Report – Commissioner Conversations: BBC

Posted on: Thursday 07 July 2016 1:51pm by Simon Bor

Commissioners from CBBC, CBeebies and Interactive reveal their plans


  • You are who you are and you should be proud (Changemaker)
  • BBC look for Voice, Choice and Rolls Royce
  • The ‘Play Time’ app has been downloaded 6 million times


The session was opened with a presentation by Changemaker Leo Waddell. A 15-year-old transgender boy, Leo was featured on ‘I am Leo’, part of CBBC’s ‘My Life’ documentary series. Born female, he always knew he was boy. He resented this mother using female pronouns and calling him Lilly.

Transgender people’s brains don’t match their bodies. His doctor told him not to worry and accept he would grow up a lesbian. When his mother changed his name to Leo by deed poll, the school brought in social services. This led to assessment at the Tavistock Transgender clinic, where he was told “he was a boy and a trans”.

After a positive article about him in the Daily Mirror, he was interviewed on ‘This Morning’ and then went on to become the subject of the award winning ‘I am Leo’. He now is having eggs frozen for future use and is due to begin hormone treatment.

‘You are who you are and you should be proud,’ he told the audience.

John Morris of Morris Media said that it was DSC8769a tribute to the BBC that they had made the documentary as he introduced the commissioners for the session. Kay Benbow, Controller, CBeebies, Claire Stocks, Head of Interactive, BBC Children’s and Cheryl Taylor, Controller CBBC.

Cheryl said that everyone knows that the BBC has a lot of platforms. What they look for is content that includes Voice, Choice and Rolls Royce. (tThe first two being relatively obvious and the last being nice to have as it rhymed!)

The BBC aims to give a voice to people like Leo, it gives a choice not just in genre but with the platforms; being where the kids are. On average, between 35 and 45% of content is from indies. She highlighted a new fully funded show, ‘Got What it Takes’. This is a Romanian format that has been revamped for a public service audience. An X factor style show where mother’s help their children win the competition. The prize was to sing at the Radio 1 big weekend.

Kay is not often able to fully fund animation and more expensive drama. Budget shortfalls on these need to be topped up with ancillary revenues in some cases, and co-production or distribution deals. It’s important that it is clear where budget shortfall top-ups come from, as was the case with ‘Apple Tree House’, featuring a diverse family. Originally intended as an animation project, she asked the producers to adapt it for drama. CBeebies were able to put in around two thirds of the budget.

Claire Stocks said that The ‘Play Time’ app has been downloaded six million times and the follow up, ‘Play Time Island’, will launch in September. It is a suite of games within an app. They have been created on the HTML format so that they can also be used on the website. All their content is 100% funded and the budget has been increased by two million this year.

Claire suggested the best way to pitch was through the commissioning website but both Cheryl and Kay are happy to receive initial pitches by email, though Kay added that animation projects for CBeebies should be directed to Jackie Edwards.  And delegates were encouraged to meet the various CBBC and CBeebies commissioning executives attending speed meetings after the session, who were all involved in finding and assessing proposals and then worked closely with programme-makers to realise the BBC’s ambitions for projects as they develop and go into production.

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Simon Bor

About the author

Simon Bor


I studied Animation at Farnham, and, more recently, I have been awarded an MA in Professional Writing at Falmouth University. I set up Honeycomb Animation with Sara Bor and have been involved in children’s television since the mid eighties. As a writer, I have co written and created several shows… Read more