre.

This is the kind of feedback that can be expected:

  • For rejections at an early stage, high volume areas like Factual will give headline feedback only. Lower volume areas will provide more detail.
  • Proposals that are rejected later in the commissioning process will receive more specific feedback. This may include subject matter, format, audience, plot or character - to provide a useful steer for future projects.

 

How we want to work with suppliers

We want BBC Television to be a place where producers want to bring their best ideas. If we don’t always live up to that we want you to let us know so we can improve how we work.

This is our commissioning pledge:

  • We will respond to all new ideas within two weeks to tell you what's happening next.
  • We will be honest about what we think – and say ‘no’ more quickly.
  • We will update you once a month on the status of all ideas in active development.
  • We will treat producers as partners – and offer you the professional courtesy that deserves.
  • We will only ask you to make changes where it would have a significant creative impact for our audience.

If you don’t feel we live up to these ambitions when you work with us please let your Genre Commissioner know or contact the Independents Executive Angela Chan.

We also ask for feedback through an annual survey.  

The Business Affairs charter governs the BBC’s business affairs dealings with independent production companies. 

Download the Business Affairs charter (PDF).

 

Complaints

There is a procedure for independent production companies where a company believes it has concerns relating to the BBC's commissioning process that have not been fully addressed by the commissioning genre.

Download the three stage guidance to complaints about commissioning (PDF).

 

Other opportunities

In addition to the network genre needs there are also commissioning opportunities through:

Local programmes: Local services in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions are commissioned locally and ideas should be submitted directly to them. Find contacts for Local Programmes in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  

Strands: Individual programmes within Factual strands are commissioned by the Strand Editor. The Head of Commissioning is responsible for the commissioning of the strand itself.

 

Development agreement

Proposals may be provided with funded development, in which case the timetable to commission will be subject to negotiation between the external supplier and the BBC and determined by the development contract. In all other instances the final decision will be no later than 20 weeks from receipt of the proposal. A successful proposal will be given approval by the relevant Head of Commissioning.

Download a template Standard development agreement (PDF).

 

Confidentiality 

The BBC will treat all proposals as confidential. We have signed up to the updated Alliance for the protection of copyright (APC) code of practice (PDF) providing guidance around submission and handling of proposals for all types of broadcast and online content.

This code forms part of the BBC Pitch terms and conditions which should be read before registering for the system.

 

Quotas, targets and the statement of operation

BBC Television is subject to a number of formal quotas and targets relating to who makes content, what the content is about and where it is made. Some of these commitments are legal requirements which are monitored by Ofcom and some are targets which have been agreed with the BBC Trust. The Statement of operation explains how these quotas and targets work and how the BBC Executive Board will ensure they are delivered and reported.

Download the Statement of operation (PDF).

In brief, the quotas and targets can be broken down into the following categories:

 Scroll down to read a detailed breakdown of individual quotas and targets.

 

BBC Television has an annual planning process taking the channel and genre strategies and building them into a detailed plan of what they are looking for, at what price, in each transmission slot. After agreeing on any returning series they will invite ideas for the remaining slots. Quotas and targets are overlaid on this plan to make sure commitments will be met.

At this stage there would be an initial idea of which programmes would make up the various quotas, ensuring a range of programming, prices and locations from each.

These plans may change as the commissioning landscape evolves, for example:

The overall spend and hours in a genre may change if channel strategy changes ie if a channel decided to play Drama rather than Entertainment in a particular slot or vice versa.

The genre strategy may evolve across a year as audience reaction to programmes comes through.

As commissions are confirmed the finances or quota requirements of the remaining slots may need to be re-balanced.

Commissioned projects may need to move delivery dates because of talent availability, production requirements etc. If this involves moving into a different financial year it may affect the original plan and need to be re-assessed.

Opportunities for similar programmes often exist across more than one supply category. For example, if an idea is being developed for a slot in the independent quota and then that slot is commissioned, the idea may then move to compete for a space for similar programmes in the WoCC.

The Slate Management teams in each genre respond to these changes and constantly re-iterate the plan based on latest information to ensure that budgets, quotas and targets are met.

This may mean that the precise make-up of the quotas is moving at the margins in most genres over time. For these reasons, it is often not possible to confirm the supply category until the end of the financial year.

