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Four-year WWI season is BBC’s ‘biggest ever undertaking’

UK pubcaster the BBC will launch 130 programmes comprising 2,500 hours between 2014 and 2018 to commemorate the centenary of World War I, an initiative billed as biggest of kinds in British broadcasting history.

BBC WWIThe programmes will broadcast across the Beeb’s linear, online and radio channels across local and international feeds.

The initiative is being billed as the “biggest and most ambitious pan-BBC season ever undertaken”.

BBC director-general Tony Hall said: “This season is going to have a profound impact on the way we think about World War One. On television, on radio and on digital, we’ll be exploring how this conflict, above all others, shaped our families, our communities, our world – and continues to influence us today.’’

This will kick off next year with Britain’s Great War, a four-part BBC One doc series presented by Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman about how the lives of Britons were affected by the conflict.

Other linear programming will include BBC Two shows The Necessary War, which will comprise a pair of one-offs, and The Pity of War, in which historian Niall Ferguson will argue what the First World War meant from different perspectives.

Gallipoli, also for BBC Two, will look at the Gallipoli campaign, which is recognised as a disaster for the Allied forces and will include an exclusive interview with News Corp and 21st Century Fox owner Rupert Murdoch in which he will talk about his journalist father Keith’s role in exposing the truth behind the botched campaign.

My Great War will used unseen archive interview footage about life on the frontline, while The World’s War will tell stories from the perspective of Indian, African and Asian troops who fought alongside European soldiers.

Long Shadow will explore the conflict’s impact on politics, identity and national memory.

Further programming includes the already-announced Sarah Phelps drama The Ark for BBC One; Tony Jordan drama The Passing-Bells (aka The Great War); BBC Two factual drama 37 Days, which is about the final weeks before the outbreak of open hostilities in 1914; Teenage Tommies, about British boy soldiers; and BBC Three series Our World War, a spin-off of the BAFTA-winning Our War strand.

There will also be numerous radio programmes and an online BBC web portal, bbc.co.uk/ww1.

“What we offer over the coming four years will be much more than a chronological historical record,” said the BBC’s World War I Centenary controller Adrian Van Klaveren.

“We are setting out to broaden people’s understanding of the war and to commemorate and remember those who died. Through documentaries, drama, news coverage, children’s programmes and arts and performance, we will tell well-known stories from fresh perspectives and original stories so far untold.

Read a major report into upcoming World War I centenary programming in TBI’s October/November magazine and online at tbi-dev.knect365.com tomorrow