Australia’s SBS, Cordell Jigsaw Sell Top Rating Doc Format to BBC America

“Go Back to Where You Came From” fuelled the often heated debate about and challenged Australians' attitude to refugees.

SYDNEY - BBC America will make a local version of hit Australian documentary series, Go Back to Where You Came From, after acquiring the format rights from broadcaster SBS Australia and creator and producer Cordell Jigsaw.

The BBC America deal is one of a handful of deals with broadcasters worldwide for the format to the seris which last year fuelled national and international debate about Australian attitudes to refugees.

The four-hour fly on the wall observational style series had  cameras following six Australians who agreed to challenge their preconceived notions about refugees and asylum seekers and embark on a confronting 25 day journey, without money or personal belongings.

Their journey takes them to “back” to where identified asylum seekers began their journey to Australia, including travelling aboard a leaky refugee boat and being rescued mid-ocean, experiencing immigration raids in Malaysia and living in Kenyan refugee camps and slums in Jordan, before ultimately ending-up in war-torn Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

All six participants changed their views about the plight of refugees during and after their journeys.

The series was number 5 ranked Australian broadcaster SBS’ highest rating series for 2011, averaging over 800,000 capital city viewers an episode, sparking debate in online forums and social media and becoming the number one trending Twitter topic worldwide on the nights it was broadcast.

SBS has commissioned a second series for 2012, with a new group of travelers.

SBS managing director Michael Ebeid said: “It’s rare for a television format to be able to break new ground using an issue that’s a political hot button worldwide. The high level of interest from both international broadcasters and production companies is testament to the compelling nature of the format and the fertile ground it offers to tap into local sentiments about refugees and asylum seekers.”

Go Back proved important issues don’t have to be dull television. We’re proud the series became part of the national debate on asylum seekers and is now on its way to becoming part of the international debate,” added Michal Cordell, principal of Cordell Jigsaw. “We’re also cock-a-hoop about the format sales. Instead of being a dumping ground for overseas formats, for once, an Australian format is being exported to the rest of the world. Hopefully it will help balance our cultural terms of trade.”

Perry Simon, general manager, channels, BBC Worldwide Americas said the series would follow the BBC tradition of “bold, provocative original programming that illuminates contemporary social and cultural issues. Go Back to Where You Came From provides another perspective on immigrants and refugees that is sure to spark conversation among our viewers and the public at large.”

TV2 Denmark and Keshet Broadcasting for Israel  have also acquired the format rights while Tuvalu Media (Sony Pictures Entertainment), Studio Hamburg DocLights, Snowman Productions and Curious Pictures have all signed on having the option to produce local versions of Go Back in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and South Africa respectively.

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