TALK OF THE TRADE : Big money but little interest in TV films

The BBC is to put £51m into "original films" over the next two years, offering indoor relief to middlebrow talents such as Hanif Kureishi and Mike Leigh. It is proof that the one-off drama's mystique has survived Producer Choice. But how about vi ewer choice? Since the mid-Eighties, three strands of TV films, the BBC's Screen One and Screen Two, and Channel 4's Film on Four, have pumped out around 35 titles a year. There is the occasional big hit (eg, Four Weddings and a Funeral). But most Screen One and Screen Two films are shown and forgotten.

Average audiences for TV films, excluding repeats, have almost halved from 5.2 million in 1986 to 2.8 million last year. The only TV films to break 10 million were Victoria Wood's Pat and Margaret and the atypical spoof Ghostwatch (both on BBC1). DespiteWood's success, 1994's Screen One season ended prematurely because ITV's London's Burning was torching it. This helps to explain why Alan Yentob, controller of BBC1, is thought to be keen to abolish the Screen One strand: instead, films would probably be run as one-off events, with the experiments confined to BBC2.

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