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WoCC: Indies securing more BBC tender hours

UK independent producers are securing more BBC drama, entertainment and children’s commissions than in previous years, according to the latest review into the pubcaster’s indie commissioning process.

The third BBC Trust review of the BBC’s Window of Creative Comptition showed 43% of all BBC network hours came from the indie sector in 2010/11 and 46% in 2011/12.

Under terms of the WoCC, which came into effect in 2007, indies are guaranteed 25% of network hours, with BBC in-house programmes accounting for a minimum 50% and the other 25% up for tender.

The review revealed indies secured 72% and 83% of those available tender hours in 2010/11 and 2011/12, respectively, especially in drama (99% in 2011/12), entertainment (90%) and children’s (81%).

However, indies are missing out on WoCC comedy commissions, which fell from 79% in 2010/11 to 49% the following year. Peak hour WoCC commissions were up 12% for drama, but fell in comedy, entertainment, sport and knowledge (factual).

“We have found that after six years of the WoCC, the principle of choosing the best ideas regardless of source is firmly embedded in the BBC’s commissioning culture. This is good news and can only have a positive impact on the Corporation’s ability to deliver high quality television for licence fee payers,” said Anthony Fry, the BBC Trustee who lead the review.

“However, we have identified some areas for further improvement. We particularly want to see more work going into ensuring that independent producers and in-house teams are aware of all commissioning opportunities, and that they have confidence in an open and fair process at the BBC.”

UK indies body Pact welcomed the report and noted that in general the WoCC was “working well and meeting its aim of increasing competition between BBC in-house production and external suppliers”.

However, Pact questioned whether the BBC’s in-house quota was “acting as a cap on external commissions” and could prevent commissioners from “always commissioning the best ideas which demonstrate value for the licence fee payers”.

“We call on the BBC Trust to consider the impact of the in-house quota on competition in the BBC commissioning process as soon as possible,” Pact added in a submission to the Trust.