 

Quotas and targets in full

Tier two quota

This relates to levels of News and Current Affairs, original production, regional production and regional programming for independent production companies and in-house production.

The specific obligations relate to:

  • Levels of News programming on BBC One and levels of Current Affairs programming across BBC One and BBC Two. 
  • Levels of Original Production on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies channel, CBBC channel, BBC News24 and BBC Parliament. 
  • Levels and range of Regional Productions ie network programmes that are produced outside of London.
  • Levels and range of Regional Programming ie non-network productions that are produced for the Nations and English Regions.

 
Independent production quota

This relates to levels of programming made by qualifying independent producers only.

The BBC must ensure that at least 25% of qualifying programmes broadcast across its television services are allocated to independent productions. The BBC is committed to treating the 25% as a floor and not a ceiling.

The BBC is also required to ensure at least 25% of BBC One qualifying programmes and at least 25% of BBC Two qualifying programmes are allocated to independent productions.

The definition of a qualifying independent producer are provided in the statutory broadcasting (independent productions) order (see Statement of operation from more information) but in brief, an ‘independent producer’ is a producer:

  1. Who is not employed by a broadcaster.
  2. Who does not own more than 25% of a broadcaster (unless the producer is based in the EEA and the broadcaster it has a shareholding in is outside the EEA).
  3. In which no single UK broadcaster owns a stake of more than 25% or no two or more UK broadcasters together own more than 50%.

A UK Broadcaster is any broadcaster who provides a television service intended for reception in any area of the UK (even if it is also intended for reception elsewhere).

 

In-house production guarantee

This relates to levels of BBC in-house production only.

From 2007 each genre has had a guaranteed level of in-house output. The guarantees vary across genres ensuring that the BBC sustains a production base to deliver its public service commitments.

Overall the in-house guarantee makes up 50% of output.

 

The window of creative competition 

This relates to production from both in-house and external suppliers.

The window of creative competition (The WoCC) is a segment of the commissioning slate open to competition from all suppliers, whether in-house or independent. It ensures the best ideas are commissioned regardless of who makes the programmes and therefore guarantees a level playing field for commissioning opportunities. Anyone can pitch for the WoCC including independent companies who do not qualify for the independent quota.

The WoCC significantly increases the volume of business contestable to external suppliers and overall is 25% of the total programme needs which represents around £250 million of business. To accommodate the WoCC the BBC’s in-house fixed capacity has been reduced in order to align with the 50% in-house production guarantee. 

To ensure the system is fair there is a wide range of programming available across each genre at a wide range of prices. In addition, to meet the overall targets for nations and regions programming it is intended that some of the WoCC be commissioned from producers outside of London. These could be regionally based independents or regional BBC production centres.

As a reference, below are the starting positions for the WoCC by genre for 2013 / 2014:

 

 Genre

 Hours

 Value

 Drama

 107       

 £73 million

 Comedy

 41

 £18 million

 Entertainment

 194

 £53 million

 Knowledge

 434

 £61 million

 Daytime

 494

 £26 million

 Children's

 140

 £21 million

 

These figures will fluctuate throughout the year in response to new commissions, audience preferences, talent availability and production schedules which can trigger a remix of slates to ensure the best ideas are commissioned and target commitments met. 

Find out more about the WoCC (PDF).

 

Regional production

In 2008 the BBC set the following commitments to growing regional production for BBC Network from outside of London:

  • 50% of network spend will be made outside London by 2016.
  • 17% of network spend will come from the Nations by 2016 and in the interim 12% of spend will come from the Nations by 2012.
  • A proportion of network spend would be made in Scotland, equivalent to Scotland's share of the UK population, with a comparable approach in relation to Wales and Northern Ireland.

Using Ofcom's definitions, to qualify as a Regional Production a programme must meet at least two out of the following three criteria:

  • The production company must have a substantive business and production based in the UK outside the M25. A base will be taken to be substantive if it is the usual place of employment of Executives managing the regional business, of senior personnel involved in the production in question, and of senior personnel involved in seeking programme commissions;
  • At least 70% of the production budget (excluding the cost of on-screen talent, archive material and copyright costs) must be spent in the UK outside the M25
  • At least 50% of the production talent (ie not on-screen talent) by cost must have their usual place of employment in the UK outside the M25. Freelancers without a usual place of employment outside the M25 will nonetheless count for this purpose if they live outside the M25. Ofcom will consider as part of their 2004 review whether this percentage should rise over time. 

