Speech given at the Television from the Nations and Regions Conference,
27 November 2002
it can be tough being the BBC representative at this conference: but
hey I've spent 3 years negociating with Anne Robinson…
I think I've picked a good year to come to talk about the BBC and our
approach to TV production in the UK's nations and regions.
for a long time at the BBC about acting globally, nationally and regionally
but I think it's fair to say that it's only in the past two years that
Nations and Regions have come in from the cold and taken their place
at the real heart of the BBC.
I date this to the period when Greg Dyke first came to the BBC.
first few months he undertook an extended visit around local radio stations
- a trip only partly motivated by the fact that John Birt was still
sitting in his office at Broadcasting House at the time.
it's fair to say that Greg was simultaneously impressed and concerned
by what he saw.
by the level of commitment, the closeness to audiences, and the strength
of the role the BBC played in the communities they exist in.
he was deeply impressed by the value for money he saw - and never stopped
telling Network television that they could learn lessons from how television
in the Nations and Regions did it - he also saw some examples of underfunding
that frankly appalled him.
know what happpened to him when he visited the Asian Network at Radio
Leicester, but it's something that left an impression.
a lot of things have changed.
more of the licence fee is being spent on programmes and more and more
of that is spent outside London.
last 2 years, the value of network programming commissioned from the
Nations has almost doubled (from £55 million to £95 million)
and we are investing in big, brave new shows for the nations like Scotland's
recently launched soap, River City.
the English regions we're taking our services closer to the communities
paradox of modern life. On the one hand you want bigger scale and on
the other you want things that are smaller, more intimate and bespoke.
Even Mcdonald's is now retreating from its one size fits all strategy.
- On TV,
we have broken up some of our larger regions to provide a more local
news service: viewers now prefer our 6.30pm local news in 10 of the
- On radio,
we have also split some local stations so they can be more in touch
with local issues and audiences;
- And online,
we have created some 40 "Where I Live" websites, providing
local news, history, what's on guides and so on.
that ambitious plans to refurbish local radio buildings throughout Britain
is underway, the BBC is committed to not going back to those dark old
we want to stake our claim as Britain's best broadcaster serving the
English regions and the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
going to be even more important now that ITV's traditionally powerful
commitment to the regions comes under threat.
more and more people express concern about ITV's commitment, both in
production and in network scheduling, the BBC's willingness to invest
in these areas is increasing.
is called opportunity knocks.
8 years ago when I was running Wall to Wall with Alex Graham, I experienced
at first hand just how hard it can be to create a talented team, train
them to high standards, then hold on to them when better offers come
to persuade Conrad Green that he'd found his niche working on reception,
but hey, he had greater ambitions.
hard in Kentish Town, but really hard when we tried to open offices
in Glasgow and Birmingham.
are running an office you need a big pool of really great people around.
You want your best people to leave, work with other great people, then
come back - not go off and work in some other city.
why I'm so pleased with that the BBC is the premier investor in training
in the broadcasting industry today, and shows no sign of letting up.
We invested £40 million last year.
- The BBC
Talent scheme is scouring the country, auditioning in 21 towns and cities
for tomorrow's sitcom writers, sports reporters, producers and children's
presenters, offering them their first break into the industry;
- The BBC
Northern Exposure scheme has worked in partnership with regional theatres
to help 4,000 aspiring writers;
- But most
important for me as someone who wants really great programmes and wants
them right now, is the Producer Development Scheme.
And I can
announce today that we will be repeating our unique year-long Producer
Development Scheme to develop the next generation of experienced programme
makers available to the BBC and independent producers across Britain:
It is open to independents, freelancers, as well as BBC staff and will
now cover England as well as the Nations.
recent intake were surprised to discover from the BBC2 scheduler, George,
that there is a science to scheduling - I think most people assume he
just pulls names out of a hat!
is all very well, you might say, but what use is an independent company
major proportion of the additional spending we are making in the regions
benefit the independent producers outside London.
of the network shows produced in the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
currently come from indies.
So do about
one-third of productions in the English regions.
of new channels will further increase these opportunities.
But the indies themselves have to be in a position to deliver the goods.
They need to be of a scale which makes them competitive in a tough market
and must also have the flexibility to pitch ideas across genre boundaries.
BBC needs to make sure that it has a better relationship with the indies
than it has done to date and make it easier to navigate a way round
the organisation … which is why we are putting in place a new
senior executive early next year to take on that responsibility.
which will report to Jana Bennett, the Director of Television, will
focus on improving two-way communication, on helping indies find the
right person to talk to in the BBC and will also specifically look at
helping indies in the Nations and Regions.
line is that we just want the best programme ideas.
aim to make great programmes which enrich people's lives. Everything
I've talked about today is about achieving that goal.
met the viewer who turns on to a programme because it filled a nice
little box on a form.
we will strive to meet or exceed our quotas - whether on indie production
or the Hatch 33 per cent for nations and regions.
motivates me as a commissioner of programmes is ideas borne of creativity
and innovation which will delight and engage the audience.
look for those programme ideas anywhere I can find them. And I know
I can find them in every corner of the UK. Inside the BBC and from independent
one to miss a chance to promote my own channel, so here just a few of
the highlights we've had on TWO from the Nations and Regions in the
past few months.
Flesh and Blood, the brilliant one-off drama from Red Productions. If
that doesn't feature in the BAFTA and RTS lists then I’ll be very
drama comes from Scotland: right now we're in the midst of making Frank
Deasey's Real Men from Scotland's in-house department
And Donna Francheschild's The Key from Little Bird.
Wales last year we had the BAFTA nominated drama Pleasure Beach from
Blast. The same team are developing new things for me right now.
making The Floor Show, a new live Saturday night entertainment show
presented by Sean Locke.
called this the 'Live Bed Show' when presenting some stuff to the BBC
Governors, but we won't go into that here…
I finish I'll briefly mention another project I'm very excited about.
It's called Restoration - it's a rather brilliant idea from Endemol
ten-part series where you get to vote for which historic building you
think should be restored with a special fund we've got together from
the heritage bodies across the whole of Britain.
huge and very local which almostly completely sums up what we're hoping
for from the BBC's new Nations and Regions strategy.