Exclusive: BBC Arts boss seeks cultural history & eyes co-pros for increased scale

Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain

The BBC is looking for contemporary cultural history content, particularly for its BBC2 channel, as well as co-pros for increased scale, the UK pubcaster’s arts boss has told TBI here at Sunnyside of the Doc in France.

Mark Bell, the long-serving BBC Arts commissioning editor, said that he is looking for both series and singles, predominantly for BBC2, which he said was on track to fulfill last year’s pledge of doubled investment in arts and music content.

“I think quite contemporary cultural history seems to be cutting through at the moment,” said Bell, who shared: “We’re looking for quite a broad range, from the reputational artist profiles, cultural history and big authored series, alongside fresh takes on cultural figures, explorations of cultural moments. Smart, clever, new ways into arts and culture that shed new light on stories that we want to tell. That’s what seems to work best for us.”

Bell revealed that he was particularly interested in shows with a “tight lens, illuminating a bigger picture” and pointed to recent factual commissions that exemplified this type of content, including this week’s new launch Lenny Henry’s Caribbean Britain and last year’s Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story.

Of the latter, Bell explained: “When you look at something like Lady Boss, I think that’s about much more than a female author from the 1980s. You tell her story and you tell the story of what it was like to be a successful woman in that era.

“You want to try to open that story out to the broadest possible number of people, some of whom may never have read a Jackie Collins book.”

Bell added that CNN in the US was a “brilliant” co-pro partner on the Lady Boss project and that he is keen to forge further co-pros to create projects of increased scale. “As we look for projects that can cut through, they do need a level of scale that often only co-pros can bring,” he said.

Tags: BBC, CNN

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