In what can be best described as a head scratcher, Radio Times is reporting some changes that are coming to the way the BBC handles the licensing and production of its programming. BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, announced a plan that will allow rival production companies to produce BBC branded television, as well as allow BBC’s production company to produce shows for competing networks. To put this in perspective, this means that a competing network’s production company (ITV Studios, for example) can bid to produce Doctor Who.
When Hall unveiled this plan at The Future of the Licence Fee event, he called the proposed changes a “revolution”:
“If independent producers can take their ideas to any broadcaster around the world, I would want the same for the BBC. Proper competition and entrepreneurialism requires a level playing field. We should have regulation in the TV supply market only where it’s needed so that we can let creativity flourish… A level playing field doesn’t tilt.”
This isn’t necessarily a revolutionary idea. The majority of shows on American networks are produced by production companies not owned by the network. Even BBC1’s hit show Sherlock is produced by Moffat’s personal company Hartswood Films. What is of note, however, is the notion that the BBC might let an outside entity have creative control over its flagship programme. Of course, one might have a row as to whether that title belongs to Doctor Who or Sherlock based on global success and popularity, but neither Sherlock or the rest of the BBC’s stable of shows are setting world records and making waves with short showings at the box office.
While this isn’t necessarily something to worry about, it does beg a few questions. If another company takes over production, what happens to current staff and producers? Will the current cast carry on or will the new company insist on a fire sale? Will the BBC retain any creative rights to the program if it’s farmed out? Or is it a simple numbers game and the shift to move production to subsidiaries will keep things as status quo? Only time will really tell.
What say you, dear reader? A cause for concern or just an interesting current event for Doctor Who‘s parent company? Could you see Doctor Who and Sherlock produced by other TV channels in the UK, or would an independent company (or even BBC Worldwide) be a more likely proposition?
(With thanks to James)