Thursday, July 16, 2009

TV writers and Controller defend BBC drama

In The Guardian TV writers Tony Jordan, Billy Ivory, Steven Moffat, Heidi Thomas and Peter Moffat defend BBC drama following Tony Garnett's attack published earlier this week.

Tony Jordan:
Having just read Tony Garnett's email attacking the BBC drama department, I felt like one of our most lauded programme-makers was throwing in the towel, quitting on his stool, blaming his promoter for choosing the wrong opponent.

I like the fact he seems angry – as writers it comes with the territory. At our best we use it to spur on creativity, at our worst we launch our toys out of the pram and become drama queens instead of dramatists, citing conspiracy theories and the powers that be for destroying our work.

Is it tough to get a drama made on the BBC? Yes. Should we as writers be annoyed that the endless nights of staring at a blank sheet of paper until our foreheads bleed come to nothing? Yes. Is it possible that a great idea can be diluted by the process? Of course, but whether you're making television shows or designing tents, wasn't it ever thus?
Meanwhile, BBC drama commissioning controller Ben Stephenson says that he welcomes the debate.
There is clearly more than one point of view in this complex debate. For a lot of people – particularly audiences who recognise the BBC as the home for the best drama in the country – BBC drama is something they love to watch. And for many of those who make the drama it is a great place to work.

But there are a lot of people who don't like what we make and have been caught in development hell. I recognise much of what Tony Garnett says, and am happy to talk to him and anyone else about it. I don't want to list a point-by-point response – that would be reductive – but anyone who knows me will know that I take this very very seriously. My open Friday surgeries are designed for this very reason.

After nine months in the job I have instituted some big changes after listening to criticism – the open door policy, a radically smaller ratio of development to production, one indie department instead of four.

And that's just the beginning. I am going to continue to make changes. So now is the time to come and speak to me. I am an open book and have an open door. I will even buy you a BBC cup of coffee, if you are unlucky. Let's start engaging with each other – not over blogs, or in newspaper, but face to face. That is the only way we will change anything.

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