Channel 5 has unveiled a line-up of nine small and medium-sized BAME production companies, who will partner with the channel’s commissioning team to develop mainstream ideas for Channel 5. 


The announcement follows the launch of the initiative in June, partnering with Simone Pennant MBE, founder of The TV Collective, to open up new business and creative opportunities for BAME-owned and run production companies on a PSB channel.


The independent production companies – from Northern Ireland, Yorkshire, Manchester, West Midlands, Sussex and London – will each be matched with the channel’s nine-strong commissioning team, who will both nurture them and aid in developing new projects, receiving development money from a dedicated fund.


The nine indies selected include:

Afro Mic (Belfast) – owned by Emma Dias, Afro Mic started as a short form digital indie in 2014, producing fact ents and drama shorts before winning its first terrestrial TV commission in 2017 for BBC NI. 

Heenahn Bhatti (Yorkshire & the Humber) – Heenahn is a multi-award-winning programme maker, experienced in all factual genres, from obs doc to specialist factual and factual entertainment.  Having directed a number of documentaries, Heenahn is now creating his own independent production company.


Big Deal (London) – Owned by Dhanny Joshi and Thomas Stogdon, Big Deal were founded in 2014 and specialise in factual, factual entertainment and scripted formats. 


Meridian Line Films (Yorkshire) – Nacressa Swan has 15 years of experience working in factual television and international documentary production and co-founded Meridian Line Films, based in York.


Chatterbox (London) – Owned by Nav Raman (pictured) and Ali Quirk, Chatterbox is a new production company which is female and BAME-led. Their ambition is to create for major content and platforms with new voices fresh perspectives and thought provoking content.


Ten66 (Hastings, Sussex) – Ten66 is a small, regional BAME-owned indie owned by Rukhsana Mosam, an executive with 27 years’ experience in the business. Their main slate is in factual and they have recently started creating scripted content with new BAME comedy talent. 


Chapter 1 Films (West Midlands) – Chapter 1 Films is brand new indie set up through a partnership with Producer/ Director Shurwin Beckford and Karma Productions. Chapter 1’s aim is to create unashamed populist mainstream factual television. 


King of Sunshine (Manchester) – King of Sunshine Productions is the brainchild of former BBC Commissioner and Entertainment Exec Sohail Shah. Salfordian Sohail has 20 years’ experience in the industry and is passionate about diversity.


Doc Hearts (London) – Owned by Andy Mundy-Castle and Roy Agyeman, Doc Hearts specialises in factual entertainment, scripted, feature documentaries, children’s content, branded content and reality formats.  


Ben Frow, Channel 5 Director of Programmes, commented: “We are passionate about working with hungry, creative and enthusiastic small independents who offer a new perspective, whilst being tuned into our channel and audience needs. This important scheme, brilliantly engineered by Simone from The TV Collective, offers business opportunities to nine talented production companies across the UK, many of whom are startups.  In broadening our creative influence, our ambition is to see new mainstream commissioned programmes in the peak time schedule.”


Simone Pennant from The TV Collective said:  “It was a real pleasure working on this project. For years I’ve been saying the talent is out there and they are – in abundance. This is such a fantastic opportunity offered by Channel 5 and has the potential of providing life changing business opportunities for the companies selected, which can only be a good thing for the industry.  I really hope this project inspires other broadcasters to move past platitudes and look for meaningful ways to not only diversify staff teams but suppliers as well. Massive Respect to Ben and his team for showing just how easily it can be done.”


Heenahn Bhatti said: “I applaud the sense of striving to connect with the audience throughout the UK – something I achieve in in all my work. I also respect the Channel’s ‘can-do’ attitude.”


Nacressa Swan, of Meridian Line Films, said:  “From all the channels we have met, Channel 5 were the most exciting for me – the most responsive to new ideas, to commissioning quickly, to working with new producers, to commissioning returnable series. They have high factual rating – they’re populist, they know their audience – and they can still do reputational award winning.”


Nav Raman and Ali Quirk, who have recently set up Chatterbox, stated:  “Channel 5 is a dynamic, intuitive channel – not afraid to try new formats and series, and trust smaller suppliers to make their content for them. It is easy to have a dialogue with the channel and it’d be great to work for the channel of the year as they continue to grow in their reach and ambition.”


This initiative follows the success of last year’s small regionals initiative, where each commissioner was empowered to identify, nurture and support two production companies from the regions (total of 16), with the aim of helping deliver their ideas and shows to the screen. The initiative resulted in nearly £4m of commissions and 35 hours of new peak time content.


Staff Reporter

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