Televisual Factual Festival: BBC2 channel editor Patrick Holland has called for factual shows with “scale and audacity” and docs that can put “character in the foreground.”


Holland was explaining the factual strategy for his channel during a session at today’s Televisual Factual Festival at Bafta. He was interviewed by Wall to Wall ceo, Leanne Klein.


When Klein asked Holland for the programmes he most admired on rival channels, he picked out Channel 4’s Eden where members of the public attempt to build a self-sufficient community in a remote part of Scotland.


He said that if the idea had come to him first he would have commissioned it although BBC2 would have tackled the idea in a different way and ‘got into the detail’ more. He said that although he wasn’t now after an Eden type of idea “there were elements of the scale and ambition I’d like on BBC2. I’m jealous of the scale and audacity. Bring us massive ideas across the genre.”


He said that “factual is the lifeblood of the channel. There is no one else with our range of factual programing. There are huge opportunities ranging from pieces with scale and factual entertainment values to the most polished authored documentary.”


When speaking about what he wanted in terms of documentary for BBC2, he used new doc, The Hospital: Life And Death In A Week as a good example of the approach he was after as it “engages with the complexity behind the individual dramas” that take place in the hospital and digs down into the process as well as focussing on character and story as other hospital docs traditionally do.

He said he wanted to get documentary makers to “not just tell stories but stories that illuminate the complexity of the world around us. We have a duty and opportunity to engage with process but in way that is not muesli, not homework. They have to be powerful stories that resonate with the audience.”


He said that when he first arrived at the channel, its documentary output “may have foregrounded process rather than character, a specialist factual mindset” and shows like The Hospital: Life And Death In A Week will “foreground individual stories but the stories illuminate process.”


He also stressed the need for authorship and docs with a point of view and highlighted actor David Hare’s programme on the possibilities of there ever being a black PM in the UK. 


In specialist factual, Holland said that science and history had to be “compelling, urgent, important and relevant to us now. Timelessness is what BBC4 does. Bring us subject matters that urgently need to be engaged with and the treatment of that to take it to the broadest possible audience.”


He said that budget cuts would be minimal in factual and “you won’t feel them” and the money would be concentrated at 8pm and 9pm.


Jon Creamer

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