The BBC and Channel 4 recently announced major changes in their factual departments.
In an effort to streamline the commissioning system, the BBC has created a team of five commissioning editors responsible for all factual programs, both in-house and indie. Richard Klein has taken on the new Bristol-based post of commissioning editor for documentaries, with responsibility for commissioning across all BBC channels. Specialist commissioning editor positions have been filled by Adam Kemp (arts, performance and religion), Emma Swain (specialist factual), and Peter Horrocks (current affairs and investigations). The fifth post, commissioner of factual features, has yet to be filled. According to the BBC’s director of television, Jana Bennett, the re-organization ‘creates a simple one-stop shop and puts the best in-house and independent ideas in open competition.’ A recent government review recommended that independent prodcos and in-house BBC producers compete for a predicted 25% of programming, dubbed the ‘window of creative competition.’
The BBC has also created a documentary production board, which will meet every two months to ensure that the Beeb’s doc initiatives go forward in a coherent and collaborative manner. BBC director of factual and learning, John Willis, will chair the board, which will consist of key documentary posts including head of documentaries Alan Hayling; Anne Morrison, controller of documentaries and contemporary factual; and Nick Fraser, commissioning editor of ‘Storyville.’ ‘This is a chance to not only share information,’ says Willis, ‘but also to share views about innovation, talent, strategy, and new ways of working. It should act as both a sounding board for documentaries as well as a champion of the genre.’ It’s also worth noting that BBC2 controller Roly Keating is actively looking for contemporary docs to fit into the schedule.
Over at Channel 4, two new outlets for docs are poised to launch in the second half of this year. In February, C4 announced that its much-anticipated digi channel More4 will be headed by Peter Dale, with Danny Cohen replacing Dale as head of documentaries at the main channel. More4 will be dominated by documentaries – a combination of Channel 4 repeats, acquired programs and a few new high-profile commissions.
Dale is also behind the launch of FourDocs, a broadband documentary channel to ‘celebrate all aspects of the documentary genre.’ The site will allow filmmakers to upload up to four minutes of their own documentaries, get advice from program-makers, and also view classic docs. Though overseen by Dale, it will be built, managed and maintained by London-based Magic Lantern Productions.