In an interview special, controller of BBC Three Zai Bennett answers questions about the suitability of some programmes on his channel and which titles will survive budget cuts.
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Good afternoon and welcome to Points Of View.
Often the cliche "corridors of power" is misused
because captains of industry tend to be dotted all over the place.
But here, this really is one.
We're in the famous BBC Television Centre
and this is the corridor, this is the room where the controllers
and schedulers all sit and decide what goes on your television.
Today we're going to speak to one of those controllers in particular,
Zai Bennett, who runs BBC Three.
First, though, let's have a look at the other programmes that
have been attracting your attention, starting with To The Manor Reborn.
-This is your big pitch, Russell.
-Feels a bit like that at the moment.
We'll see how big it was in half an hour!
And the wardrobe comments continue with Formula One.
Wonderful that you could join us around this wonderful,
evocative, historic circuit.
And BBC Four's American season.
Three million Americans are now roaming around permanently in RVs,
and 90% of them are over the age of 55.
With me now is the BBC Three controller, Zai Bennett.
Zai, we've got a lot to ask you cos we've had a lot of questions.
I'd like to start, if I can,
with your decision to end Doctor Who Confidential.
Well, Doctor Who Confidential was a brilliant series
that we made six series of.
It's a show about the making of another show, Doctor Who.
There are only so many ways of explaining how a show is made.
In these straitened times, when BBC Three is cutting its budget,
we have to prioritise different shows,
the shows that we think are most important to our viewers.
Doctor Who Confidential was a great show, but after six series
we think it had a very good go at explaining how we make Doctor Who.
There were reports there was one sitting on a shelf,
that's nonsense, there is no finished programme sitting on a shelf.
That show was made for different people,
so for DVD and for BBC Worldwide,
and there was some footage, about ten minutes,
which will go online. There's not a finished show.
The cuts to your channel,
it's been said it'll mean there's only one big drama being made.
We've had suggestions as to what it should be.
Have you chosen the one that survives?
We've looked at the dramas.
Him & Her has already been re-commissioned
and that's a comedy series, not a drama.
We've just shown The Fades, Being Human is coming back
in the new year and Lip Service is returning.
The reduction in terms of our drama won't take effect
for at least two more years,
so we're hoping by a form of natural selection,
we'll know which ones will carry on.
Thank you, Zai.
We'll break for a moment to hear from a fan of MasterChef.
Here's a little mystery for you.
Why is British MasterChef so boring and dull?
Why are the scenarios so repetitive?
Why are the contestants so miserable seeming?
Why are the main presenters so low-wattage?
When Australian MasterChef,
which I've discovered elsewhere on British television,
is full of life, it's got fresh scenarios all the time,
the presenters are sympathetic, the contestants seem to be intelligent.
The great mystery of it all is,
they're both made by the same production company.
It goes to show we are in a global village now.
Tim was watching Australian MasterChef which he really enjoyed.
Family Guy is another import.
Our message board says,
although it's popular you are going to axe it.
Family Guy is a fantastic series, we love having it on BBC Three.
I can't go into the commercial negotiations
to see whether we can keep it or not,
but it'll be on the channel for the next few years.
We'll give you a rest for just a second and take a break.
Why don't we fill the break with trailers?
That's what channels do, isn't it?
Lots of people complain, but not everyone.
Sue Bocking likes them.
# Bring me sunshine in your smile
# Bring me laughter all the while... #
I really like BBC trails.
They are so much better than a lot of advertisements.
What I particularly like at the moment
is the one about the internet.
# My old mum said she wants to log on
# But she doesn't know her broadband from her blogs... #
As a person who likes to write,
I have a tendency to sort of listen for words.
And I found that the internet trail was fascinating,
where somebody has actually taken a song that we know
and has changed the words,
put it to a really nice tenor
and it makes a trail that people really do remember.
One that I think is really funny is the lady
that walks into a village hall, she must be 70,
she's in fishnet tights,
high-heeled shoes and she's wearing a telephone on her head.
It's the acting that really strikes you in this particular one.
You should see the faces of the audience drop.
Everybody just stands there with their mouths open.
Anybody with a figure like that at that age, I admire her enormously.
Sue Bocking is unusual there, she loves the trails and the idents.
But Daryl Millar wants to pick you up on those straps
you use across the screen, in particular.
Can't you get rid of those straps?
Lots of our viewers find them really helpful.
They help us move the audience around the schedule, telling them
what's coming on either immediately following that programme
or at the same time the next day,
or a similar show that they may enjoy. Our audience
in digital television are used to seeing these
on nearly all the channels.
Just to go back to one of our classic themes, the DOG,
the digital on-screen graphic.
