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How We Commission
Throughout the commissioning process our objectives are to:
- Be transparent about our content needs
- Give all suppliers equal access to clear information
- Commission openly and fairly from across our diverse supplier base
- Make decisions as swiftly as possible
How We Accept Proposals
All proposals must be submitted via e-Commissioning, enabling us to fulfil our commitments and monitor our progress. e-Commissioning is currently being overhauled to make it simpler and swifter to use. The new system will re-launched in 2014.
Members of the public not attached to an independent production company should see the opportunities available on the Ideas From the Public page.
How we commission content and agree contracts with independent producers is governed by:
- Code of Practice agreed with Ofcom so that relations between the BBC and independent producers are fair and transparent.
- Terms of Trade agreed with the producers' association Pact which set out the standard business framework within which the BBC works with qualifying independent producers.
Our process for responding to proposals is set out in detail in the BBC Code of Practice.
- After submission, all proposals receive an automatic acknowledgement within one week of receipt.
- The relevant Head of Commissioning will either reject or progress proposals within six weeks of receipt.
- 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.
- Projects may be held over in exceptional circumstances but only with the formal agreement of the supplier. For further clarification on exceptions by genre, please read the Code of Practice.
- At any point during this period an external supplier may write to the Commissioning Editor asking for a progress report and be guaranteed a response within 10 working days of receipt. Find contact details for the Genre Commissioners.
In addition, we have committed to a Charter of Editorial Commitments designed to enhance the BBC’s relationship with independent production companies across the UK.
BBC Television Commissioning is committed to making decisions as swiftly as possible, acknowledging ideas quickly, entering into a dynamic and respectful dialogue with suppliers whose ideas are in play and giving quality feedback on ideas they have actively been developing.
The speed and nature of communication will vary by genre depending on the volume of proposals coming in, the nature of the idea and the nature of the genre.
- 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 feedback in reference to the specifics of the idea. This may include subject matter, format, audience, plot or character and aims to provide a useful steer for future projects.
- Meetings with independent production companies based outside of London will not be cancelled with less than 48 hours’ notice unless due to illness. Cancellations will be notified by phone and email. Re-arranging cancelled meetings with Producers will be prioritised in the diary.
- Once a project is in development Producers will be regularly updated on progress either every two weeks or with an alternative, clear timeframe with an explanation provided of when the next update will be.
- We will complement our in depth biennial survey with an annual survey of key questions around these commitments.
- Completed scripts will be read by the Commissioner and if then passed on by the Channel Controller in the following timeframes:
- Comedy: Two weeks
- Drama: Four weeks
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 providing guidance around submission and handling of proposals for all types of broadcast and online content. This code forms part of our e-Commissioning Terms and Conditions and you should read this information before registering for the system.
Setting our Commissioning priorities
BBC Television Commissioning is collaboration between channels and genres.
The channels decide the range and mix of programmes they need for their audiences. The genres look for individual ideas to meet those needs and make sure they are reflecting the full range of subjects and issues within their genre across all of our channels.
To get a programme commissioned it has to work for both the channel and the genre.
The Genre Controller or Head of Commissioning is the single point of commission for both independent and in-house producers. They talk to the Channel Controllers before making their decision to ensure content meets the strategy set by the channels.
The channels and genres have biannual Performance Review meetings to reflect on how programmes are performing, what's been commissioned, the strength of the competition and how that shapes future commissioning plans. Those meetings provide the basis for the development priorities, which can be found in the What We Want section.
We will complement our in depth biannual survey with an annual survey of key questions around these commitments.
We hold a number of briefings for our suppliers throughout the year at different venues around the country. At these briefings we discuss our current commissioning needs.
In addition to our core network genre needs we also have opportunities for:
- Strands: Programmes within Factual strands are commissioned by the Strand Editor. The Head of Commissioning is responsible for the commissioning of the strand itself.
- Local Programmes: Local services in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions are submitted and commissioned locally.
- Acquisitions: To complement its original commissioned content the BBC aims to bring the best international movies and programmes to its audiences and acquired programming is a significant and highly valued part of our output.
Quotas and Targets
We have a number of quotas and targets which relate to who makes our content, what the content is about and where the content is made.
Some of these commitments are legal requirements which are monitored by Ofcom and some are targets which we have agreed with the BBC Trust.
The quotas and targets can be broken down into the following categories:
- The ‘Tier 2 Quotas’ relating to levels of news and current affairs, levels of original production, levels of regional production and levels of regional programming.
- The Independent Production Quota relating to levels of programming made by independent producers.
- The Window of Creative Competition (the ‘WoCC’) relating to levels of programming that are open to either BBC In-house Production or external suppliers on a fair and transparent basis.
- The In-house Production Guarantee relating to levels of programming that are reserved for BBC In-house Production.
- Non-network creative opportunities relating to ensuring opportunities for competition between BBC in-house producers and external producers for regional programming.
- The Access Services targets relating to the provision for the deaf and visually impaired.
- The European Television Without Frontiers quotas relating to the levels of European programming.
You can read more about the BBC's targets and quotas on our Statement of Operation.
How Quotas and Targets Work in Practise:
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.
Find out more about the BBC's targets and quotas.