BBC chief content officer Charlotte Moore joined the Edinburgh TV Festival this week to talk diversity, Channel 4 privatization, BBC3 and streamers.
In a session with broadcast journalist and presenter Charlene White (pictured below, left), Moore (right), who stepped into her current role in September 2020, discussed the year gone by, the present and the future for the UK’s largest pubcaster.
“We need to make sure that we continually stand out in the crowd,” Moore said Wednesday (Aug. 25).
“We need to grow in finding new talent giving them those real opportunities. We need to grow in, are we really telling enough stories of variety that represent communities across the UK, through all of our genres? And that includes disability, diversity in its broadest form… It’s a constant juggle, but it’s the creative growth that I want to see because we’re not commercially driven, we’re actually driven by our audience. That’s a great privilege.”
HIGH IMPACT CONTENT
At the time of Moore’s appointment, director-general Tim Davie gave his first address in the role, noting that the BBC has “tried to cope with increasing competition by making more and spreading ourselves too thinly.”
Davie said a shift was needed to identify how the corporation could have “more impact by making less.” Nearly a year later, Moore said that strategy remains.
“It’s really important that we spend our money well in a changing world,” she explained. “It’s not just the impact on a given night, it’s about the impact over time.
“It’s also really thinking about how we grow iPlayer and how we really extract the most value from iPlayer and, of course, BBC Sounds as well… Using all the strength from our linear channels is also critically important.”
In December, following Moore’s appointment, the BBC revealed further changes, axing channel controller titles.
“We’re not commissioning purely for channels anymore. We are commissioning for the portfolio strategy,” she said. “It’s the greatest value you can get from each program that you make.
“Thinking about the longevity of a piece of content and its relevance means that it has a different value pricing. It also means co-productions. We know the value of the BBC brand and the ability to bring in co-production with the streamers as well.
“Some shows can be in high volume but low price, and some shows can be really expensive and that’s because they need to be for the story that they’re telling — there’s no sort of one size fits all. It’s the range of what we do as well which… for creatives, it’s unrivaled, really, in this country.”
COMMISSIONING OUTSIDE LONDON
As the BBC looks ahead to its centenary in 2022, Moore said it’s “mission critical” to commission outside London.
“It’s not just about where we spend, it’s also what we’re spending our money on,” she said. “We are already quite spread across the UK, but you’re going to see us increasingly able to do that.”
In response to a question from White about whether pitches from indies outside London will be taken seriously, Moore said “absolutely.”
“We really want to think about high impact. So, it’s not just one-offs that we create in the nations. It’s actually really thinking about, can we grow series that are returning? Can we really try and support indies in the nations to really be able to have a mixed ecology of work? This allows people who live in those areas to actually get enough work so they can stay and not feel like they’ve got to travel to London to get the job. Many of us know that has been the case for many years. So, if we don’t do this, if we don’t do it in an authentic way, then it won’t be sustainable. And we’ll just be ticking a box.”
CHANNEL 4: “THEY’RE ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL”
As the UK government continues its consultation into the privatization of Channel 4, Moore offered her insight.
“It’s in the interest of every British creative to want public service broadcasting to continue, and for there to be really great competition in that market as well. Competition for all of us is really, really important, and creatively it only leads to better work. I’m a real supporter of what Channel 4′s programming has been for years. They’re absolutely critical. It’s not for me to talk about whether privatization would change the content that they make, but I absolutely want to make sure that we have a really strong PSB ecology in this country… the BBC can’t do it all.”
DIVERSITY ON- AND OFF-CAMERA
In response to a question about this year’s MacTaggart Lecture from acclaimed dramatist and playwright, Jack Thorne — a disabled professional and vocal champion, campaigner and ally of other disabled creatives both in front of and behind the camera — Moore admitted changes to make the industry more accessible must accelerate.
“It’s very clear and stats show that the most under-represented group really is the disability group,” she said. “For the last few years, we’ve been focused on it. COVID has made that challenging and it slowed down some of the progress and possibly even sent things backwards again in a way that I think is not acceptable.”
Still, she said work is underway, pointing to the BBC’s internal Elevate scheme designed to support disability representation on- and off-screen.
In June 2020, the pubcaster also committed £100 million in commissioning spend towards increasing diversity on its programs, while establishing a mandatory 20% diverse-talent target.
“You can see that diversity behind the camera and disability, again, as a big part of that on shows like Strictly, on shows like Rap Game,” Moore said. “We’re driving with really, really tough targets we will reach and I’m absolutely determined to make it happen.”
In March, the pubcaster announced that BBC3 would be returning to broadcast in 2022 more than five years after it was moved to the web.
“There were great intentions with the BBC3 going online. As I say, creatively, I think it’s been really good. It really made us think in different ways.
“iPlayer is still the big destination with young people for all of our young shows. We are growing iPlayer at an amazing rate… It’s playing both channels to be the very strongest that they can be. I think all streamers, all SVODs, would die to have the impact that we have and to be able to reach those audiences on a daily basis with lots of great original programming.”
Though she admitted that audiences are increasingly harder to reach.
“The choice is out there. It’s not just fellow broadcasters but let’s face it — it’s mobile phones, it’s gaming, it’s YouTube, it’s TikTok. So, it’s really important that those young audiences know what we have and I want to make sure we reach everybody.”