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BBC Doctors gets thumbs up in latest tendering exercise

BECTU has spoken out against the BBC's Compete or Compare policy which will put a large part of the BBC's output out to competition by the end of the current Charter period.

2 February 2018

BECTU has welcomed today's announcement that Doctors, the BBC's popular daytime soap produced in Birmingham, is to continue as a BBC production in the city until at least 2020.

The news will no doubt come as a relief to those working on the show and to the wider community at BBC Birmingham who don't want to see programmes lost, rather they want to see more BBC production located in the Midlands. 

Whilst BECTU's welcome is unequivocal the union is opposed to the policy of Compete or Compare which spawned this latest tendering exercise.

"Whilst today is a good day, there are concerns that pressure on programme management to compete with external bidders may mean that a lower bid has been accepted which could pose a threat to jobs" commented Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU.

Controversial changes

In 2016 the director general Tony Hall agreed that all of the BBC's output, outside of news, current affairs and children's programming, would be put out to tender during the course of the current Charter, now in its second year. Coinciding with this move were steps to create the latest wholly-owned subsidiary, BBC Studios, to compete for programming across the market on the same basis as the independent sector. 

The BBC's decision in March 2017 to award Songs of Praise to a consortium of Avanti/Nine Lives sparked a furious row when it became clear that the BBC had failed to safeguard staff terms and conditions, including union recognition. A satisfactory agreement was reached eventually but not without a lot of anguish for the staff affected and for their colleagues in the wider Religion and Ethics department. 

One of the principles behind the Compete or Compare policy is to allow independent producers access to opportunities to produce output for the BBC. Last month Avanti, the leading partner in the consortium now producing Songs of Praise, was bought into by Sky Vision, the distribution arm of satellite broadcaster Sky. Sky Vision now owns a controlling 51% stake in Avanti having increased this from a 15% interest secured in 2017.   

The BBC issued the following release today:

BBC Studios win competitive tender for daytime drama Doctors

The BBC today announced the result of the fourth title put out to competitive tender, as part of the Charter & Agreement requirement to open up more of the BBC’s TV programming to competition.

BBC One’s daytime continuing drama series Doctors will continue to be produced by BBC Studios for the next two years in Birmingham.

The BBC invited pitches from all producers to test who could deliver the best quality and ambition for viewers at the best price. The process scored bidders on their editorial vision for the show, value for money, and how it delivers against the BBC’s strategic priorities.
A BBC evaluation team made the decision based on criteria openly shared with all suppliers who were eligible to tender. The process included all the recommendations from Peter Johnston's review in 2017.

Dan McGolpin, Controller, Programming & Daytime for BBC Content who led the evaluation team says :

“BBC Studios will continue to produce BBC One’s much-loved daytime drama series Doctors until at least 2020. They scored highest against a range of criteria set at the start of what turned out to be a very competitive process. We received some extremely strong bids and I would like to thank all of those involved for the time and creativity that they put into them.”
The first titles opened up to competitive tender were A Question of Sport, Holby City and Songs of Praise. The first two were retained by BBC Studios and the latter was awarded to two independent producers Avanti and Nine Lives. Horizon was also opened up to a competitive pitch process, with independent producers Windfall Films and Wingspan Productions joining BBC Studios to produce bundles of films for the BBC’s flagship science strand, as well as a number of single films placed into development with a range of independent producers.

The BBC will be releasing further opportunities to the market across 2018, some of these will be further tenders for existing series, some will be specific invitations to pitch for new shows with a clear purpose, and others will be open to competition for the best ideas as part of the normal commissioning process. The requirements for each tender are communicated at the time of publication, with enough time for suppliers to do appropriate research and preparation.

The tendering of returning series currently produced by BBC Studios forms part of the ‘Compete or Compare’ strategy launched by BBC Director-General Tony Hall in 2014, which underlined the BBC’s commitment to commission the best programmes for audiences, regardless of who makes them.


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