Concerns voiced over BBC production arm plans

The TV industry has been divided recently with the news that the BBC will form its new production arm from in-house drama, comedy, entertainment and factual teams over the next six to 12 months.

Speaking at the Westminster Media Forum on 12 March, Pact chair Sara Geater voiced her concerns on the proposals for BBC studios.

The ex-Fremantle Media UK chief executive said the broadcasters plan for their production arm was "surrounded in mystery" as it pertains to how it would operate and how it could compete fairly with the substantial power of the BBC behind it.

"We need to be satisfied that this new company will operate fairly and transparently, and that it will genuinely create a more open and competitive market at the BBC," said Geater.

Director of Policy and Charter at the BBC, James Heath, then shot back: "To answer the persisting idea that the BBC is some kind of behemoth that will decimate all other production companies…last time I checked, Fremantle... Endemol... All3Media... They're not the smallest of companies either."

Pact chief executive John McVay, accusing the BBC of hand-wringing, described the lack of definition around the plans as a "serious and growing concern" and conveyed his proposal for the BBC Trust to delay its content supply report to give concerned parties the opportunity to respond to the BBC Studios proposals in full. "To do otherwise would look like a fait accompli," he added.

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, responded to the mounting concern by saying that the successful production division would be crucial to the corporation's future. "I want BBC Studios to play a great part in this new golden age of broadcasting. This is important. We want to get it right. We will get it right. And we'll take our time to ensure we do just that," he said. 

The BBC is expected to publish detailed proposals for the production division later this year, most likely after the BBC Trust's Content Supply Review is closed. We'll see how many more turns this complicated process will take.

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