Tony Corridor Is Leaving The BBC However Rising Variety Is Not A Easy Matter Of Altering The Gatekeepers


The BBC wants to fret much less about altering its gatekeepers, and extra about altering the buildings behind them.

On Monday 20th the BBC’s Director Basic, Tony Corridor, introduced he could be stepping down.


Following the announcement I’ve obtained the standard messages from individuals asking me who I feel ought to substitute him. As I write a lot about variety individuals have requested me if I feel there are any appropriate girls, disabled or ethnic minority candidates. And naturally there are a number of; from Sharon White and Alex Mahon who’re being touted by the commerce papers, to Paula Kerger (the present CEO of PBS within the US) to Channing Dungey (the President of ABC) if we wished to forged our web just a little wider.
However implicit in these questions is the argument one usually hears, that if we have been solely in a position to change the gatekeepers then we might resolve variety.

In some ways on the subject of British broadcasting there is no such thing as a extra highly effective gatekeeper than the Director Basic of the BBC, and so we simply want to seek out the proper gatekeeper.

This isn’t an argument I subscribe to, and it doesn’t standup to scrutiny.


Gatekeepers do matter however to increase the metaphor the buildings the gatekeepers are guarding matter extra.

Take for instance the assorted commissioners at ITV, Channel 5, BBC, Channel 4, Sky and Netflix. All crucial gatekeepers deciding which programmes are made and broadcast.

The completely different broadcasters have very completely different charges of variety, each behind and in entrance of the digital camera. Nevertheless the pool of commissioners that every one the broadcasters draw from could be very small.

It is not uncommon for a gatekeeper to maneuver from BBC to ITV to Sky to Channel Four and again once more.

If gatekeepers actually mattered as a lot as individuals appear to suppose, then variety charges of the programmes would comply with the commissioners who’re good at variety and fall accordingly. However this doesn’t appear to occur.

As an alternative the gatekeepers fee in line with the buildings and calls for of the broadcasters they discover themselves working in. ITV is poor at variety and the gatekeepers fee accordingly. Channel Four and Netflix are higher at variety (comparatively talking) and the gatekeepers act accordingly. What’s attention-grabbing is the gatekeepers are the identical set of individuals shifting between the completely different organisations.

To underline this level Mark Thompson was the pinnacle gatekeeper at Channel Four as CEO from 2002 – 2004 and was then the pinnacle gatekeeper of the BBC because the Director Basic from 2004-2012.


In my expertise on the BBC gatekeepers didn’t fee extra programmes out of London as a result of they have been extra enlightened about regional variety. Channel controllers didn’t broadcast extra high-end drama in prime-time as a result of they’d a selected love of drama.

The gatekeepers have been fulfilling their duties inside the parameters of the organisations they have been guarding (excuse the prolonged use of this metaphor). And people parameters are arrange by negotiations (immediately and not directly) between Ofcom, the broadcasters, authorities departments, commerce our bodies and unions. In addition they take into consideration the industrial realities and fashions the broadcasters are working below.

It’s exactly this argument Sir Lenny Henry, Simon Albury MBE and I made on the Home of Lords choose committee when giving proof about variety and streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon. We didn’t think about the person gatekeepers however how the organisations differed. (One fast instance; Anne Mensah is the Vice President of Authentic Collection at Netflix, however has additionally been an necessary gatekeeper at Sky and the BBC. Her skill to champion variety appears to have grown now she is at Netflix in comparison with her time on the different two broadcasters – I doubt her views on variety have modified).


Gatekeepers matter.

Everybody who works in tv has tales of excellent and dangerous exec producers, good and dangerous commissioners, and even good and dangerous director generals.

And dealing inside the confines of the group good gatekeepers can ship higher outcomes than dangerous gatekeepers.

Because of this I might be cheering on the individuals I genuinely hope would make nice director generals of the BBC – and my checklist is replete with nice girls and folks of color. 

However I might be dedicating extra of my efforts to creating buildings that can allow good gatekeepers to make optimistic change and restrict the dangerous gatekeepers from messing up too badly.