Martin Davidson becomes BBC’s head of specialist factual

The BBC has named Martin Davidson (pictured) as head of specialist factual amid a restructuring of the British pubcaster's factual commissioning team.
March 4, 2015

The BBC has named Martin Davidson (pictured) as head of specialist factual amid a restructuring of the pubcaster’s factual commissioning team.

Formerly the head of commissioning for history and business, he will now oversee history, science, business and religion programming for all BBC television channels. His credits include the pubcaster’s World War One anniversary programming, Last Days of Anne Boleyn, Operation Grand Canyon and Mary Beard’s Rome.

Davidson’s previous position was one of four closed in January when factual commissioning controller Emma Swain reduced the number of commissioning heads in the department from eight and a half to six.

The other senior commissioners affected were religion and ethics commissioner Aaqil Ahmed, BBC3 head of commissioning for features and documentaries Sam Bickley and current affairs commissioner Clive Edwards.

All four were given the opportunity to apply for three newly created posts of head of specialist factual; head of specialist features, natural history; and head of documentaries, current affairs and BBC3. The other three senior positions are head of formats, features and events; head of arts; and head of music.

In an email to staff on Wednesday (March 4), Swain said details about the remaining heads of commissioning, commissioning editor and executive producer vacancies would be announced in the coming days.

She added that Ahmed will remain as the head of religion and ethics for BBC Production. “We expect Aaqil will set the strategy for religion on TV in close collaboration with the new head of commissioning for specialist factual,” Swain wrote. “This will help ensure that the BBC continues to deliver highly informed and relevant coverage of the range of religious beliefs and practices in the UK.”

In January, Swain announced a major overhaul of the BBC’s factual commissioning department in response to savings targets in television and the fewer number of overall hours that will be commissioned, in particular on BBC3.

Alison Kirkham, head of commissioning for factual features and formats for BBC1 and BBC2, became the overall head of formats, features and events. Mark Bell remained as head of arts and Jan Younghusband stayed as head of music.

“I want to shape a factual commissioning team with fewer leaders, clearer distinction between roles, greater alignment with channels and external stakeholders and greater flexibility,” she said in an email to staff at the time.

Swain also plans to close three-and-a-half commissioning editor roles out of the current 11 in factual; and the number of executive producers will be increased from two to five.

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