In today’s Global Bulletin, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson appoints Richard Sharp as next BBC chair; the BBC ramps up educational programming in response to British school closures; Netflix announces a new original feature in Spain; Naked hires Natalie McArdle as director of development; and Big Light Productions announces 2021 apprenticeship winner.
Former Goldman Sachs banker Richard Sharp has been selected by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the next BBC chairman, succeeding Sir David Clementi. U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed the appointment on Wednesday.
Sharp’s appointment arrives at a contentious time for the public broadcaster, which is currently embroiled in fractious debates about license fees and facing unprecedented competition from commercial rivals, both domestic and abroad.
While at Goldman Sachs, Sharp was the boss of Rishi Sunak, current U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer. Sharp has also acted as an informal adviser to Sunak since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He is understood to have played a key role in the creation of the U.K. government’s $1.9 billion arts sector lifeline and in the $648 million production insurance scheme.
“Richard’s leadership in the top flight of finance and commerce, combined with his passion for culture and public service make him the ideal person for this hugely important role,” Dowden said. “He is exactly the chair the BBC needs right now. I’m confident he will drive forward reforms to the BBC to ensure it impartially reflects and serves the needs of all parts of the U.K., and evolves to remain a global success that is central to British national life in the decades ahead.”
Sharp said: “The BBC is at the heart of British cultural life and I’m honoured to be offered the chance to help guide it through the next chapter in its history.”
Sharp will commence his duties in February, after he appears before the U.K. parliament Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee next week. Committee chair Julian Knight said: “The DCMS Committee looks forward to questioning the preferred candidate for the post in a pre-appointment hearing next week on their views at a critical time for the BBC about its role and the future of public service broadcasting more generally.”
As U.K. schools were forced to return to remote learning for the foreseeable future, thanks to the country’s third lockdown, public service broadcaster BBC will offer curriculum-based learning from Jan. 11.
Each weekday from 9am on CBBC (Children’s BBC), a three-hour block of primary school programming will be available, including “BBC Live Lessons” and “BBC Bitesize Daily,” as well as other educational programming such as “Our School” and “Celebrity Supply Teacher” and popular titles like “Horrible Histories,” “Art Ninja” and “Operation Ouch.”
BBC Two will cater for secondary students with programming to support the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) curriculum, with two hours of content each weekday.
Netflix has announced “A mil kilómetros de la Navidad,” (A Thousand Miles from Christmas), a new original feature for Christmas 2021, filmed under pandemic conditions in Madrid over the 2020 holiday season.
Directed by Alvaro Fernández Armero (“If I Were a Rich Man,” “Todo es mentira”), the holiday special stars Tamar Novas from Netflix’s original Spanish series “The Mess You Leave Behind,” a constant on the platform’s Top 10 in Spain over recent weeks. Madrid-based Nadie es Perfecto is producing.
The comedy turns on grinchy Raul, a thirty-something who has always had terrible luck at Christmas time. Normally, Raul ignores the holiday and finds a distant beach to wait out the festive period, but this year he is forced by his employer to visit the festive village of Valverde, where Christmas is a way of life.
Fremantle company Naked has hired Natalie McArdle as its new director of development, reporting to creative director Tom O’Brien starting in February.
McArdle joins Naked from Twofour where she served as director of development, heading the label’s development team focused on brand creation, formats and factual series. She also spent time as head of development and executive producer at Electric Ray.
Fremantle acquired a minority stake in Naked in 2015 before announcing full 100% ownership in February of last year, at the same time appointing Simon Andreae as CEO of the business.
Independent production company Big Light Productions, producers of “The Man in the High Castle” and upcoming “Leonardo,” has awarded its annual writers’ apprenticeship to Bulgarian screenwriter Nadya Todorova.
Todorova will join Big Light in a paid, two-month role alongside the likes of CEO Frank Spotnitz (“The X-Files,” “The Man in the High Castle”) and creative director Emily Feller (“Medici,” “Trust Me”). Due to COVID social distancing and restricted travel, this year’s apprenticeship will be held virtually.
Todorova is a graduate of the APP Screenwriting program at FAMU in Prague and has written for several series in the Czech Republic. She was also selected as a Berlinale Talent at the Berlin Script Pitch and EastWest Talent Lab.