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BBC Studios hires Optomen exec for factual post

Formats-logo-460_2Jon SwainThe BBC has poached the head of formats at All3Media-owned Optomen Television, Jon Swain, to lead a new production unit called Popular Factual (WT).

The division will look to create new and returning popular factual, lifestyle series and features from bases in Bristol, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It will sit within a new BBC Studios Factual division, which will also house Planet Earth II prodco Natural History Unit, Factual Scotland, Science, Documentaries, and Topical and Live.

Subject to regulatory approval, the UK pubcaster’s new production division, BBC Studios, will launch as a commercially-driven, fully BBC-owned subsidiary next year (though the branding is already present on BBC-produced programming).

With the current structure, which guarantees the BBC a certain number of in-house commissions, being scrapped, 100% of BBC programming will come from competitive tenders. BBC Studios will also be free to produce for other networks.

Swain was previously Optomen’s director of development and head of formats, developing and executive producing across factual genres. He also worked as a development consultant for Optomen in the US.

His production credits include BBC Two’s Employable Me, Pride & Prejudice: Having a Ball, Great British Menu, and Channel 4’s The F Word.

“I’m thrilled to be launching the Popular Factual unit,” he said. “It’s home to some wonderful programmes and great programme-makers. I’m very much looking forward to championing the unit’s current stable of brilliant formats, and working with the team on a new generation of shows.”

The news comes soon after the BBC revealed the production division Samantha Antiss and Sam Bickley run was called Auntie Productions, and has a pair of BBC Two commissions in the bag, In Your Ear and Inside the World’s Most Extraordinary Hotels.

It also comes after BBC Studios announced it was making 300 staffers redundant as part of a wider restructure aimed at honouring government orders to cut costs.