Category: BBC; TV Ent
The BBC's Director of Television, Jana Bennett, today announced a doubling of the BBC's Regional Development Fund for independent production companies based outside London to £1m next year and the appointment of new Comedy and Entertainment Commissioning Executives to be based in Manchester and Glasgow.
The Regional Development Fund was launched earlier this year to support and develop indies based outside the M25.
Eleven companies based in the North West, Birmingham, Bristol, Bath, Newcastle, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have benefitted to date.
New Comedy and Entertainment Commissioning Executives will also be based in Manchester and Glasgow, as part of the Out of London commissioning initiative.
Cheryl Taylor will be the commissioning executive for Comedy, based in Manchester, and a new post for Entertainment will be based in Glasgow.
Both these posts will "work the North" says Bennett, including Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast.
Two other Out of London commissioning executives were announced earlier this year - Richard Klein for Documentaries, based in Bristol, and Karen Brown for Daytime, based in Birmingham.
In her keynote speech today to the Broadcast Commissioning Conference - being held for the first time outside London, in Manchester - Jana Bennett championed the central importance of the BBC increasing network production from different parts of the UK.
She said: "This is not a commitment we've just dreamed up at a time when the BBC Charter happens to be up for renewal.
"Nor does it amount, as cynics may suggest, to a small matter of loading a few production offices and desks on to the back of a lorry and dropping them off somewhere north of Watford Gap.
"It's a commitment that we happen to believe in, not something we're doing under sufferance.
"We are committed to making programmes that audiences around the country can relate to more closely, that deal with issues and places they recognise more vividly.
"We're committed to generating creative excellence by tapping the wealth of expertise and potential that exists around the country, and building a critical mass that's going to be sustainable for the future."
Jana Bennett also re-emphasised the importance of broadcasting talent in all fields being able to develop their careers outside London - drawing on her own experience as a BBC trainee in Newcastle and Sheffield.
"Over the years I've worked with countless talented people who've swapped the places they'd really like to be for places like Shepherds Bush, purely in order to further their careers," she said.
"So I do understand the Catch 22 situation that so many people who have started in the regions find themselves in - and the inevitable impact that has had on audiences, who can feel pretty remote from the programme making culture of the south east."
She pointed to the success of the Northern Drama initiative, which the BBC launched three years ago to increase drama production made in the North - which produced shows like Cutting It, Clocking Off and 55 Degrees North and helped BBC approval ratings in the across the North rise by three per cent.
And she strongly challenged the view that there was insufficient talent outside London.
"Some parts of the production community in London believe that there simply isn't enough talent outside London - and that it can't be trusted to deliver.
"I don't subscribe to that view at all. They also fail to acknowledge that some of our past editorial policies have contributed to the 'problem' in the first place.
"Conversely, people who are making network programmes in the nations and regions often complain they aren't given enough opportunities, they can't develop their talent without coming to London.
"The key challenge is how to support the talent we need to ensure that it's available in the right volume, in the right place and at the right time.
This is where the BBC now has a historic opportunity to make a difference."