BBC Unveils Arts, Culture Programming Initiative

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BBC director general Tony Hall

Director general Tony Hall, a former CEO of the Royal Opera House in London, speaks of "the strongest commitment to the arts we’ve made in a generation."  

LONDON – The BBC on Tuesday unveiled a big arts and culture programming initiative, including increased engagement with artists and art institutions and more distinctive arts content across the U.K. public broadcaster's outlets.

"This is the strongest commitment to the arts we've made in a generation," said BBC director general Tony Hall, who served as CEO of the Royal Opera House in London before taking over the British broadcaster last April. "We're the biggest arts broadcaster anywhere in the world – but our ambition is to be even better."

Under his new vision, BBC Arts will take center stage across the BBC with coverage of music, stage and other events across the U.K.

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Said Hall: "I want BBC Arts – and BBC Music – to sit proudly alongside BBC News. The arts are for everyone – and, from now on, BBC Arts will be at the very heart of what we do. We'll be joining up arts on the BBC like never before – across television, radio and digital. And we'll be working more closely with our country's great artists, performers and cultural institutions."

Among other offers, a new strand called "BBC Arts at…" will give viewers and listeners a front-row seat at Britain's best-known arts and music events.

Hall also promised new landmark series ordered in collaboration with leading cultural institutions, including the Tate, National Portrait Gallery and The British Library.

As part of the changes, Jonty Claypole has been appointed director of arts at the BBC, and Bob Shennan becomes director of music. They will work across the BBC to help bring the vision to fruition. And film (The History Boys) and stage director Nicholas Hytner, the outgoing head of the National Theatre, has been appointed to the BBC executive board to provide insights.

As part of an effort to celebrate great writers, The Shakespeare Project for 2016 will see further filmed adaptations of Shakespeare's history plays from the team behind The Hollow Crown, which aired on BBC Two. They will be executive produced by Sam Mendes (Skyfall).

Twitter: @georgszalai