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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Modern family life under spotlight as BBC announces host of new documentaries across all four TV channels

Motherhood, fatherhood, growing up and children's education are four aspects of modern family life which impact on most people living in Britain today. They are being put under the spotlight in a host of new documentary commissions announced today by Charlotte Moore, BBC Commissioning Editor for Documentaries.

Charlotte Moore, who is speaking at the Sheffield Documentary Festival this week, said: "These are just a few of the documentaries on the BBC next year. They focus on aspects of modern life that reflect the reality in Britain today, and exemplify each of the four TV channels' commitment to engaging our audience in issues that are of relevance and interest to their lives."

Also announced today is an increase in BBC Three's commitment to new film-makers.

Fresh – the channel's new talent strand which seeks out the next generation of documentary-makers – is doubling its number of commissions to six hours for the channel's returning Adult Season next year. Submissions are invited for films exploring the theme of becoming an adult in Britain today. Those selected will each receive a commission for a 60-minute documentary.

Charlotte Moore says: "In the past year, documentaries on BBC Three have continued to blaze a trail of originality and bravery through subjects tailored to its broad young audience. Fresh is very much a part of the channel's commitment supporting new talent and fostering innovation, so I'm proud to announce that we're strengthening that commitment in 2010 by doubling the number of hours we're commissioning for the Fresh strand."


In next spring's Being Mum season, BBC One turns its attention to aspects of motherhood with four programmes which will air in the channel's regular documentary slot at 10.35pm.

Filmed over 18 months, A Baby To Save Me (Mentorn) follows couples as they go undergo cutting-edge treatment to try to cure their sick child. Each child requires a bone-marrow transplant but no tissue match has been found. Instead, by using IVF techniques, it is possible for the mother to have a new baby unaffected by the disease and who will be a tissue match for their ill sibling.

With no legal age limits on IVF treatment and the biological boundaries being pushed further and further, women are having babies older than ever before. Too Old To Be A Mum? (CTVC) meets a woman approaching 60 who is thinking about having another child, and a 63-year-old who has three children under five, and explores the debate around how to decide when someone may be too old to be a new mum.

With unprecedented access to one of Britain's leading child and adolescent mental health trusts, My Child Hates Me (ZKK) charts the stories of two families torn apart by having an aggressive child. The documentary looks at the work of the family therapy teams who try to rebuild parent/child relationships dominated by years of violent and anti-social behaviour.

My Child Won't Speak (Landmark Films) follows three young girls with a rare emotional disorder, known as selective mutism, as they struggle to overcome their phobia and speak to people other than their parents for the first time in years.


Coming to BBC Two next year is a new three-part documentary series, Great Ormond Street (Films of Record). Filmed over a year, it follows doctors at Britain's top children's hospital. When technology can do so much, every parent hopes for the miracle that their child will get better. With unprecedented access to the normally closed world of medical decision-making, it explores how doctors face up to dilemmas of life and death.

And, today, BBC Two announces three new programmes on the subject of education.

Catchment (Blast Films) takes viewers on a year-long journey through the process of choosing which school a child will go to once they finish primary school, arguably one of the most intense decisions a family can take. The two films look at the decision-making process from all viewpoints – the children, the parents, schools, and the local education authority. Filmed in Birmingham, one of the largest education authorities in Europe, the series gives a fascinating insight into the reality of choice (or otherwise) available to parents in Britain today.

With recent studies showing that our schoolchildren are among the unhappiest and most tested in the western world, and reports that many of the current generation of boys are underachieving at school, two documentary series try to tackle the issues putting innovative new approaches to the test.

In the two-part The Perfect School (BBC Vision), leading education expert Dylan Wiliam sets up an experimental classroom in a secondary school. Across one term, he puts to the test some of the most forward-thinking and innovative ideas designed to revolutionise the standard of education and the well-being of school children in this country.

In the ambitious three-part series, School For Boys (Twenty Twenty Television), Gareth Malone (The Choir) sets up his own school specially designed to appeal to a cross-section of 11-year-old boys, whether sporty jocks or secret swots. Based on the most recent educational research, Gareth introduces his pupils to the concepts of unbridled competition, risk and adventure. His aim is to harness the power of boisterous behaviour and challenge the boys' apparent aversion to standing out from the crowd so that they feel more confident about aiming for better grades.

