BBC Three recommissions Free Speech with new presenter, Rick Edwards

Free Speech challenges and engages the BBC Three audience and gives them a valuable opportunity to have their voice heard. I’m very pleased to be continuing the channel’s dedication to bringing current affairs to the attention of young people in the UK."Zai Bennett, Controller, BBC Three
Date: 09.01.2013     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.55
Category: BBC Three
BBC Three and BBC Learning have commissioned a new series of Free Speech, the monthly live current affairs debate programme, it was announced today.

Produced by Mentorn Media, the makers of Question Time, the new presenter of Free Speech will be Rick Edwards. He takes over from Jake Humphrey when the next programme is broadcast on 13 February, 2013.

Broadcaster Rick Edwards, who counts presenting the C4 Paralympics coverage and being a columnist for the Observer Magazine amongst his many and varied credits, said: “It's hugely exciting to be joining the Free Speech team - it's clearly a very important show, and unique in the way that it engages with an often under-represented younger audience. I'm looking forward to hearing their take on the issues that matter to them, and occasionally sticking my oar in. As for stepping into Jake's lovely shoes, I'm lucky; we're both a size 11.”

Free Speech launched in March 2012. Commissioned by Executive Producer Fiona Campbell, of BBC Current Affairs, and Head of Commissioning, BBC Learning, Abigail Appleton, it is fully interactive, with viewers on Twitter using the "Power Bar" to show whether they agree or disagree with opinions voiced by the four panellists on each show.

Subjects covered in the nine programmes aired in 2012 included Immigration, Education, London 2012 and Body Image, as well as exclusive polls by ComRes.

Panellists so far have included Government ministers, Opposition MPs, BAFTA-winning actor Adam Deacon, comedian Shappi Korshandi and Internet entrepreneur Jamal Edwards. The programme travels the country with locations so far including Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, London and Bristol.

BBC Three Controller, Zai Bennett, said: “Free Speech challenges and engages the BBC Three audience and gives them a valuable opportunity to have their voice heard. I’m very pleased to be continuing the channel’s dedication to bringing current affairs to the attention of young people in the UK. We’re really excited to have Rick on board; he’s a great presenter and will be an excellent addition to the programme.”

Via a production partnership between Mentorn Media and social TV production company, Telegraph Hill, a new cross-platform strategy including exclusive online video and social media management has been delivered to Free Speech.

Through the Free Speech website, Facebook page and Twitter feed, viewers can debate the big stories every week day, and tell producers what subjects they want thrashed out on the next TV show via:

Free Speech also offers the audience the chance to make part of the show. The Lab at BBC Learning works with groups of young people in advance of each programme, giving them the skills to make two films about the issues being debated that month: one for transmission during Free Speech and one for the web.

Executive Producer for Free Speech, Steve Anderson said: “Free Speech has made an instant connection with BBC Three viewers who clearly enjoy a space where the stories that matter to them get a good airing.

“Student fees, the shortage of jobs and housing and media portrayal of young people have all got people going in the first episodes. We are delighted to be asked to carry on and are looking forward to working with Rick, who is a great talent.”

Free Speech is a co-commission from BBC Three, BBC Learning and BBC News and Current Affairs.

The series producer is Susan Crook. The executive producer is Steve Anderson for Mentorn Media, Andrew Tomlinson for BBC Learning and Fiona Campbell for BBC News and Current Affairs.

Notes to Editors

Free Speech first transmitted on BBC Three in March 2012 and was presented by Jake Humphrey, with Social Media Jockeys including Michelle de Swarte, Tinea Taylor, Sam Naz and Tina Daheley.

Free Speech is the evolved format which was formerly Young Voters’ Question Time. Mentorn Media produced Young Voters’ Question Time for BBC Three, the Riots edition of which was the channel’s highest rating pre-watershed programme ever. Commissioned and transmitted in the space of just three days it was watched by a combined total of 1.7 million viewers.

Mentorn Media made Dermot Meets... for BBC three which saw Dermot O’Leary take on the party leaders during the 2010 General Election campaign. They also made two editions of First Time Voters’ Question Time, presented by O’Leary. This was succeeded by Young Voters Question Time, hosted by Richard Bacon.

Mentorn produces Question Time and The Big Question for BBC One, as well as having produced the award-winning Tulisa: My Mum And Me and the hard-hitting documentaries Reggie Yates: Teen Gangs, The Batman Shootings and Dying For Clear Skin for BBC Three.

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