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Former BBC chief calls for end to production quotas

Pat Younge Pat Younge

BBC production quotas should be scrapped, according to the corporation’s former chief creative officer, Pat Younge.

He believes the current system – which guarantees 50% of output to in-house producers, 25% to indies, with 25% up for grabs to either in the window of creative competition (Wocc) – is ‘irretrievably broken’.

In a post titled, TIME FOR CHANGE – why the BBC needs to abolish the BBC Television quotas and guarantees and set BBC Production free, Younge says global broadcasters, such as ITV and Discovery, have been snapping up independent production companies.

Any independent in which a broadcaster has a 25% or greater stake does not qualify for commissions under the BBC’s indie quota – only as part of the Wocc.

“….I now think the current system is irretrievably broken, and I’m free to say so publicly. I’m not sure how widely held my view is today, but if this review is going to be meaningful it is an issue it will have to address.”

He also argues that the BBC should retain its commitment to production out of London and in the nations and says his ‘blueprint for the future’ will be sent to the BBC Trust review when it opens

“For example, ITV’s purchase of SoTV meant SoTV became an NQI (non qualifying indie) and so all the Graham Norton show hours went from the indie guarantee into the Wocc,” says Younge, who left the BBC at the end of last year.

“The truth is the rapid pace of indie consolidation has made the Wocc less about creative competition and more about accounting.

“Given the centrality of IP [intellectual property] ownership in the new media economic model, any change to the status quo arrangements has to allow the BBC to have the same ability to generate IP as their competitors.”

He makes a proposal to make BBC Production – specifically in-house comedy, entertainment, drama and factual production (sport, news and children’s would remain part of the BBC) – a fully-owned subsidiary of BBC Worldwide.

If that happened, all existing BBC programmes would be transferred to the BBC’s commercial arm, and BBC Production would be able to compete on a level playing field with the indies.

Operating as a business, it would be able to pitch ideas to other broadcasters, move to cheaper or better suited premises and pay the market rate for talent.

Worldwide would be able to invest in indies and produce programmes for other channels at home and abroad, while making the most of the intellectual property rights.

* Is his assessment correct? How would you change production quotas? Let us know via the comments below.

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