The commissioners in charge of factual entertainment at the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and UKTV talked about their programming priorities at a panel session at today’s Televisual Factual Festival.

Mentorn’s Celia Taylor chaired the session with Adrian Padmore of Channel 5, the BBC’s David Brindley, Alf Lawrie of Channel 4 and UKTV’s Hilary Rosen the speakers.

Channel 4 head of fact ent, Alf Lawrie, said that although he predominantly looked after constructed shows for 9pm, 10pm and Friday night, all factual departments could commission for all slots. He said that he was desperate for the next show that could fulfil a role like The Island with Bear Grylls or Gogglebox “that is a huge part of the focus.” For 2019, he was still looking for those returnable shows that could fit the 10pm slot and could be developed further.

He picked out a new show, Famous and Fighting Crime as a good example of what he was after but said that the use of celebrity should not be “a cynical exercise – do they have agency? does it tell you anything about the world?”

He said that he was also after what Channel 4 boss Ian Katz calls “Fuck Me, Doris!” programmes – “the weird and wonderful, crazy propositions that may not come back but make an impact.”

Adrian Padmore at Channel 5 said the broadcaster’s programing needed to be “very straight talking, warm, positive, life affirming. Those attributes work across all the channel.” Padmore said the absence of Big Brother meant there was space to “look at lots of things, shorter runs than Big Brother, but then you can expand them. We can try three or four parters. Rich House, Poor House started as a short run.”

David Brindley at the BBC said that for BBC1, shows should be “first and foremost an entertaining watch.” There was a need for 8pm shows and he was keen on the subjects of health and wealth and he was trying to push more into popular factual, 8pm access shows “Pound Shop Wars worked well for us.” He also picked out Eat Well for Less and Shop Well for Less that gave a “big young audience. I want the next idea there.
At 9pm on BBC1 he said celebrity works well but he didn’t just want another “gang show of celebs doing something else.” Standout singles that generated column inches were also a must for 9pm BBC1 like the recent Rio Ferdinand doc.

Brindley said that BBC2 is driven more by “content, craft, specialist expertise.” 8pm is a focus and returnable formats set in a precinct would work like Inside the Factory and Back in Time for Tea.

For BBC3 he picked out new show 21 Again, about mums living the life of their daughters, that is a construct but with a lot of “doc content within the construct.”

UKTV’s Hilary Rosen focused on the W channel and said the target audience is the 30-something, relatively upmarket woman” and shows should be “very clearly entertaining factual” that should be female skewing but could attract shared viewing. The tone of shows for W should be “uplifting, life affirming, emotional journeys. We don’t want really gloomy leaning in or hard work.”

Staff Reporter

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