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BBC and Television Genres in Jeopardy

Jeremy Tunstall

This book considers British television from the point of view of executive producers: the people who employ the workforce and are in charge of making all television series. The focus of the book is twenty-one separate genres, at least seven of which are in significant decline – namely current affairs, education, natural history, science, arts, children’s and religion. Some other public service genres – such as documentary, history and travel – are in good health. The most commercially successful genres include formatted factual entertainment series, such as cooking, homes, quiz/game, reality and sport.
The author completed 150 interviews not only with executive producers but with BBC and ITV channel controllers and top genre commissioners. Playing a supporting role are another 200 interviews, which were the basis of the author’s 1993 book, Television Producers. Since 1990, and especially since 2008, British television production has faced financial challenges. Meanwhile, BSkyB, Virgin Media and Channel Five are American controlled, and most of the larger London ‘independent’ production companies are now American or Euro-American owned and operated. Public service broadcasting in general, and BBC television in particular, are threatened with probable further decline. This book offers new insights into the state of British television through the eyes of those working on the inside.
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Chapter 3: Executive Producers, Independent Production and Celebrity

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CHAPTER 3

Executive Producers, Independent Production and Celebrity

Executive Producers are senior creative managers within British television. A typical hands-on executive producer is likely to be in charge of several million pounds per year of TV production spending. He or she is currently the immediate boss of perhaps fifty or 100 people across the peak weeks of a year. This might be a total of ten or twenty hours of TV per year on one of the bigger channels. British television has several hundred of these hands-on executive producers.

There are two main categories of hands-on executive producer. Firstly many producers work inside the BBC or ITV. But secondly many other executive producers work for Independent Production companies, which make much of the programming shown on Channels Four and Five and other smaller channels. Executive producers in independent companies also make a substantial quantity of all programming shown on the BBC and ITV channels.

This book mostly focuses on these two types of hands-on executive producer. But there is a third type of executive producer, who typically is not a hands-on producer. This senior executive producer is normally the working boss of several hands-on executive producers. In-house producers are senior people in the TV production hierarchy and very senior people within their own particular genre.

The hands-on executive producer is in charge of the broad creative approach of the particular TV series. The executive producer is the financial manager of...

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