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BBC ups arts and music investment

March 26, 2021

The BBC is reshaping its arts and music content teams and upping investements to drive bigger reach and impact across the UK.

BBC Two will increase its resources for arts and music, whilst BBC Four becomes the home of arts and music performance and will bring together collections of distinctive content from the BBC’s archive. The BBC will also open up its entire BBC Local Radio network to local arts organisations.

The BBC will double investment in arts and music on BBC Two over the next two years and commit to up to eight major arts and music boxset series for BBC iPlayer each year – this will be an important element of the soon to be published annual plan.

At the core of these changes, says the BBC, is the desire to back British creativity by supporting the wider arts and music sectors, and to showcase the best of UK talent.

Highlights of the new commissions include:

  • Landmark documentary series tells the history of British creativity through iconic artworks and artefacts, featuring leading UK artists; Mary Beard returns with a documentary exploration of the forbidden in art, for BBC Two
  • Impactful singles exploring the most vital works of arts and challenging cultural issues, including David Harewood on blackface minstrelsy for BBC Two
  • New opera productions for TV announced for BBC Four as BBC Lights Up – one of the biggest performance seasons in recent years involving partnerships with theatres across the UK – gets underway, signalling a new way forward with the arts and music sector as they face unprecedented challenges
  • Profiles and biographies including Daniel Barenboim, Sir Quentin Blake, Brian Catling, Jackie Collins, Delia Derbyshire, Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, Kae Tempest and Andy Warhol and new commissions to mark key anniversaries for T.S. Eliot and James Joyce, for BBC Two
  • And at the beginning of April the BBC will hand over its entire Local Radio network to local arts organisations to showcase their content and performances

Chief Content Officer Charlotte Moore commented: “The BBC has always prided itself on having a world-class arts and music offer. The BBC wants to build on that to expand the reach of Arts and Music programming and deliver even more unique, high-impact content for the public. Alongside that, we want to be Britain’s creative partner and platform for talent. I am excited about the content we have commissioned and how our new approach will help that reach more people.”

A new commissioning powerhouse for Arts & Classical

A new structure will see Arts and Classical Music TV commissioning fully integrated into BBC Content under the leadership of Patrick Holland. As the Director of a new Factual, Arts and Classical Music genre, Holland will take on an expanded remit. He is a long-standing champion of Arts & Music at the BBC, as Controller of BBC Two & BBC Four he oversaw and passionately supported Arts programming on television. Arts and classical music will align under this new television genre to bring specialist depth, modern storytelling and ambition, resulting in a new commissioning powerhouse.

Integrating arts and classical Music within the factual genre will bring new opportunities for collaboration and programming of scale to help grow BBC iPlayer. Culture In Quarantine has demonstrated the vital role of the BBC in British Arts and this will build on that success to deliver Arts and Culture to licence fee payers everywhere.

Two new leadership roles have been created: a new Head Of Arts And Classical Music and a dedicated TV commissioner responsible for the BBC Proms and classical music on TV to guarantee classical music specialism is retained at the heart of commissioning within the broader factual team. In recent years Holland has reinvented history and documentary on BBC Two and he will bring the same editorial vision to Arts and Classical Music investing in high-impact commissions to help grow BBC iPlayer.

Delivering for all audiences across all platforms, the TV and Radio commissioning teams will collaborate as part of the BBC Content division. Alan Davey will continue his leadership role in Classical music, including the commissioning of new music, as Controller of Radio 3, the BBC’s Orchestras and Choirs, and The BBC Proms, the world’s biggest classical music festival. He will work closely with Patrick and his team to ensure that classical music increases its impact for audiences using all the resources available to the BBC. Arts content on radio will continue to sit with the networks commissioned directly by the Controllers, as it does now.

Popular Music recognised as its own genre

Lorna Clarke, Controller of Pop Music, will continue to oversee the genre, with responsibility for pop music stations (Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 1Xtra, The Asian Network and Radio 6 Music), as well as TV commissioning. With new classical music TV roles created in Patrick’s area, Lorna’s current music TV commissioning team will evolve so that it will solely focus on pop music, increasing its impact across all platforms to deliver a portfolio approach with BBC radio stations and increase habit with audiences.

The team will include a Commissioning Editor, a Commissioning Executive and an Assistant Commissioner – a first for music – providing an opportunity to draw on experience, strong music editorial credentials and bring in fresh talent. Lorna will harness her brilliant working relationships with the music industry and partners to lead the vision for Pop music across the content portfolio to deliver the best music for audiences, fostering the BBC’s crucial role in developing new talent.

Separating Classical Music and Pop Music commissioning will bring new opportunities for collaboration and programming of scale to help grow BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds.

Moore added: “This simpler, more authentic system will create greater collaboration across the genres to deliver the most creative Arts and Music content for audiences, whether they want to watch or listen to them live or on demand. This new approach is the right one for the BBC, but more importantly, it is the right one for audiences.”

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