The Buzz at the Beeb

The BBC has a busy season ahead, as it hunts for a new chairman, touts its fall lineup and defends the anticipated launch of digital channels BBC3 and BBC4.
August 16, 2001

As the lazy days of summer wind down, the BBC is gearing up for a flurry of activity, with new additions all around.

The pubcaster has stepped up the search to replace Sir Christopher Bland, the current BBC chairman, who is tentatively slated to depart by the end of September. Frontrunners are said to be veteran journalist David Dimbleby and Michael Grade, head of Pinewood Studios and a former Channel 4 exec. According to a report in The Guardian, others rumored to be on the shortlist are BBC vice-chairman Gavyn Davies, Baroness Jay (former Labor leader of the House of Lords) and Lord Taylor of Warwick, a former BBC producer and presenter. The chairman of the BBC is appointed, following an open competition, by the Queen in Council on the advice of ministers. Bland resigned to take up a new post as chairman of British Telecom. He has been head of the Beeb since 1996.

A decision greenlighting BBC3 and BBC4, the pubcaster’s two new digital channels, is expected from the government next week. BBC3 will be aimed at the youth market, while BBC4 will have an arts and culture slant. The news has several commercial digital channels concerned about their future viability. BBC4, for example, would appear to overlap substantially with Artsworld. Some have voiced their concern to the government in hopes that the new channels’ validity will be re-examined. Not everyone sees a conflict, however. Distrib Liv Meredith, of Isle of Man-based Beckmann International, says, ‘[BBC4] seems to be aiming for the older, more sophisticated viewer… Whether that works or not, who knows? I’m all for it myself.’

Meanwhile, BBC1 is touting its fall lineup – which comes with a £233 million (US $336 million) pricetag – as ‘a monster slate of ambitious drama, new generation entertainment and innovative factual programming.’ Among the non-fiction offerings are The Blue Planet, a 8 x 60-minute series about the world’s oceans (presented by David Attenborough), and Walking With Beasts, which picks up where Walking With Dinosaurs left off.

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 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.