Sunday, June 13, 2010

Guild / BBC TV Drama Event - podcasts

Podcasts from the Guild BBC Drama Event on 2nd June are now available, free of charge from

Thanks to Guild member Dan Alexander for making the podcasts.

Gail Renard, Chair of the Guild's TV Committee, has also written the following short report about the event:

The Guild wants to thank Ben Stephenson, John Yorke and Kate Harwood for taking the time to talk to writers about telly. As ever, writers want to know what’s happening in the marketplace. Stephenson, BBC Controller of Commissioning, explained his goal was to maintain a creative environment for writers to do their best work without commercial pressures. He stressed that there’s room for all different kinds of drama, from singles to six or eight part series; and he’s looking for a broader range of series with more regional voices and settings, with more roles for women. Stephenson also broke down the remit of the four BBC channels:

BBC 1 - Mainstream but great scope within that. The focus is 9pm series and serials but long running series play an essential role.

BBC2 - The amount of drama on the channel has increased and will continue to. This channel’s about new approaches and new angles, with room for filmic single dramas.

BBC3 - Concept and genre driven; grown-up, imaginative and unique. Again the focus is on the 9 PM series; Being Human (by Toby Whithouse) is one of their biggest successes.

BBC4 - Celebrates and reflects arts and culture. The recent single dramas on BBC4 have been largely biopics of influential people. BBC4 works on a tiny budget and makes the most of it.

John Yorke, Controller of BBC Production is trying to make long-running series more writer-centred and writer-friendly. Recent changes on EastEnders, Casulaty, Holby City & Doctors mean that there are 33% fewer producers; 60% fewer script editors and 30% fewer drafts. The lead times have also decreased and 60% of the writers are now on a contract. On a darker note, Yorke explained that the amount of drama across all the broadcasters has decreased by 400 hours a year, which makes it tougher for talented writers to get jobs.

Meanwhile Yorke continues to work with the Guild to improve writers’ working conditions and has recently re-issued the BBC’s own Code of Conduct. Added to that, observers from the Guild have been invited to attend the long-running series story conferences to view the process and talk with the writers. The Guild and BBC will also be appointing an independent ombudsman to deal with writers’ complaints which can’t be resolved elsewhere. The BBC also planned to eliminate unpaid work if at all possible, which the Guild feels very strongly about.

Kate Harwood, Head of Series and Serials, explained that for in-house drama she has nine producers, all with different tastes and styles, and 12 script editors. Harwood felt that progress had been made in her department in the last few years. When she arrived projects were generated by producers, not writers, which she felt was wrong. Now the ideas are coming from the writers.

The evening ended on a positive note with writers and the execs talking informally over wine. Now we all eagerly eagerly wait to see what this new phase of BBC Drama brings.

Update: The podcast is now available through iTunes - search at the iTunes store using the term 'Writers Guild' and then filter by media type to 'podcasts' (left hand menu). If you click 'subscribe' new episodes will be downloaded automatically.

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