Belfast Telegraph

BBC's Piers Wenger promises more diversity in period dramas

The head of drama shared his plans to stay ahead of the competition from streaming services.

BBC chief Piers Wenger has promised to introduce more diversity into drama as part of his plans to beat competition from TV streaming services.

The broadcaster’s new head of drama said he will be carefully considering which stories to commission in a bid to stop the company’s repertoire from going stale.

The move also responds to recent accusations by media watchdog Ofcom that some of the BBC’s programming lacks diversity.

Speaking about increasing competition from other channels, as well as online services such as Netflix and Amazon, he said TV drama was at a “critical moment”.

He told The Telegraph: “The BBC used to be one of a small number of places where British creatives could take their work. Now we’re one of a vast number.

“I want BBC drama to be the antithesis of the algorithmic, data-driven approach to commissioning – the ‘If you like that, try this’ sort of approach, because I think that just feeds people’s tastes back at themselves.”

Explaining that the publicly funded broadcaster has an “obligation to try the different and new”, he cited upcoming series A Suitable Boy as a leading example.

Adapted from Vikram Seth’s novel about 1950s post-colonial India, the drama will feature an entirely non-white cast, a decision Wenger has previously described as “deliberately provocative”.

The screenplay, written by Andrew Davis, will reportedly take up a prime-time slot when it broadcasts on BBC One. It will be filmed on location in India.

A Suitable Boy tells the tale of young woman Lata who finds herself torn between her mother’s determination for her to marry and her own dreams of whirlwind romance.

But getting the ball rolling on the project came with its challenges and Piers admitted he had to “audition to persuade (Vikram) to allow us to dramatise it”.

Vikram later commented: “With Andrew and his team I feel (the characters) are in good hands, and I greatly look forward to seeing them brought to life for television.”

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