Part Three

Jack Kibble-White takes on BBC2

First published August 2001

All in all I had tried to exert a Grade-esque control over my schedules without becoming too hung up on ensuring absolutely everything started on the hour or half-hour (after all BBC2 programmes should be given the space they demand). However, I still approached my presentation with some trepidation.

Being fourth up to present my channel to my peers, I had witnessed the mauling my colleague at BBC1 had received and had contributed to much of the debate on Channels 5 and 4. In the event though, I felt I got off comparatively lightly. I purposely began by contextualising my work in regard to the aforementioned MacTaggart lecture, mainly in the hope that my colleagues would be largely unfamiliar with it and thus unable to criticise my interpretation. However, criticism instead focussed on the specific scheduling decisions I had made.

First off, providing schools programmes for only 105 minutes a day was considered almost desultory in comparison to BBC2′s current commitment. My scheduling of children’s programmes to start at 8.30am was also questioned: surely most children would be on their way to school by then? BBC1 helpfully ridiculed my decision to screen last Friday’s At Last – Friday! (their new entertainment programme) on a Monday lunchtime – so much for BBC solidarity there. I was next asked to justify the late start of Working Lunch and to explain how Westminster Live could accommodate Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday if the programme didn’t start until 3pm. My new cookery format was deemed to rip off a similar format on a satellite channel and titling my gritty new drama on racial tensions Dark Times was viewed as bad taste. My reliance on The Simpsons (in total receiving five screenings a week) was also analysed and questions were asked of the logistics and purpose of my Thursday and Friday night investigation into people’s ambitious plans The Project.

However, the weekend proved my most contentious piece of scheduling. ITV pointed out with some validity that I had omitted Sunday Grandstand entirely. Many questions were asked of You Are Here, and I sensed that the programme would not win many viewers round this table. Whilst I defended what I felt to be an innovative idea from the onslaught, I was left with the sneaking feeling that should any one of my colleagues follow me into the role of BBC2 Controller, Tommy Boyd’s days back on national television would be numbered. Robot Wars Live was described unilaterally as too technically difficult and fraught with points of failure, and my 90-minute Saturday night commitment to live arts was said to be too short to allow me to cover major events such as operas in their entirety. Some of my programmes did seem to escape criticism however, my new Louis Theroux vehicle (in which Louis travels the country offering the services of his film crew to the most deserving and interesting causes) required further explanation but then seemed to be accepted. Similarly, I think Saturday Reputations and Television Stories (my new documentary series) escaped criticism, and my decision to move away from the I Love … type of programmes was generally greeted favourably.

<Part Two