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Live: BBC Four's Richard Klein

By
Richard Klein, Controller of BBC Four

© BBC

15.21: Welcome to our live coverage of the controller session with BBC Four's Richard Klein.

15.22: Martha Kearney introduces the session with highlights of the previous year of programming on BBC Four.

15.24: Klein says Mrs. Mandela stands out as one of the most significant films aired on the channel.

15.25: "Complexity" is key to BBC Four's approach. "We're about complexity, we're about editorialising everything."

15.26: Presenters should have an opinion on BBC Four. "You don't have to agree with the opinion as a viewer," but it is a part of the editorial approach.

15.28: BBC Four champions arts, music, culture, knowledge. Kearney suggests the BBC Trust sees it as a primary focus whereas, she postulates, Klein sees it as one element of the channel's overall mission.

15.29: 50-60% of funding spent on arts, music, culture. Klein says a little less comedy and entertainment will be done but that the service licence change will likely centre on driving usage of the BBC Archive.

15.30: "It's quite difficult to make a big impact if you're a small digital channel" - but Klein says BBC Four's impact in terms of arts is bigger than ITV and, including repeats, probably Channel 4.

15.31: BBC Four aims to reach people who don't watch other channels with its approach of intelligence, complexity, point of view. Challenge is balancing position as premier channel for arts, music, culture without seeming too niche.

15.32: "BBC Four is about depth, BBC Two is about breadth." Klein admits there is pressure and desire for the two channels to come together at certain points, but suggests the audience understands the distinct offering on each network.

15.34: Klein cites an example where BBC Two took the lead on the poetry season whereas BBC Four led on opera. He further suggests that Four enabled audiences to more deeply engage with opera.

15.37: Attitudinally, BBC Four reaches across demos but "clearly" under-30s are not a target audience. "How on earth do you get people to know we're around?" asks Klein, but adds he's not concerned that the audience is effectively capped because of BBC Four's nature. "We're never going to be a channel that's on in the corner of the room all evening."

15.39: More concerned with reach - Klein declines to name a number - than share.

15.41: "A good thing" that one other channel - Sky Arts - exists to cover the arts. Kearney points out it has achieved impact by, for example, acquiring The South Bank Show. "If I had the same impact that Sky Arts had but the same audience, I think I'd be off the air."

15.43: People who say BBC Four should be renamed BBC Arts are "wrong". "It would drive audiences away," and is incompatible with Four's nature as a mixed-genre channel.

15.44: "There's no doubt that money is a constraint." BBC Four pays around £100,000/hour. Mad Men was obtained at "an extremely good rate"; nobody bid against the channel for the series.

15.46: 5% of BBC Four budget spent on acquired content. Rubicon: "The Bourne Identity without the violence and the car chases."

15.53: Back to the topic of live theatre. "Live for live's sake" is a problem shared between arts programming on Four and News, points out Kearney.

15.55: Klein indicates live is a challenge he wants to crack. "I've brought other challenging programmes to other channels." He's after big event programming. "I will find the money if it's the right idea. Live or not."

15.56: "There is much less premium on being a beautiful young thing," to be a presenter on BBC Four, observes Klein. "You can put a big name celebrity on some show, and it might look fine... I actually commissioned quite a lot ... but what works on BBC Four is a clever combination." Stephen Fry and Wagner, and Paul Merton's Hitchcock film are cited as examples of "added value for the viewer".

15.58: BBC Four will "willingly" deploy the BBC Archive online and on-air. Spark of origination and subsequent curation will guide the Four audience through the archive; "it's there as a resource, but we should also lead the way to gems" to maintain interest.

16.00: Klein doesn't believe audiences share culture secretary Jeremy Hunt's RTS questions over the expense and, consequently, existence of BBC Three and Four. BBC Four is the best-loved BBC channel, he says. Questions over cuts to the licence fee and what would be lost as a result are "above my pay level".

16.02: "My pay is public," says Klein when pressed on BBC executive pay. (It's £195,000.) He says it's easy to make judgements in hindsight when questioned whether the BBC "shot itself in the foot" over exec pay.

16.06: Challenge going forward is to maintain BBC Four's "attractive" tonal qualities while rebalancing slightly away from comedy and entertainment to arts; but there are no specifics as to how this will be achieved. Klein wants to avoid audience impact.

16.10: Klein is looking for programme ideas infused with passion and viewpoint as opposed to a collection of "Wikipedia-like" options.

16.12: Not much money for online support or programme ideas to go online. Klein says the key to making big events happen is not necessarily non-linear support but, fundamentally, marketing support so that people can find them.

16.14: And that's it for this session; live coverage continues through the afternoon!

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