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Indie producers fear BBC changes

On April 3rd, the BBC will reveal details concerning much speculated structural changes being implemented by incoming director general Greg Dyke. The changes are expected to eliminate up to 1,000 jobs, tighten the relationship between broadcast and production, and introduce new...
April 1, 2000

On April 3rd, the BBC will reveal details concerning much speculated structural changes being implemented by incoming director general Greg Dyke. The changes are expected to eliminate up to 1,000 jobs, tighten the relationship between broadcast and production, and introduce new commissioning procedures.

One aspect of these changes might be the elimination of the Independent Commissioning Group – the entity that is currently responsible for working with indies. ‘There’s always been the feeling that by separating independent and internal, the independents have a better chance of success,’ comments one veteran BBC indie producer. ‘And it seems that while [the BBC] had the ICG they did. If they go back to the old model, the internal BBC will probably be more hostile to independents because they’ll be in competition. That’s my fear – less access.’ The fear as to whether or not a ceiling will be placed on independent production to boost in-house activity has also been expressed by the independent community.

Tangled in with this fear is the loss of jurisdiction the BBC’s commissioning editors are expected to suffer. ‘The big question,’ says another long-time indie with ties to the BBC, ‘is if the controllers can no longer commission particular genres, what will they do? Do they be-come glorified schedulers?’ The current belief is that factual commissioning will be split into two departments. One department, speculated to be lead by Jeremy Gibson (who currently helms BBC Bristol) will handle popular docs. The other will deal with blue chip programs. A leader has yet to be knighted for this post, which suggests that fresh blood might fill the chair.

One source also suggested that Alan Yentob, BBC’s director of television, may look for opportunities outside the BBC and be replaced by Mark Thomson, the current director of national and regional broadcasting.

It will be some time after the official announcement before it’s known how the changes will affect specific departments. For now, BBC insiders have developed their own means of determining who will be around for the Christmas party: ‘If you can describe what you do in your job, you’re safe. If you have problems describing it, you’re out.’

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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