Plans Provide Hope of More Radio Commissions for Scots Indies

Plans have been unveiled which will potentially double the access of Scottish independent radio production companies to commissions across BBC Radio.

The measures – announced by BBC Director of Audio and Music, Tim Davie – follows criticism from the BBC Trust, the governing body of the BBC, regarding the relationship between the BBC and independent production companies. Said the Trust in March last year: “BBC networks represent virtually the only substantial opportunity for independent producers. It would therefore fall to the BBC alone to shoulder the burden of creating a larger, and more financially sustainable, independent sector”.

Between 15 and 17 per cent of BBC Radio Scotland’s output is currently produced by independent companies. Among the main Scots indies are Bees Nees, Demus Productions, Neon, Dabster Productions, Comedy Unit and Stark Productions. Across the board, there was a reluctance to comment, among those Scots companies contacted by allmediascotland, before the details of the plans had been fully digested.

Among Davie's proposals is the scrapping of a 'preferred supplier list' for BBC Radio Four commissioning rounds.

Head of BBC Radio Scotland, Jeff Zycinski, told allmediascotland: “We felt that indies supplying to BBC Radio Scotland should be able to bid for any slots on network radio.”

Also among the plans is the introduction of a ten per cent so-called 'Window of Creative Competition'. The BBC is currently required to commission indies to produce ten per cent of its output. WoCC will essentially create the potential for indies to double their commissions for BBC Radio by opening up a further ten per cent of work to their bids, albeit in competition with BBC in-house operations.

Chair of The Radio Independents Group, Mike Hally, described himself as: “cautiously positive” that the changes would mean there would be more programmes to bid for at the next round of commissioning in Spring next year.

The appointment of an 'indie champion' – Chris Burns, group manager for BBC Audio and Music – was also welcomed by Hally, who added: “Burns is doing quite a bit to transform relations between the BBC and the independent sector, which have been a bit strained at times”.

A review of the commissioning timetable should also ensure that independent companies have more time to prepare their pitch. Additionally, a simpler budgeting system is to be set in place by the BBC, which will shorten the time taken to put projects into production.

Launching his five-point plan, Davie is quoted as saying: “These measures represent a real advance in building a partnership between BBC Radio and the independent production sector overall. We intend to make BBC Radio a simpler and easier place to do business with so that the best ideas make it to the air.”