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BBC poaches Channel 4 drama chief

Scripted-logo-460_2Piers WengerChannel 4’s drama chief Piers Wenger is leaving the UK broadcaster to join the territory’s pubcaster, the BBC.

Wenger (pictured) has beaten off competition to land the role of controller, BBC drama commissioning, which is th most high-profile position in British sciripted television. He begins this autumn.

In turn, Channel 4 has promoted deputy head of drama Beth Willis (below right) to become the new head of drama at the public service network. She goes on maternity leave this summer, however, meaning head of comedy Phil Clarke will become head of scripted and oversee both drama and comedy until she returns.

Wenger joins the BBC to replace Polly Hill, who moved to run drama at ITV after just eleven months in the top post at the BBC to take over from Steve November. Lucy Richter has been overseeing drama at the Corporation on an interim basis, but did not apply for the full time role.

At the BBC, Wenger will oversee more than 450 hours of drama a year. He previously ran drama at BBC Wales between 2008 and 2012, commissioning Parade’s End and hiring Matt Smith as the lead in Doctor Who.

He then moved to Channel 4, where he commissioned dramas such as Indian Summers, No Offence and Humans for Channel 4 and E4.

“I have had an unforgettable and brilliant time at Channel 4 and it is with real sadness that I am saying goodbye,” said Wenger. “But the scope and scale of BBC drama make this an irresistible challenge and I could not be more excited about joining the talented team there and for the new relationships and creative adventures which lie ahead of me at the BBC.”

Beth Willis“Piers is a brilliant creative leader with great taste and a passion for writing,” said BBC controller, TV channels and iPlayer Charlotte Moore. “He has a breadth of experience and knowledge of the global industry, as well as a real understanding of audiences. BBC Drama is in exceptional form and I’m thrilled that Piers will continue to build on this and enhance our world-class reputation.”

Channel 4’s chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, said Wenger was an “exceptional head of drama, delivering award winning shows with record breaking audiences” adding it was a “fitting tribute to what he has achieved at 4 that he has been poached for the biggest job in drama commissioning”.

Willis, meanwhile, has worked on Channel 4 dramas such as the upcoming Crazy Face, Kiss Me First and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, as well as Humans, No Offence and Indian Summers.

She has been deputy drama chief since 2012, and prior to that was an executive producer for the BBC and at Endemol Shine Group’s Kudos. He began her career as a script editor at Granada, where Wenger was also head of development.

“Beth is a passionate programme maker and a superlative commissioner,” said Hunt. “She has played a critical part in Channel 4’s success and I am looking forward to working with her on the next phase of great drama at 4.”

“I’m honoured and excited to be given this opportunity to usher in the next wave of ambitious, distinctive and entertaining dramas to the channel,” said Willis. “I’m passionate about finding brilliant writers and producers – and encouraging them to do what they do best.”