Spend on UK Original TV Drama Drops

22nd July 2010 by Maura McHugh

According to an article in The Stage commissions of UK television drama has fallen by 17% since 2005.

The Ofcom statistics, released last week, show that public service broadcasters – including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five – spent £732 million on drama and soaps in 2009, compared with £886 million in 2005. In 2008, their spend on drama was £819 million – 11% more than in 2009.

Responding to the news, leading TV writer Neil McKay, whose credits include Mo and See No Evil – The Moors Murders, said if less money was spent on drama, broadcasters might become “more cautious” about what kind of drama was commissioned.

He said: “This is understandable, because people are in fear for their jobs. But it affects established writers in terms of the range and breadth of form and subject matter, and there are fewer opportunities for new writers.”

McKay added TV drama had made an “extraordinarily valuable contribution to our cultural life,” and it had become “hard to escape the impression that it’s in terminal decline”. He added: “In 20 or 30 years’ time, I wonder if anything will be left?”

Gail Renard, chair of the television committee at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, echoed his concerns. Renard said it “worries, saddens and horrifies me that less and less money is being spent on original drama”.

She added: “It’s also a false economy for any company not to put money into original scripted programming, as it brings in much-needed income, not to mention prestige, both at home and abroad for decades to come.”

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