BBC TV Boss Looks to Boost Development Budget, Creativity, Global Competitiveness

Danny Cohen - H 2013

Danny Cohen unveils new initiatives, including plans to send senior managers "back to the floor" and improve collaboration with BBC Worldwide, and says "creative brilliance is at the heart of our future success."

LONDON -– BBC director of television Danny Cohen on Thursday unveiled several initiatives, including a new $3.2 million (£2 million) pot for program development and support for creative entrepreneurs, to "make BBC Television the very best broadcaster and producer in the world."

"Focusing on the creative health of in-house production at the BBC, the plans will energize creativity, support creative talent, and improve in-house production’s ability to compete in a global market," the U.K. public broadcaster said.

Cohen, who previously oversaw flagship channel BBC One, was earlier this year named head of TV, reporting to new BBC director general Tony Hall, who has said he wants the public broadcaster to become more entrepreneurial, taking a page from the playbook of Silicon Valley companies.

“Creative brilliance is at the heart of our future success, and development is absolutely integral to the future growth of BBC in-house productions," Cohen said. "The very best television starts with a brilliant idea, yet our current structures can stifle the energy and creativity of individuals. These new plans, including ... dedicated investment pot of £2 million to supercharge development, will raise the profile and importance of creativity and development within BBC Television."

Among the new initiatives, Cohen is splitting the top executive post at the BBC Production arm -- the chief creative office -- into two. "As the content production business becomes increasingly global, it is no longer realistic for one leader to manage the broader scope," the BBC said. Pat Younge recently resigned as chief creative officer. That post will be replaced with two positions – controller, factual and daytime, and controller, fiction and entertainment. The new executives also will be tasked with building a more collaborative relationship with commercial arm BBC Worldwide to ensure "a more coherent production strategy around the world," the BBC said.

Natalie Humphreys will serve as controller, factual and daytime. The other controller role will be advertised and filled after a search process.

Cohen on Thursday also unveiled the concept of "creative labels." To raise the profile and status of development within the BBC TV organization, they will be built around a "creative entrepreneur" who comes up with innovative and big ideas, the BBC said. "Working with a small, handpicked team, they will be encouraged to focus on delivering groundbreaking, world-class content," the broadcaster explained. They will operate for two years with the option of renewal.

“At the heart of this idea is a desire to change the relationship between creativity and status and seniority in BBC Television," Cohen explained. "Up until now, in the BBC you have had to become a manager to gain status and seniority. The Creative Labels aim to change that and give creativity a higher profile in BBC Television."

In a third move, Cohen also is launching a new "Development Central" unit for in-house productions of unscripted ideas. "Development Central will complement the existing genre development teams, providing a resource to draw on and playing a key role in growing the next generation of creative talent at the BBC," the broadcaster said.

Another initiative is a partnership to get new TV staff from ethnic minorities into the BBC, while the "First Year Club" will provide new TV staff with networking opportunities, master classes and talks from senior leaders.

Finally, a new "Back to the Floor" initiative will "ensure senior leaders across television keep learning and understanding the challenges and issues faced by staff across the division" by encouraging them to spend the day with productions or other teams across the BBC TV organization.

Twitter: @georgszalai