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Doctors: why it has been axed and when does the TV show end?

Regional daytime TV production has been dealt a double blow this week with the axing of both BBC1’s Doctors and Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch.

The BBC blamed “super-inflation in drama production” for its decision to end daytime continuing drama Doctors, which is made by BBC Studios and filmed in Birmingham.

“The cost of the programme has increased significantly, and further investment is also now required to refurbish the site where the show is made, or to relocate it to another home,” the BBC said in a statement.

“With a flat licence fee, the BBC’s funding challenges mean we have to make tough choices in order to deliver greater value to audiences.” 

Doctors is recognised as a training ground, particularly for writers and directors. The BBC said it remains “fully committed” to the West Midlands and will reinvest the show’s funding into new programmes and will continue to create training opportunities in scripted output from the region.

Bectu said it is “incredibly disappointing to see creative jobs lost in Birmingham, branding the BBC’s move “a devastating blow for our members, permanent, fixed term and freelancers”. Doctors, it said, represents “yet another victim of the BBC licence fee funding freeze resulting in difficult cuts.”

The decision – two years after the BBC axed fellow medical show Holby City ­­– has been made against a backdrop of investment in the area.

Kudos and Peaky Blinders Stephen Knight have partnered to create a drama production hub with a strong focus on nurturing diverse and under-represented voices. The first Kudos Knight project is upcoming BBC1 drama This Town.

Kudos has already ploughed £500,000 into local training and development and is working with the Birmingham Film Academy on the initial stages.

Doctors, which has run for 23 years and around 4,400 episodes, will end in December. When the BBC axed Holby City in 2021, it said it will commission two continuing dramas from the regions, the first of which is Rope Ladder Fiction and Wall to Wall’s Manchester-based revival of Waterloo Road.

Steph’s Packed Lunch

Channel 4 axe Steph's Packed Lunch 'out of blue' as real reason emerges -  Birmingham Live
Steph's Packed Lunch

Channel 4’s decision to axe Steph’s Packed Lunch after more than three years and around 680 episodes will impact around 80 staff, mostly working on contracts.

The Expectation/Can-Can magazine format was part-and-parcel of C4’s move to Leeds and galvanised the local production community, while providing a live fulcrum to the broadcaster's daytime schedule for the first time in years.

C4's decision not to recommission the show at the end of its current contract points to the challenges of holding an audience for live, scheduled, shows in an increasingly on-demand age.

Chief content officer Ian Katz said C4 was now reallocating its budget to fund new shows from the nations and regions that could drive support the broadcasters’ “laser-like focus” on driving digital growth.

“With audience habits changing faster than ever we need to focus our resources more rigorously than ever on driving streaming, and prioritise programmes that drive digital growth wherever we can,” he wrote to staff.

Katz pointed to regional productions such as Top Guns: Inside the RAF (Leeds/Manchester-based True North, filmed in Scotland); Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker (Bristol/Manchester-based Plimsoll Productions) and Sky Coppers (filmed in the West MIdlands and produced out of North One's Birmingham office) as the kind of shows that cut through.

Despite the decision, C4 remains committed to making 50% of its original output in the nations and regions.

It has said it intends to grow the number of roles outside London beyond the current level of 500 and will “build on the legacy of the show”, including potential new projects with host Steph McGovern.

The show's executive producer, Vivek Sharma, recently moved to ITV's rival This Morning in the new role of associate editor.

Sharma, a former deputy editor of the ITV show, will be tasked with stabilising the show and recasting its presenters following the departures of both Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby.

The final episode of Steph’s Packed Lunch will air on 8 December.

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