BBC's queen of soaps poached by Channel 5

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Corinne Hollingworth, executive producer of EastEnders, is to become controller of drama at Channel 5 in a move which signals its intention to fight ITV for mass audiences.

Her defection is the latest in a string of high-level poachings from the BBC by Dawn Airey, Channel 5's 34-year-old director of programmes.

Earlier this month she announced the appointment of Tim Gardam, head of weekly programmes for BBC news and current affairs, as controller of news, current affairs and documentaries. She has also poached Michael Attwell, the BBC's commissioner of factual programmes, to control features and arts. David Bergg, BBC1's scheduler, is joining as controller of planning at the channel which starts on New Year's Day.

Ms Hollingworth, a workaholic, has gained a reputation for winning huge drama audiences by concentrating on human interest storylines. She also produced Casualty for the BBC.

At EastEnders she spiced up storylines by having Michelle get pregnant by her former bete noire Grant Mitchell, throwing Ricky into a love triangle with his wife Sam and girlfriend Bianca and introducing the "Sharongate" tape heard by Grant in his car. Audiences earlier this month were 21.5m, more than a million higher than Coronation Street.

She was brought in to perform the same magic at Casualty, the hospital drama, two years ago. She pushed up viewing figures to almost 18 million by switching the focus to the love lives of the characters.

But the industry has not forgotten her one flop - Eldorado, the BBC's dire sun and sangria soap set on the Costa del Sol. Ms Hollingworth was brought in to turn it around but despite adding a million viewers the soap was axed in 1993.

Viewers can look forward to a populist drama output on Channel 5. Its bid document promises 16 to 20 hours of original drama in the first year.

Emphasis will be on generic drama, including a Casualty-style serial called Lifeline about young doctors and nurses, Jericho Lane, about trainee police officers, and DJ's, about an inner-city legal aid practice. Repeats will include Beverly Hills 90210, Minder and Rumpole of the Bailey will also be a diet of game shows and current affairs.