Speech given to the Broadcasting Press Guild
6 May 2003
good Catholic boy, the bearded Prophet sitting at the head of Channel
4, knows a thing or two about the mysterious ways of Charter Renewal
and the wonders it performs.
he pronounces that the BBC has a tendency to rediscover old time religion
every 10 years or so, it tends to be inscribed on tablets of stone.
some newspapers see cynical motives in our move away from traditional
leisure programmes on BBC TWO towards more documentaries and a richer
programming mix, others nod sagely.
may or may not have happened in the past, the truth of the present looks
very different from where I sit in the broadcasting firmament.
Doubting Thomas about what BBC Television is, or should be, doing, and
that's irrespective of what is happening with the BBC's Charter.
It is almost
a year to the day since I rejoined the BBC from my three year sabbatical
with TLC, so today I wanted to spend a few minutes looking back to what
I said I wanted to do 12 months ago, explaining why I wanted to make
those changes, seeing how far we have come on that journey.
want to spend some time casting an eye a bit further forward - and yes,
even towards the C-word - to look at the challenges and opportunities
that still lie ahead of us.
that as the daughter of an academic I should be used to end of term
reports, and I've just had to do one for Greg, so here's my school report
on what I think that BBC Television has achieved in the last year.
item on my "to do" list a year ago was to learn to count straight
through from ONE to FOUR, i.e. to complete the BBC's family of audience
facing channels begun by my predecessors.
arrived we had a hole in the portfolio, with permission still outstanding
for BBC THREE.
crucial for us as we could not leave young adults behind as we moved
forward to a digital future - and crucial for the audience.
very strongly then, and do even more now, that there was no alternative
for them to find intelligent, quality, original programming designed
specially for them at their particular life stages.
got permission last September and launched in February. Next week the
channel is 100 days old.
share of the audience stabilised at an average of 1.8% and 2.5% amongst
25 to 34 year olds.
against an average for BBC Choice across 2002 of 1.3% and 1.8% respectively.
3 Non Blondes,
recently nominated for an EMMA, has been critically acclaimed for the
originality of its comedy and has grown its average audience ten fold
since launch night.
ratings are not what this channel is all about, the picture is still
programmes 60 Seconds has peaked so far at 455,000 viewers, and the
science series Body Hits enjoyed audiences which rivalled those of the
dramas, with around 216,000 viewers.
grown drama has consistently performed well on BBC THREE - Burn It peaked
at more than 300,000 and the new Asian drama Grease Monkeys is already
performing well with nearly 200,000 viewers.
we are meeting all of the commitments laid down as a prerequisite for
launch, the most exciting one that we are meeting week in and week out
is that of giving a platform to new and emerging talent.
the programmes I have mentioned has given a new voice the space to grow
- and there is nowhere else on multi-channel television doing it.
takes time to grow a channel, to establish it in the minds of an audience
overwhelmed with choice.
As I said,
BBC THREE is only three months old and it needs encouragement and support
if it is going to thrive - preferably not public humiliation if occasionally
one programme doesn't measure on the BARB Richter scale.
BBC THREE on air was not the only thing that I wanted to do with the
portfolio of channels.
wanted to get them to work better together to provide a coherent offering
to families in digital homes, and to showcase the best of the digital
channels in analogue homes.
now doing this with early previews of programmes or linked programming
(for example Rolf on Art on BBC ONE was followed by a documentary on
Toulouse Lautrec on BBC FOUR), with special zones on BBC ONE and BBC
TWO and with on air portfolio menus which help viewers to navigate round
our services, but hopefully keep them within the family.
thing I had on my list was to enrich the mix of programmes on all of
that was set out in Banff was too blunt for the age we still live in.
