Thursday, February 26, 2009

E-Commissioning at the BBC

A guest post by Naomi MacDonald, the Guild's Assistant General Secretary

The BBC has updated its commissioning process by introducing an online system for submitting proposals. The BBC says that e-Commissioning enables them to handle the 10,000 proposals they receive per year faster and more efficiently. They also say that the e-Commissioning system will not replace creative conversations with producers and that it is designed "simply to make the process of filtering and comparing ideas much easier".

Well, what do you think?

One member told us " It's the very nature of the system that is the problem, dreamt up by people who seem to have no understanding of writers at all. It just seems to put paid to the possibility of developing any sort of creative relationship."

Another told us that she managed to register for the system quite easily but got in a pickle trying to submit her pitch. On the other hand, we've heard from writers who found the process complicated the first time but found it easier once they'd got the hang of it.

What is your experience of the system? Is it more efficient and does it work for individual writers? Please leave your comments below.

Alternatively, if you'd like to send your comments to the Guild office anonymously, then please email

We want to hear from you!


  1. Hands up, I was the writer who 'got in a pickle' and I'm not sure whether that's 'cos the system is complicated or I'm crap at forms. I suspect a little of both.

    Having said that, I didn't particularly mind keeping my pitch to a page of A4 (think that was the remit.) I quite enjoyed the process of distilling my (co-devised) idea and we subsequently got a development deal.

    I don't know how many ideas CBBC had this year, but I know in the past they've had around 500. I guess e-commissioning is a quick way of sifting without having to wade through acres of material.

  2. Anonymous12:31 pm

    It seems to be geared up for companies rather than individuals, or am I missing something?

  3. Anonymous12:39 am

    It looks like a lretty cold page and I agree with fellow anon, it seems more geared towards companies. :(

  4. Anonymous9:03 am

    While the BBC may receive a huge number of proposals a year and needs an efficient system to deal with them, surely it should be possible to 'tailor' it effectively and sympathetically to take account of the 'product' in question i.e. creative ideas. Phrases like 'content supplier' are alienating at the outset and, as mentioned in the two comments above, the sytem seems geared to companies. In the first place anyway, writers have to be invited to submit a proposal. Why? Surely this turns it into an elitist system, making it hard for talent to arrive from left field.
    Obviously, the technical glitches can be ironed out but surely one of the least writer-friendly aspects of the whole thing is that it's enormously time-consuming in that the proposal must be presented in various bite-sized, specially targeted segments. Developing the idea and writing a treatment is a satisfying process but there's then a presumption that the writer can spend yet more unpaid time fitting it into prescribed segments. And at the end of the day, human contact seems minimal - absent altogether unless you get a 'deal'. The email that arrived, assuring us that our idea had been fully discussed but something similar was already being developed, made no specific comment at all about any aspect of the proposal. It did make clear though that this was a full and final answer, suggesting there was no room for any further exchange.

    Such 'e-experience' seems hugely unsatisfying for any writer. While the BBC maintains the system isn't intended to replace personal contact and creative engagement, sadly this is exactly what it does seem to be doing.

  5. Of course it makes the system impersonal. And I'd go one heretical step further and say who's reading these proposals? Not a programme maker/ producer with years of experience in working with writers and their writing, but often an entry level person without that background or knowledge. The best shows come from teamwork: a writer sparking the interest of a producer/ exec who either knows them or can professionally assess them... in person. And then writer and producer/ exec work together to develop something worthy of success. It seems to be all that e-commissioning does is to introduce yet another barrier between writers and programmer makers... which is exactly what we want to eliminate.

  6. Anonymous8:44 am

    Ellie mentions keeping her pitch to a page of A4. Our pitch had to be expressed in 50, 500 and 800 words (so maybe a different form?) It sounds simple but of course, these must all serve different functions in persuading the reader to move on - so very time-consuming to get right. Feels as if you're ticking boxes (and there are enough of those on the e-form to tick!)

    As Gail says, the whole system serves as a barrier, keeping the writer at armslength - and surely this will have a knock on effect. If e-commissioning becomes entrenched, there will be little or no opportunity for 'new blood' at the BBC to get to know writers in person and take part in what was always an exciting two-way process. They'll be doing all their assessment staring at a screen, ticking boxes too...

  7. Anonymous11:14 am

    Although I can see why this system has come about, E-commissioning fails to assess crucial personality traits in writers such as flexibility, passion and potential. The writer provides the heart and essence of the idea -but no matter how committed they are, this passion inevitably dilutes as they pitch to an invisible audience. A creative dialogue is essential if the BBC is to foster new writers. I wonder how many people have found this system satisfying?

  8. Anonymous4:21 pm

    I think the system is what's needed in today's age. We need to be able to pitch ideas quickly and easily, know where they are in the cycle and not have to worry about preferential relationships that other writers and companies have. As the system allows for interaction it also helps get a pitch quickly modified rather than just being rejected as was the case in the old system of working.

    I also like the idea of moving away from commissioning rounds which means ideas can be more topical.

  9. Does any body have any tips on how to register with the e-commissioning?

    Although I have a registered company, for some reason my applications keep being rejected! Any help much appreciated!


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