Example Production   

Where substantive base is located

> 70% spend out of London

> 50% talent out of London?

Regional production?

Production A               

 Wales

 Yes

 Yes

Regional Production

Production B

 Wales

 Yes

 No

Regional Production

Production C

 Wales

 No

 No 

Not a Regional Production

Production D

 London

 Yes

 Yes

Regional Production

 

The substantive base remains the primary driver of where a regional production is allocated to; 

  • macro region (ie Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, North of England, Midlands and East, South of England)
  • 'multi nation/region production’ for regional productions from London Producers which do not meet both 70% of spend and 50% of talent in any one particular macro region.

A regional production is classified to another macro region if more than 70% of spend and more than 50% of talent is in that particular region.

Example Production 

Where substantive base is located

Where > 70% spend is

Where > 50% talent comes from

Allocated Macro Region

Production A

North

Various

Various

North

Production B

North

Scotland

Various

North

Production C

North

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Production D

Scotland

North

North

North

Production E

London

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Production F

London

Scotland

Various

"Multi Regional"

 

Read Ofcom's guidelines to see how this allocation works in detail.

Each production is required to submit I&RP Ofcom compliance forms so that the BBC has a formal record of the independent and regional production status of that commission. Please contact Bev Salt for any queries regarding the definitions.

Find further information regarding these commitments in the BBC Trust's press release in May 2008 and in Jana Bennett's speech to the RTS in October 2008

 

Non-network creative opportunities

The BBC broadcasts around 1,400 hours of non-Network programming each year on the BBC's local channels in the nations and opt-out services in the english regions.

Each of the three nations commissions between 250 hours and 500 hours a year across the genres. Visit the Commissioning websites for ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland to find information on commissioning opportunities for non-network production. 

Because of this relatively low volume of hours there is no a formal WoCC for non-network output. Instead the BBC is required to “ensure that suitable arrangements are in place to provide appropriate opportunities for competition between in-house and external producers” for qualifying regional programming.

The framework to deliver appropriate opportunities in each of the three nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is as follows:

  • Independent producers will deliver at least 25% of the qualifying output. This will be monitored to protect the range and diversity of programming.
  • Independent producers will compete within a further 15%. Most of this will be targeted exclusively for competition among independent producers. Again, range and diversity will be protected.
  • As non-network output includes a relatively large number of long-running, returning strands it would be impractical to split these between in-house and independent production. In-house production will therefore have a guarantee of 60%. This guarantee supports the continuation of these strands in-house with some minimal levels of ‘creative headroom’ for non-returning work.
     

Access services targets

The BBC is required to observe Ofcom’s Access services code and any additional BBC targets relating to the provision of subtitling, signing and audio description services for the deaf and visually impaired. This is subject to any exclusions agreed between Ofcom and the BBC.

This is applicable to each of the BBC public television services separately. 

The targets are expressed as percentages of the service for all programmes other than ‘excluded programmes’ (as defined by Ofcom’s Access services code). This excludes any advertisements, trails or continuity. 

 

BBC One and BBC Two targets:

Service/Year 1

2005

2006

2007

2008

Subtitling

90%

95%

97%

100%

Signing 

3%

4%

4%

5%

Audio Description

6%

8%

8%

10%

 

BBC Three, BBC Four, CBBC, CBeebies, News24 targets:

Service/Year 1

2005

2006

2007

2008

Subtitling

70%

80%

90%

100%

Signing 

3%

4%

4%

5%

Audio Description

6%

8%

8%

10%

 

A managed service contract with Red Bee Media (an external partner) has been put in place to deliver the provision of services for the deaf and visually impaired.

 

European television without frontiers quotas

The Communications Act 2003 and the European Union Council Directive 89/552/EEC set requirements regarding the level of European programming:

  1. Where practical the majority of programmes shown must be European (including UK productions).
  2. At least 10% must be independent European works.
  3. At least 50% of the independent productions must be ’recent’  ie made within the last five years.

These quotas are applied to the BBC’s network public services as a whole rather than each network channel although BBC Television does monitor and report the position on each network.