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The future shape of the BBC’s digital TV channels has come into focus with commissioning stripped right back at BBC4, and a Midlands factual scheme and three drama orders for BBC3 as it gears up for its return as a linear channel.

The BBC has called time on BBC4 originals, depriving viewers of successors to recent critical hits such as Wildflame Productions' The Story of Welsh Art [pictured].

The BBC has outlined plans to ‘delve into the unparalleled riches’ of the BBC archive with a mix of classic drama, comedy and documentaries. In line with director general Tim Davie’s wider vision for commissioning, it will shift away from ordering a high volume of “lower cost programmes that are less effective at reaching audiences”, the corporation has stated.

The channel, which has upped its focus on archive scripted shows of late, showing 1989 drama Mother Love in tribute to Diana Rigg, and marking the 50th anniversary of Glenda Jackson’s Elizabeth, will still showcase high-profile documentaries in Storyville and live performances in Young Musician of the Year and some of the BBC’s Proms coverage.

According to the BBC’s 2021/22 Annual Plan, some 76% of BBC4’s nightly schedule is currently repeats.

Meanwhile, BBC head of drama Piers Wenger has unveiled three six-part scripted orders for BBC3 as part of a tranche of dramas from the nations and regions:
  • Domino, a series from Dancing Ledge Productions about a powerful young witch in contemporary Manchester haunted by her need to feed on the energy of others, whose every move is tracked by a coven convinced her powers will destroy everything around her;
  • Wrecked, a six-part mystery horror thriller from Northern Ireland, set on a cruise ship and produced by Euston Films;
  • Grime Kids, a Mammoth Screen series set against the backdrop of the 1990s grime music scene

The BBC has brought in BFI Network head Jessica Loveland to lead a new Writersroom hub in Salford as head of new writing.

Her team will comprise four commissioning editors: Ben Irving (Wales); Tommy Bulfin (Northern Ireland); Gaynor Holmes (Scotland) and Jo McClellan (north of England).

The BBC is now hiring for assistant commissioning editors to develop new writers. They will report to this team and to Loveland.

The Annual Plan also touched on the return of youth-skewing BBC3 to linear, which is being coupled with a doubling of its budget to £80m and a Midlands-based documentary scheme to echo the success of its Northern Voices programme.

“We want to tell young, authentic, regional stories and to develop a talent pipeline from the Midlands region, which we will look to replicate in other areas over time,” the plan stated.

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