He was a man ahead of his time.
too simplistic to say that BBC ONE can have drama and entertainment
as its focus, BBC TWO factual, BBC THREE young entertainment and BBC
FOUR arts and culture.
that all four channels need to have the right mix of light and shade,
to keep on pushing at people's boundaries, to take them to new places.
with the immensely talented set of genre commissioners and channel controllers
we have, we have layered in a much richer mix across the channels.
can now afford to have a witty sense of humour, BBC THREE can show politics,
BBC ONE shows Leonardo and BBC TWO shows Tipping the Velvet and Cambridge
So we layered
in more types of programmes across all the channels, but there were
also specific genres that I wanted us to focus on to bring new energy,
new depth and new ambition.
of these was arts. We wanted to reinvigorate arts within the BBC.
suffered from the lack of a creative head in production for too long,
and had been allowed to slip down the list of priorities as the channels
focused on getting their foundation stones steady and in the right place.
got probably the strongest summer of culture I think the BBC has had
ONE we have Leonardo, we have the first ballet in a decade with The
Nutcracker and Alan Yentob's new series called Imagine;
TWO we have Peter Ackroyd's London, Beethoven's Eroica and Michael Wood
THREE we have a series of short films with new poets called Whine Gums
and a series looking at the free art in European cities within reach
of a cheap flight;
BBC FOUR we have two weeks of the BBC's Proms and Gauguin: The Full
wanted to reassert the role of the classic documentary on the BBC, and
I thought the recent moving documentary on the Potters Bar rail crash
was a superb example of that.
obviously going much further - there is a new strand to arrive on BBC
ONE later this year plus more space for them on BBC TWO.
And I wanted
us to build on the fantastic strengths we had found under Jane Tranter
in drama. Jane, together with the channel controllers, has worked so
hard to win the trust of viewers.
to stabilise the schedules with popular drama on BBC ONE for example,
and find some returning successes which we could use to launch other
BAFTAS and the Golden Globes show you, we have enjoyed real drama success
recently - now I want us to go still further in taking the viewers to
new subjects, and challenge them with thought-provoking content.
a few coming up with Canterbury Tales and Charles II, but there will
for example. I can announce today that singer Robbie Williams is going
to join Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren and Sean Bean in the cast as the
voices of the characters for this innovative TV film.
real pride of lions, filmed on the plains of Africa, the cast become
the characters in a magical and dramatic tale of love and survival in
this ambitious new family film, made by the award-winning John Downer
- one of the world's most prominent natural history film makers.
best known for his sharp comedies including Men Behaving Badly, has
written the script and the project is a fusion of comedy, drama and
particularly rich area, I believe, is that of factual dramas, like the
superb and timely Smallpox 2002, and the forthcoming The Day Britain
Stopped, which paints a compelling and chilling picture about what Britain's
transport system might be like and what could happen in the event of
a seismic catastrophe.
new factual film, this time for BBC TWO, is Stephen Hawking.
by Cambridge Spies author Peter Moffat, but with Hawking himself acting
as consultant on the script development, it tells the early life of
the physicist and author, focusing on his breakthrough discovery of
the "big bang" and the parallel discovery of two American
scientists that proved Hawking's theory correct.
to have a number of other factual dramas to announce in the near future,
but they are only a part of the richness that we are adding to the mix.
I can also
announce today that Antony Sher and Kristin Scott Thomas will star in
two new productions for BBC FOUR.
star in a new adaptation of JG Ballard's short story The Enormous Space
called Home, which will accompany a season of documentaries and little
known archive films celebrating Ballard's work.
BBC FOUR's commitment to bringing the best of London's theatre to television,
we are going to film Christopher Hampton's acclaimed adaptation of Chekhov's
Three Sisters, which stars Kristin Scott Thomas and which is currently
enjoying critical and box office success in the West End.
new drama announcement for you today again underlines that rich mix
- and the BBC's commitment to providing quality output which, at times,
challenges and stimulates the audience.
the success of Flesh and Blood in last year's What's Your Problem? season
on disability on BBC TWO, Jane Root and Jane Tranter have now commissioned
Are You Looking At Me?
between BBC Drama and the DPU, it is a single drama written by Lizzie
Mickery (who also wrote Messiah for BBC ONE) and is a love story.
