BBC promises fewer repeats: Savings avert another dismal summer

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The Independent Online
THE BBC will carry more original programmes and fewer repeats this summer, Alan Yentob, the controller of BBC 1, said at the launch of the new schedules yesterday.

He said this was made possible by 9.9 per cent budget savings achieved through economies and the success of producer choice, the internal market in which departments sell services to each other.

Mr Yentob said a dismal performance last summer marked the nadir for BBC 1. Programme-makers had been striking harder deals with resource departments, and looking hard at the way things were done.

BBC 1, which is fighting hard to hold on to a healthy share of the audience with a new emphasis on popular programming, will run a third episode of EastEnders from the second week of April.

Yesterday's launch emphasised the range of talented writers working for the BBC: Roddy Doyle, winner of the Booker Prize, has written a four-part screenplay, Family, to be shown on BBC 1 in May. It deals with the violent break- up of a Dublin family.

Lynda la Plante of Civvies and Prime Suspect fame has devised The Lifeboat about a Pembrokeshire lifeboat crew and David Nobbs has adapted Love on a Branch Line from a 1950s novel about a long-forgotten ministry department, set in a Suffolk stately home.

Rowan Atkinson plays Sir Henry Birkin, a dashing aristocrat who raced Bentleys for Britain in the first of three drama documentaries about life in the 1920s and 1930s. Jennifer Saunders stars in Queen of the East based on the life of Lady Hester Stanhope, an eccentric 19th-century traveller.

BBC 2 is running several leisure series, including The Home Front about decorating and furnishing and Tracks about rural pursuits.

The BBC is also running a anniversary programmes including the D-day commemorations, which span both BBC 1 and BBC 2 during June and The Troubles, marking 25 years of British troops in Northern Ireland.

The Independent Television Commission yesterday completed interviews with each of the ITV franchise holders, to assess whether they are abiding by promises in their franchises. ITV's adult education programmes are judged lightweight, and there are worries about religious programming, which has been moved away from peak viewing time on Sundays.

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