BBC Content Boss Charlotte Moore Says She Will Not Censor Scribes Who Want To Write About Controversial Topics Such As Jimmy Savile & Grenfell

BBC TV boss Charlotte Moore has said she will not “censor” respected writers who want to make shows about controversial subjects such as Jimmy Savile and the Grenfell disaster. In a wide-ranging briefing with the media press, Moore also addressed the Gary Lineker and Richard Sharp controversies, future of Top Gear, the streamers and the closure of CBBC and BBC Four on linear.

The BBC’s upcoming TV dramas on serial abuser Jimmy Savile and the Grenfell fire – which killed 72 people in 2017 – have come in for much criticism and the latter has spawned a petition to have it canceled that has so far been signed by nearly 60,000 people.

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Responding to a question from Deadline, Moore said the BBC “has a strong track record” in factual drama about controversial subjects and stressed that “it would not be right for me to censor ideas from very respected writers who have written about similar subjects in the past.”

Titled The Reckoning, the Savile drama is being written by Philomena’s Jeff Pope, while Wolf Hall scribe Peter Kosminsky is behind Grenfell [working title].

On Grenfell, Moore reiterated that Kosminsky will not start writing until after the final inquiry into the disaster has reported back and the show will likely not make it to screens for several years.

“Drama does have a place for telling these stories, particularly with its emotional context and its ability to get people to think about what they would have done or how they would have behaved,” added Moore. “There is a bigger story to tell here.”

Last month, Deadline spoke with several people who had been abused by Savile about their experience working on the upcoming show, which stars Steve Coogan as Savile.

Financial woes

Moore, who is the BBC’s Chief Content Officer and oversees TV, radio and sport, was speaking to journalists in the wake of a BBC Annual Plan that revealed the corporation will spend £100M ($124M) less on content next year as cuts, a frozen license fee and inflation begin to bite.

TV content has been “the last area to face cuts,” she explained, but, going forwards, “undoubtedly our output will be impacted.”

“We need to think about how we make ourselves fit for the future and sustainable when we know linear is in decline,” she added. “Making those decisions is difficult and no area is immune from cuts. I hope audiences won’t notice the change [too much]. We will use our money carefully enough so that they can adapt.”

Having announced the linear closure of kids channel CBBC and older-skewing BBC Four last year, however, Moore refused to put a date on when this will actually take place, suggesting that it won’t be anytime soon.

“There will come a tipping point when it’s better for audiences that we spend money online,” she added. “It’s quite hard to judge that but at the moment our channels are holding up really well.”

Until the “tipping point arrives,” added Moore, it would cost more to market CBBC and BBC Four shows on VoD service iPlayer than it would to keep the linear channels open and use them partly as iPlayer marketing tools.

The streamers are also experiencing serious teething problems and Moore was bullish in stating “we can hit greater heights than many global streamers.”

According to Moore, six separate BBC dramas have this year been watched by double the audience of the most-watched streamer show in the UK.

She cited the example of Happy Valley, watched by 12M people, which is 10M ahead of Netflix drama You.

In the wake of global recession and with the doing away of a blank cheque culture, Moore said the streamers are “maturing” and their approach to windowing is changing from a few years ago. “There were some who used to want to buy all global rights but that is not really the case anymore,” she added. “There is now a lifetime for content to have non-exclusive windowing and so on. It’s another change and is good for producers.”


Moore was also questioned on several major controversies that have struck the corporation of late.

On embattled chair Sharp, who has a government report due out in the coming days on his appointment that could lead to his resignation, Moore said Sharp is “supportive” of what her team is doing but called on the press to “wait for the review.” The Sunday Times revealed that Sharp helped facilitate a loan for former Prime Minister Boris Johnson via an associate a few weeks before his government-approved appointment in 2020 and Sharp has since been against the ropes.

According to the Financial Times, Sharp has now been shown the draft conclusions and one person briefed on the draft findings has said the criticisms make it “probable but not certain” that Sharp will have to resign. A different source told the paper the review makes for “grim” reading.

On Lineker, whose recent tweet about the government’s asylum policy caused him to be asked to step back from Match of the Day hosting and generated huge debate and introspection, Moore said an upcoming review will “be proportionate about how we deal” with non-news presenters’ social media use.

She refused to “do further match analysis” on the Lineker debacle but said it had been “fascinating reading columns in the press and seeing how [the episode] has got people thinking about the importance of impartiality.”

“[The debate] revealed this as a timely, relevant subject across all media because social media and use of social media is changing,” she added.

Moore was also questioned about the future of Top Gear following host Andrew Flintoff’s accident.

While recent reports have said Flintoff is quitting the show, she appeared to leave the door open for a Flintoff return.

“When we get to the point when he feels ready, we’ll get talking about getting him back,” added Moore.

She stressed that it would be “inappropriate” to discuss further while Flintoff is in recovery.

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