Jana Bennett unveils major TV production shift outside London
Jana Bennett, Director BBC Vision, today outlines the BBC's ambitious plans to boost out of London network programme spend to 50% by 2016.
In a speech – Beyond the M25: A BBC for all of the UK – in London this evening (15 October 2008), Bennett unveils major new plans for BBC network programme commissioning and in-house and independent production, which she describes as "a radical shift in the whole set up of broadcasting."
This new approach in the market demonstrates the BBC's commitment to changing the nature of programme supply so that it better reflects the diversity of creative talent around the UK and connects with the audiences it serves.
Over the last two years to 2007 the proportion of spend outside London has increased by 15%. Last year the BBC spent £300m outside London.
The BBC Trust has set the Executive a new target for Out of London of 50% by 2016. The plan involves growth in Nations from the 2007 figure of 6% of network spend to 17% by 2016, with an interim target of 12% by 2012, and in English Regions the growth will be from 26% now to 33% by 2016.
The BBC has chosen to use the Ofcom definition for Nations Production, as this represents clear measures of spend on production. Under this definition thousands of hours of Sport and Daytime will also be included in the base for the target for the first time.
For example, around 1,500 hours of daytime programming is commissioned each year. This will significantly increase the opportunities for the creative economy in the Nations.
In order to deliver these commitments 50% of the WOCC (Window of Creative Competition) will have to come from outside London. Both independents and in-house sectors will benefit.
Subject to final funding approval, the out of London plan aims to build vibrant in-house production centres of excellence in seven existing BBC locations in the UK: Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, London, Bristol, Salford/Manchester and Birmingham.
These production and commissioning centres will help boost local employment and create creative clusters of both in-house and independent programme makers, whilst reflecting people's lives onscreen wherever they live.
"Our intention is nothing less than changing the very DNA of the BBC to bring the production of programmes closer to the audience we serve. That means permanently increasing the production and commissioning of programmes outside London," said Bennett.
The BBC will bolster commissioning with new roles in the broadcast centres, and to further strengthen them it is anticipated that a number of programme strands and series, including the Weakest Link and Crimewatch, will move from their current locations to the Nations by 2012.
A move for Casualty is also under consideration. These "returning" programmes will provide continuing business on which to build for the future and make the centres better placed to compete for network commissions.
Scotland will build on its existing business by focussing on five powerful genres: Children's, Comedy, Entertainment, Drama and Factual, with its Entertainment output business strengthened by the move of Weakest Link and Saturday night Lottery shows (one independent and one in-house).
Newsnight Review will move to Scotland, and over the next year its precise nature, shape and form will be reviewed ahead of its move in 2010.
In future Imagine will build up a substantial production base in Scotland in addition to London and will be executive produced from Glasgow. Alan Yentob will continue as presenter and in his current executive role. The series will continue to use film makers from across the UK but now with a substantial base in Glasgow.
"We're confident that these measures will result in strong and thriving Arts departments in both Glasgow and London," Bennett said.
Network spend will increase from 3.3% currently to around 9% by 2016, in line with Scotland's share of the UK population.
Question Time, one of the BBC's leading political programmes, will be based in Scotland from 2010.
Each Nation will have production teams making films for our daily flagship strand, The One Show. This will underpin training and talent development in the Nation's Factual bases.
The BBC will also be sourcing films from independent producers from across the UK and the Current Affairs team in Manchester.
Northern Ireland will be boosted by a significant amount of new network production, with spend increasing from 0.4% to around 3% by 2016.
This investment will be focused on broadening factual, daytime, comedy and entertainment genres and its existing stable of drama and current affairs, including the production of additional episodes of Panorama. And it will also make programmes for the Sunday morning Religion slot.
Wales, where network spend will increase from 2.6% to around 5%, will focus on Drama, Documentary, Factual Formats and Music.
In terms of returning business, Crimewatch will move to Wales and, as part of the strategy to further build Wales as a centre of excellence for Drama and Factual, it is anticipated that Casualty will also move there (subject to value for money assessment and financial approval early next year).
Growth in the Nations will not come at the expense of the English regions, where the BBC expects to account for one third of Network production by 2016.
BBC Bristol, with the Natural History Unit (NHU), will continue to be a centre of excellence for factual programming.
Next year sees the transmission of three major NHU series: Nature's Great Events (BBC One, 6x60min); South Pacific (BBC Two, 6x50min) and Life (BBC One 10x60min), its biggest landmark series since Planet Earth.
Bristol will remain the largest factual programme making centre outside London.
Two other high profile series in production until the end of 2011 are Human Planet (2010), a BBC Bristol/BBC Wales co-production, and Frozen Planet (2011).
The region will also be home to many drama productions: for example both Mistresses and Lark Rise To Candleford have been re-commissioned for a second series.
As already announced, the BBC is creating a new centre in the North of England at MediaCityUK in Salford.
Five key London departments will move to Salford - BBC Children's (including CBBC and CBeebies); BBC Formal Learning; parts of BBC Future Media & Technology (including Research & Innovation); BBC Radio Five Live (including BBC Five Live Sports Extra); and BBC Sport.
Commissioning for CBBC, CBeebies and BBC Sport will all move to Salford.
This means that for the first time three national channels – CBBC, CBeebies and Five Live, together with BBC Formal Learning and BBC Sport – will be commissioned and delivered from outside London.
Birmingham will now take on production of the Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows, thus becoming the centre for horticulture programming, as well as Factual and Drama – recent titles include Coast and Trawler Men, as well as the long-running daytime drama Doctors, which has been re-commissioned for a further three years.
In-house BBC Sport production will be moving to Salford and we anticipate some independent sports programming will come from the Nations in the future.
The BBC in London will remain a powerhouse of pan-genre creative ideas, focusing on Entertainment, Drama, Comedy, Factual and Arts, and in particular the key specialisms of Arts, Science and consumer programmes. London will account for almost 50% of Network production by 2016.
The Nations centres will be reinforced by new commissioning roles, fundamental to building relationships with in-house and independent programme makers throughout the UK.
For independent Factual commissioning there will be three new commissioning executives, one based in each Nation.
For Entertainment commissioning there will be a new commissioning executive for independents outside London, who will be based in Scotland.
And for Daytime commissioning there will be a new commissioning executive based in Scotland, who will also deal with in-house teams.
Partnerships with Regional Screen Agencies and the independent sector itself to develop creative clusters are at the heart of strategy. A number of independents development initiatives such as the new XM25 scheme are already in train.
Notes to Editors
The changes announced today are subject to final funding approval and a final decision will not be taken until the BBC has completed evaluation of all the proposals which will include having to demonstrate value for money for the Licence Fee payer.
Full list of proposed strand moves:
Casualty - is likely to move to Wales
Imagine - will build up a production base in Scotland in addition to London
Newsnight Review - moves to Scotland
Crimewatch - to Wales
Weakest Link - to Scotland
Panorama - additional episodes to Northern Ireland
One Show Inserts - to Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland
Question Time - to Scotland
Saturday Lottery - to Scotland
Sunday Morning Religion - slot to Northern Ireland
Hampton Court And Chelsea Flower Shows - to Birmingham
Motorway Cops - to Scotland
BBC Press Office