Right of Reply

The BBC's controller of drama production responds to criticism of his department's output as formulaic, made yesterday by Gub Neal, the head of drama at Channel 4
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The Independent Culture
IN A speech urging us all to be more original (amen to that!), it is a pity Gub Neal couldn't do better himself in his speech to the Birmingham International TV Festival. We all use caricature occasionally to make a point, but Gub seems to have excelled himself. To suggest that BBC1's drama department should shut up shop and simply commission what it needs from the independent sector may make for good copy - but it doesn't bear scrutiny. In-house drama is thriving. Perhaps Gub has been spending too much time in his own cutting rooms and not enough time in front of the telly.

Last weekend saw the BBC producing Peter Kosminsky's daring Warriors. It was a talking-point for distinctive television, with an ensemble cast, which attracted acclaim from critics and commentators alike. This was just one of our in-house dramas, alongside Lucy Gannon's Pure Wickedness and Hope and Glory (recommissioned for a second series), Susan Oudot's Real Women, and other ambitious projects such as All the King's Men, Wives and Daughters, David Copperfield, Gormenghast and Nature Boy. As you would expect, the BBC offers range. The full range.

The popular drama series Gub mentioned achieved audience shares of between 30 and 35 per cent - and all have been recommissioned. His selective memory excludes such hit BBC series as City Central, Dalziel & Pascoe, The Mrs Bradley Mysteries and Silent Witness - all of which were highly distinctive, and all connecting with different parts of the BBC1 audience.

I can understand why Gub may want to swell the ranks of independent producers, but I fear he will have to find another method of achieving his aim. Looking for the BBC to close down one of its major programme-making assets is pure pie in the sky.

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