Matt Fraser and Lisa Hammond, both disabled actors, who appeared in
the short films which accompanied the What's Your Problem? season last
Looking At Me? is an important part of the drama story on BBC Television
because it approaches this often difficult subject from the inside out.
not an exercise in box ticking.
about executives who have a passionate belief in the power of drama
to bring a new perspective, working closely with writers who not only
have a story to tell but the talent to tell it.
examples of new projects also help to illustrate something else that
we have been working on for the past year - raising the level of creativity
and ambition in the BBC's schedules.
the schedules of today are looking very strong, but this is one where
I would judge we are only part of the way along the journey.
I'd perhaps award us maybe an eight out of 10 in my school report, because
I think we can go much further than we have already.
always new heights that we should be aiming to reach.
So in the
last 12 months, we've:
BBC THREE to some success
the programming mix across all of the channels, layering in landmarks
in every type of programme
the arts and documentaries
the mix in drama
for greater ambition.
there are some who would say that all of this is because we are gearing
up for Charter Renewal.
too cynical an explanation, which also smacks to me of competitive fear.
began this journey 12 months ago, Charter Renewal was nothing more than
a gleam in a long-sighted eye.
we began all of this, very simply, starts and finishes with the audience.
them to enjoy being taken to places they would otherwise never have
Great Britons. How many people would have watched a documentary on Isambard
Kingdom Brunel - and then debated his worth to history?
So if that
is what we have spent some of the year doing, then what are the challenges
that we will be focusing on in the next 12 months?
A lot are
the same as last year as I haven't by any means put a tick in the box
that we've achieved all we want to in drama, in arts and in documentaries.
to see ever more range in our dramas, and I want to see more innovative
documentaries on BBC THREE, more peak time documentaries on BBC ONE
and on BBC TWO.
to see more high impact current affairs in peak on all channels, and
Jane and I want to see more international coverage which sets the world
in context for the audience on BBC TWO.
and I also want us to put yet more energy into finding a new formula
for Saturday nights - that holy grail of all broadcasters.
made some progress, but those pink and purple sets are still there,
and the mix sometimes still feels too samey.
are two audiences that we are also going to concentrate on reaching
across all of our channels - that is the young and ethnic audiences.
It is too
easy to say that BBC THREE is there for the young.
and it is starting to work well, but we mustn't exclude them from our
the audiences of today and tomorrow, and we need to make sure that we
are offering them the best in quality, original programming on subjects
that matter to them.
new politics show for the under 45s, for example, is just one attempt
to engage them in a dialogue about the community around them.
So we want
to make sure we are reaching the young with all of our channels, but
just to be clear that is not at the expense of the rest of the audience.
not going to go hell for leather to find them, and neglect everyone
else in the process.
contrary, we want to offer something to all of the audience and we have
a mandate to be universal in our reach.
do want to make more effort to reach the young - not for commercial
reasons like other broadcasters, but to provide them with intelligent,
quality, home grown output.
audiences are another area of focus.
last 12 months ethnic viewing to BBC ONE beat ethnic viewing to ITV1
for the first time, particularly among young viewers, and around half
of the audience are starting to see that we have got better at representing
marketing effort, with the Bollywood ident on BBC ONE and the Babyfather
posters, has perhaps helped ethnic audiences to feel that the BBC has
something to offer them.
a fifth of our ethnic audiences don't think we have got better, so we
have a "must try harder" marked in red pen against our efforts
in this area.
got that pen out around our programme supply from the independent sector,
but we are working on improving our relations and our terms of contract.
is still a large chunk of work to do before any of the Television team
get the channels to where we all want them to be, and where the audience
wants them to be.
Renewal may be just around the corner - and yes, of course we want to
prove that we are broadcasting the kind of distinctive programmes that
have given the BBC its reputation and set standards for the rest of
also want to deliver those programmes to an audience which is here now,
not three years away.
to the old time religion barb, we discovered some time ago that it can
be as popular as any other well made, quality programme when we put
programmes like Son of God two years ago, Mary last year and next month
St Paul in peak time where the audience could find them.
at one level, great stories, well told and there will always be a place
for that at the BBC - irrespective of where we are in the cycle of the
release relating to Antony Sher in The Enormous Space and Kristin Scott
Thomas in Chekhov's Three Sisters