LONDON — The BBC is doubling its investment in flagship documentaries to £266 million ($412.8 million) over three years in the hope of producing more ratings hits like “Walking With Dinosaurs” and “The Blue Planet.”
Initiative was announced by Jana Bennett, the pubcaster’s new director of television, who was previously head of the Learning Channel in the U.S.
It marks an attempt by the BBC to reassert its public service values at a time when the regime of director-general Greg Dyke is attracting criticism for dumbing-down in a successful pursuit of ratings.
Bennett unveiled a peak-time documentary strand on BBC1 and promised a significant increase in factual programming on the mainstream web and its minority sister BBC2.
“The entertainment and drama series which are the cornerstones of BBC1’s success are in place. Now we need to take risks and add more complexity to the programming,” she said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
By land and sea
New blockbuster docs include a series on British flora and fauna; a history of Moses; and “The Ship,” in which volunteers will re-enact the voyages of 18th-century explorer Captain Cook.
The news of the BBC’s increased investment in docs will compound the misery of its commercial rival ITV, which the BBC has overtaken in the ratings over the past year. ITV is suffering from the ad slump and huge losses on its defunct ITV Digital platform.