BBC Three

As announced above, BBC Three is commissioning six one-hour films for its new talent strand, Fresh. Submissions are invited for documentaries exploring the theme of becoming an adult in Britain today. Those selected will each receive a commission for a 60-minute documentary.

The Fresh documentaries commissioned in 2009 made a massive impact in the channel's Adult Season which aired in August. Tony: I've Lost My Family – directed by Max Fisher (Lambent Productions) – had the highest audience appreciation of the Season. The Autistic Me – directed by Matt Rudge (Firecracker Films) – was one of the highest rating single documentaries ever on the channel. A follow-up to The Autistic Me has now been commissioned from Matt.

BBC Four

The subject of fatherhood in both an historical and contemporary context is tackled in a season of programmes coming to BBC Four next year.

Brian Hill's Contact Centres (Century Films) is a powerful observational film which explores the motivations and anxieties that have led separated mums and dads to this most specific of locations, a child contact centre, and the children's perspectives on their experience.

A Century of Fatherhood (Testimony Films) charts the revolution in modern fatherhood in Britain during the last 100 years. The three-part documentary series provides a unique insight into this century of dramatic change through the deeply moving testimony of dads of all ages. Even the oldest generation drop their traditional British reserve to reveal heartfelt secrets from their past.

The world of literature reserves a special fate for fathers – they are either missing or marginalised or regarded as an embarrassment. In Dads In Literature (BBC Vision), novelist – and father – Andrew Martin, takes a light-hearted journey through three centuries of literary fatherhood and also looks at how real-life relationships between writers and their fathers have influenced fiction and non-fiction alike.

Who Needs Dads? (Pioneer Productions) takes as its starting point the oft-used phrase, "every child needs a father" and explores what makes fathers so important. Child psychologist Laverne Antrobus investigates the psychology of families and also, some of the extraordinary hidden biological changes that occur in both fathers and their children, that helps explain why fathers play such a vital role in raising a family.

Notes to Editors

All titles are subject to change

Many of the programmes announced are in very early stages of production, therefore their content is subject to change

BBC One: A Baby To Save Me is produced and directed by Emma Loach, executive producer is John Willis; BBC executive producer is Maxine Watson; Too Old To Be A Mum? is executive produced by Tracey Gardiner and Wendy Robbins, BBC executive producer is Maxine Watson; My Child Hates Me is produced and directed by Daniel Fromm, executive producer is Kathy O'Neil, BBC executive producer is Maxine Watson; My Child Won't Speak is directed by Barnaby Peel, executive producer is Nick O'Dwyer, BBC executive producer is Maxine Watson.

BBC Two: Catchment is produced and directed by Amanda Blue, executive producers, Edmund Coulthard and Simon Ford, BBC executive producer is Emma Willis; The Perfect School, executive producer is Eamon Hardy, executive producer is Charlotte Moore; Dangerous School For Boys, executive producer Jamie Isaacs and Lucy Hillman, BBC executive producer is Maxine Watson; Great Ormond Street is produced and directed by Ricardo Pollack, executive producer is Roger Graef, BBC executive producer is Charlotte Moore.

BBC Three: BBC executive producer for Fresh is Sam Anstiss – for more information about Fresh, please visit the BBC Three page on

BBC Four: Contact Centres, produced and directed by Brian Hill, BBC executive producer is Charlotte Moore; A Century Of Fatherhood, produced and directed by Stephen Humphries, BBC executive producer is Cassian Harrison; Who Needs Dads? is produced and directed by Gabriella Polletta, executive producer is Stuart Carter, BBC executive producer is Cassian Harrison; Dads In Literature is produced and directed by Merryn Threadgould, executive producer is Michael Poole.

In the past year, documentary output on the BBC has gone from strength to strength.

Highlights include Wounded, From Wellies To Woollies, and Famous, Rich And Homeless on BBC One; The Fallen, The Trouble With Girls, and The Price Of Life on BBC Two; The Adult Season and Blood, Sweat And Takeaways on BBC Three; and Grey Expectations and Tweed on BBC Four.

Earlier in the year, BBC One announced its commitment to documentaries with a regular slot at 10.35pm, with autumn highlights including The Marchioness: A Survivor's Story and Baby Beauty Queens.

There are also returning strands – BBC Two's award-winning Wonderland offers a glimpse of today's Britain usually hidden from view; and on BBC Four there's the acclaimed Storyville, the long-running international documentary strand which recently presented How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin and the Oscar-winning Man On Wire.


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