FMP: Commissioning Guidelines
In order to distribute our film we need to look at standard guidelines, and although we do not plan to broadcast our film on television it would still be useful to explore the process of commissioning.
‘Large organisations such as the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Cable and Satellite channels have strict guidelines about commissioning and a large number of programmes that you see on television will have been commissioned by the broadcasters from ideas independent production companies developed. Under ITC regulations, broadcasters must commission 25% of non-news and current affairs output from the independent sector and this includes the BBC’
‘Channel4, E4 and Channel4 Interactive have strict rules for commissioning and in general the production process takes a fairly set format whatever the project. Initially you should submit your proposal to a Commissioning Editor and if appropriate, also to an Interactive Commissioning Editor. Within a period of two weeks or so you will be contacted with a positive or negative response, or if more time is needed for consideration you will be notified of this. If the Commissioning Editor or Interactive Editor sees potential in your idea they will want to meet with you and at this stage it is possible that development money will be awarded. During discussions it will become clear whether your idea will work across other platforms and other departments.
Once your idea has been developed a production timetable will be agreed between the Commissioning Editor, the Programme Finance Manager, Business Affairs, and if appropriate, Channel 4 Interactive. The budget will then be processed through three stages; the Commissioning Editor and Programme Finance Manager, the Head of Department and finally the Programme Finance Committee.
A draft agreement will then be negotiated and issued and a final agreement will be signed at least six weeks prior to pre-production commencing. Once production is underway the press and marketing potential of your programme will be discussed. In post-production there will be timetabled viewings and any on-line content production will take place.
Delivery should be made in accordance with all technical and programme delivery requirements and feedback will be given after broadcast.’
‘At the BBC the genre teams are responsible for commissioning programmes for all of the BBC channels and they will handle all processes involved such as editorial issues, business, finance and delivery.
In order to be successful in your commissioning bid, you should consider the BBC’s requirements: to bring audiences to the BBC that are hard to connect with, to produce user-generated and community based content, interactive television and web events and multi-user interactive web content such as gaming. They also need to fulfil their educational remit and are keen to support the production of content that can complement current material on their websites.
For radio, the BBC’s five national radio networks run various systems to cope with the amount of programmes commissioned annually. For example, the majority of programmes on Radio 1 are generally long running and are produced by station producers or a small group of independents, therefore commissioning is uncommon.
In comparison, annually Radio 4 commissions something like 15,000 programmes ranging over 14 different genres. Because of this high number, Radio 4 keeps a Registered Supplier List and updates this each spring. If you are not on the list you cannot be considered as a supplier.’
Channel 4 would be the one place where our film would fit in as they often screen shorts within their ‘Random’ series late at night, they also deal with a wide range of issues from various points of view, they are much more open than say the BBC.
General summary of commissioning guidelines for television
These are the key factors to consider when pitching for commissions in television:
- Make sure that the idea is right for the channel you are submitting to
- Ensure you can see where the programme will sit in the current schedule
- Understand why people will want to watch this programme
- Identify any interactive or cross-platform potential
- Research your idea thoroughly and define the format
- List actors/actresses or presenters that will appear in the programme
- Ensure your proposal is clear and be able to sell it in the first line
- Make sure your idea is original
I have also found a handy read about the technical specifications of a few of the main broadcasting channels, both of these will be useful for future reference in regards to any projects we may work on: