BBC needs a compliance system that doesn’t act as a barrier to creativity.
The words “Ed Pol” are frequently spat out by producers fed up with the reams of red tape thrown at them by the BBC.
Some, including leading film-makers such as Brian Woods, accuse the Editorial Policy Unit of suppressing the desire of programme-makers to push boundaries and take risks.
So what does best-practice compliance look like? It’s about having a team whose first instinct is to publish rather than obstruct. It’s about an approach that says “how can we make this happen?”, as opposed to focusing on the doom and gloom of where potential problem points lie.
It’s also about having a simplifi ed, one-stop-shop approach to legal issues - not the multiple, and sometimes confl icting, tiers of compliance that some say characterise the BBC.
While not entirely flawless, the C4 system is hailed as an example that the BBC would do well to adopt. Instead of the two-pronged approach of a legal team and an EPU, there is a lawyer who works across both, helping to avoid the exhausting hoop-jumping that costs time and, more importantly in today’s climate, money.
When C4 turned 25, Broadcast asked key talent to talk about some of the channel’s successes.
Time and again, programme-makers thanked the legal team for helping to bring controversial issues to the screen, from Brass Eye’s paedophilia special and Diana: The Witness In The Tunnel, to Damned In The USA, which saw a week-long trial and a $6m claim for damages - a battle C4 fought “on principle”.
After on-screen fakery scandals, Queengate and Sachsgate, and with more government, press and public scrutiny than ever before, would these programmes be made today?
That’s why it’s so heartening to see BBC Vision listening to film-makers and engaging with them on the back of Broadcast’s coverage of the issue. When our Producer’s Perspective survey highlighted that compliance was stifling creativity, it illuminated a point on which programme-makers have been quick to expand.
The BBC would do well to remember its strengths. As Chris Evans pointed out at this week’s BBC Vision Forum, “everyone is scared”, but the fear is largely unfounded.
Not only are the people who work with and for the BBC immensely talented, the criticism thrown at it does not have to be taken so seriously, particularly as it can be characterised as “more dandruff than arrows”.
A pat on the back, a belief in one’s ability, faith in programme-makers and a compliance system that helps, not hinders, must all be on the agenda, he suggested.
Evans proved to be a passionate and credible advocate of the BBC, reminding the staffers and indies in the room why the BBC matters - and why compliance shouldn’t quite so much.
Lisa Campbell is editor of Broadcast