IAIN MACLEAN

 

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Here are my mutterings and musings mainly on art.

What’s wrong with the BBC? There isn’t one writer, director or actor on either of its two boards.

By themaclean, Jun 7 2016 06:05PM


Basically, the BBC has two boards: A Board of Trustees and an Executive Board.


The BBC Trustees are responsible for setting "the strategic objectives of the BBC". While the Executive Board is "responsible for the operational delivery of BBC Services and the direction of BBC editorial and creative output." Remember that phrase, “creative output.”


So, what are the backgrounds of the trustees?

4 are bankers/financiers, 3 work for energy companies, 2 worked in private security, 2 are lawyers, 1 is a politician, 1 is an academic And only one is a former broadcaster. Yes, only one.


The Executive Board of the BBC? 8 are ex news reporters/producers of factual (not creative) programmes, 2 are chartered accountants, 2 are ex-marketing people and 1 is a former TV producer.


Imagine having to spend an evening with that collection of boring number crunchers, lawyers, bankers and ex news reporters? No doubt the conversation would be dominated by the weather, money, more money, internal and external politics and the odd pleasantry dipped in the spice of mild scandal.


No wonder the output of the BBC is now so dull and news-orientated. That would be acceptable if it was simply a news organisation. But It’s not. Remember that phrase, “creative output.”


The BBC is producing fewer and fewer new fictional programmes.


There was a time when BBC drama was the envy of the world. They produced programmes such as: Tinker Tailor, Soldier Spy, Smiley's People, Yes Minister, Boys from the Blackstuff, Edge of Darkness, Absolutely Fabulous (the first series), Brideshead Revisited, The Singing Detective, Prime Suspect, House of Cards, Cracker, Pennies From Heaven, Dr Who…


Now we’re served endless lukewarm repeats such as Dad’s Army, which ran from 1968 to 1977, or pointless remakes such as Poldark, War and Peace and the Survivors. The original productions were far superior. Wolf Hall was superb, but, like the BBC board members, it was stuck in the past.


What’s really galling, is that, in spite of the fact that we have so many outstanding writers actors and directors, some of the best in the world, they have to go to America to get work.


The Americans are now creating far better programmes than we do, such as: Bad, The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Band of Brothers, Mad Men, The West Wing, The Wire, Six Feet Under, The Shield. Boardwalk Empire, True Detective etc, etc.


There is no real commitment to creativity in the BBC. How can there be if there is no creative representation on either board. The former, so-called “Creative Director”, Alan Yentob didn’t sit on either board. So much for the title “Director”. And he only earned £168,300, a lot less than the average £290,000 a year salary of the Beeb’s Executive Board members.


No other industry that dares to call itself creative has no creative representation at leadership level. Every advertising agency has a real creative director at its head, as do most fashion houses, design companies, theatres and film studios.


But not the BBC.


And, to make absolutely sure that no crazy, off-the-wall, new ideas ever see the light of day they don’t accept unsolicited ideas from the general public.

If you have a brilliant idea for a new radio series, this is the response you’ll receive:


"Most BBC network radio stations are unable to accept unsolicited programme ideas, so it is best to approach an independent production company or team with any programme ideas before contacting the BBC. An independent production company will have the necessary skills and experience to develop ideas and pitch them to the BBC."


And when it comes to submitting ideas for TV, here’s the site (brace yourself): http://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/tv/ideas-from-the-public


You’ll be greeted by a message that you’ll soon grow tired of as it comes round and round:


“Programme development requires an in-depth understanding of the television process and can take many months or years to realise, usually involving many people. Unfortunately the BBC doesn’t have the resources to support individuals in this process. Please see the other opportunities listed below.”


Listed below you’ll find s bewildering number of courses on everything from brainstorming, developing ideas, scriptwriting, etc, etc, etc… It goes on and on.


But what it doesn’t allow you to do is simply give an outline of your idea.


In short, “Members of the public not affiliated with an independent production company will not be able to submit programme ideas via BBC Pitch.”


So, all innovative ideas are first vetted by independent commercial companies, not the BBC.


Now you know why their programmes are so dull these days.


Unfortunately, the problem wasn’t addressed by Sir Lenny Henry, who attacked the BBC for being “very, very white” and not socially or ethnically diverse.


Quick as a flash, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said diversity would be at the very centre of changes to be made to the BBC.


Under his new targets, by 2020 half of the workforce will be female, 8% disabled, 15% ethnic minorities and 8% lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.


Admirable as that may be, isn’t there the slightest possibility that a percentage above zero could be reserved fro creative representation on either, or, preferably, both boards? Perhaps Sir Lenny might fancy a go? And how about a writer, or director too?


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