BBC4 draws big names

Talent drawn to creative freedom

LONDON — High-profile actors and writers are signing on the dotted line for upstart U.K. digital web BBC4 at a fraction of the usual going rate because the web offers a creative dividend.

“We don’t have a big budget, but big-name talent likes working for us because of the passion and creative freedom we offer,” says BBC 4 controller Janice Hadlow, whose total budget is a mere £40 million ($68 million).

BBC4’s spring sked includes “The Chatterley Affair,” written by U.K. screenwriter Andrew Davies and featuring a rare appearance by vet British thesp Claire Bloom.

The skein is a fictional account of the 1960 British obscenity trial in which D.H. Lawrence’s novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” banned for its graphic sexual descriptions, finally received permission to publish in the U.K.

“Without cutting corners but by being ingenious we can make top-quality, challenging drama,” she adds.

Davis, who recently adapted an acclaimed version of Dickens’ “Bleak House” for BBC1, says that “The Chatterley Affair” is still likely to shock British sensibilities because of the explicit language used in court.

“I haven’t counted the number of times ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ are used, but let’s just say that I think BBC lawyers will be taking a close interest in the script,” he says.

BBC 4’s eclectic mix of original drama, comedy and music shows has created a loyal following of upscale, older viewers in the U.K.

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