Why have you not put your DOGs down?
Again, on BBC Three, with the young adult audience,
they're used to seeing these on-screen graphics across most
of the channels they watch on digital television.
They accept them as part of the way they view television channels.
OK, now Mongrels seems to be a very popular title for you,
and this is Jasmine.
Should I start knitting right now?!
If Mongrels is successful enough,
I'd be happy seeing it being merchandised in the shops
and being able to buy a Destiny's dog
next to a TARDIS on the shelves for Christmas.
At the moment, the series is still on air and hasn't finished.
We normally let them finish before deciding on re-commissioning,
that's what we'll do in this case.
Thank you, Zai. Now here's territory that BBC Three,
being so techno-savvy, could get in to.
There's a programme called Click and Paul Ross really likes it.
Whilst I understand that the BBC has a priority to deliver
breaking news when it happens, that breaking news always seems
to be right in the middle of my recording of the programme Click.
I could of course watch Click on the iPlayer, but that would mean
I would have to have a decent broadband connection, which I don't.
Wouldn't this be a great opportunity,
as we don't have flagship programmes like Tomorrow's World anymore,
for you to actually put Click on to a terrestrial channel
with its own scheduling,
which would mean I'd have half a chance of being able to record it?
So Paul was cross there about Click.
Why not have BBC Three pick it up,
or maybe have another technology slot?
I haven't seen Click, I'm afraid,
so I can't comment on that show at the moment.
In terms of BBC Three, we do embrace genres
and we quite like mixing them up.
We often mix documentary with science, for example,
in our series How Drugs Work and How Sex Works.
So we love having science and technology in our shows,
but usually those are as documentaries
and real people's stories are at the heart of them.
Another programme idea comes to you from Mummyfoo,
who's on our message board.
She really thinks the theme of Young Soldiers
should be explored more by BBC Three.
There will be a follow-up to Young Soldiers in the new year -
a one-hour special following up what's happened to them.
You did broadcast over the summer a programme called Our War
to great acclaim.
Do you think BBC Three has cornered the market in young soldiers
or youth in the armed forces?
The youth of soldiers is exactly why BBC Three is the right channel
to look at that particular area.
That's the reason why we commissioned and showed Our War
and Young Soldiers.
But I wouldn't want us to have too much of one type of programming,
or concentrate overly in one area.
We're revisiting Young Soldiers with a one-hour special.
Our War has been re-commissioned as well.
The subject of money is never far away when talking to controllers.
Here's a very specific question about a programme called
Don't Tell The Bride.
Was that BBC money that went behind the bar?
Don't Tell The Bride is one of our most successful shows,
it gets millions of viewers every week. It's been going for five series
and is coming back next year for its sixth. Great show.
What happens when we commission a show is we look, in that case,
it's an independent producer and we agree a tariff for the show.
We then fund that and they choose how they spend it.
Don't Tell The Bride has a comparable tariff for shows of that type.
Is the channel healthy? You've had a lot of budget stuff going on.
Still the most popular channel for young adults,
most popular digital channel for individuals.
BBC Three is the most popular digital channel for 16-34s,
so for young adults. That's amazing. It's also critically acclaimed.
We've won a huge range of awards, we're this year's
Digital Channel of the Year for the Edinburgh Channel Awards.
We've won an International Emmy and TV Choice Award for Being Human.
So the channel's on creative fire and the audience seem to love it,
so I'm confident about the future for BBC Three.
Thanks for speaking to us.
I don't think it would be a proper edition of Points Of View
if we didn't have a mention of Strictly.
So, here we go.
Yes, it's the filler between the dance-floor fillers
that is putting many viewers in a spin.
When Brucie says, "Now let's see what they got up to in training."
Here they are in training.
The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain.
Who are you?
I'm your fairy godmother.
'I say, why the long face?'
For some reason or other, they seem to have lost the plot
when it comes to actually showing the training.
I get the impression that the producers are stuck for what to do,
and in order to fill in the time,
they produce these silly little films.
They cart the celebrities off to all sorts of places
to do a bit of silly acting.
And really and truly,
they're not really up to this,
they ought to be concentrating on training as opposed to
dressing up in silly costumes
and trying to be something that they're not.
And still the semifinals and the final to go.
Our audience with Zai Bennett, in there, is over,
and indeed our autumn series is over too.
We'll be back with you in the spring,
doubtless back in there, banging on some doors for you.
Between now and then, if you want to be in touch with us
and each other, just go on the message board. Here is the address.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
In an interview special, controller of BBC Three Zai Bennett answers viewer questions about the suitability of some programmes on his channel and which titles will survive budget cuts.
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