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BBC Northern Ireland Release Spring Commissioning Call
17 Feb 2017 : Laura Brennan
Patrick Kielty presents comedy entertainment show 'Delete Delete Delete'
Spring is nearly here and from a TV commissioning point of view, the world is full of possibilities. BBC NI wants to hear from great talent with top ideas. If your concept sounds like a great programme, definitely has an audience and makes you excited, it's probably a good commission.

BBC NI is taking the opportunity this year to widen their search for new on-screen talent.  This spring they are asking that every pitch is accompanied by details of one new talent attached to your idea.  This might include presenter, expert, contributor, commentator or enthusiastic other – but each should come with a 90-second clip attached.

The BBC is continuing to hardwire diversity and inclusion into all its decisions and they are keen to accelerate the search for the broadest range of talent available in NI. Looking for TV naturals who – over time – might be able to develop their talents across a range of content.

This spring BBC NI is turning their focus to ideas and proposals that lighten the mood. Looking in particular for the following:

  • New for 2017 is Format Pilots

BBC NI would like to have more ideas that are cleverly thought-through and offer the possibility of a future series. Recent commissions like ‘Beauty Queen and Single’, ‘Made in NI’ and ‘Keepin ‘er Country’ all offer lightly formatted ways of bringing content to life.  We’d like to see ideas for formats that we haven’t seen before. Please don’t re-offer from past rounds.


  • Two Format Pilots, for delivery in 2017
  • Factual Entertainment Series

The success of local magazine shows like ‘Getaway’s and ‘Home Ground’, and the reach of BBC network programmes like ‘Eat Well for Less’ and ‘DIY SOS’, show the enduring appeal of the entertaining side of factual content. We want to commission programmes that are about something (they still need a purpose) and then make it entertaining. 

Pitch tapes are important, particularly where talent is concerned.  And talent is often attached to these kinds of proposals e.g. ‘Walk the Line’, with Barra Best. We have limited resource for these 7.30pm series, but we would love to commission something that has the potential to be scale-able and returnable.

Our programmes must always be accessible and relevant to the lives of the broad BBC One audience and we need ideas with enough scale, drama, warmth and emotional resonance to stand out at this time of day.  We are looking for programming that doesn’t talk down to the audience but really resonates with them.


  • Two Factual Entertainment Series, for delivery in 2018
  • BBC Gaeilge

The current commissioning round for BBC Gaeilge closed on Friday 10th February, but producers are welcome to contact Karen Kirby, Editor BBC Gaeilge, ahead of the next round in August / September 2017.  A detailed brief for ideas will be issued in June.


Programmes like ‘The Blame Game’ and ‘Delete, Delete, Delete’ continue to deliver great audiences and good fun.  The new opportunities lie in developing something fresh and funny – we are not looking for experimental or very niche comedy in this slot.  We’d like to hear from established providers of strong comedy content and we are looking for shows we can pilot as one-offs.  Of particular interest: hidden camera, topical satire or a comedy talk format. 

We’re interested in supporting the development of fresh sitcom pilots, potentially for broadcast in winter 2017/18.  We’re looking for original ideas and compelling, relatable characters for our audience and while we won’t rule anything out at this stage, drunk 20-somethings in flats will be a fantastically hard sell.  Tonally, we’re more interested in bright, broad, ambitious, crafted pieces with tonnes of laughs and heart.  Think ‘Car Share’, ‘Not Going Out’ or ‘Two Doors Down’ rather than niche, edgy ideas with completely new talent. This is an opportunity to properly engage with writers and help them to develop their comic voice towards a tangible outcome.

Please send a short synopsis and sample scenes so we can get a sense of the writer's unique voice and their key characters. This can be part of a basic episode storyline if you wish. Production companies should have experience in fiction or consider partnering up; writers should have written for TV, radio or theatre. While they needn’t have had a lot of TV broadcast credits - this is not an entry level initiative.


  • Two Comedy Projects, for 2017 and 2018
  • Ulster-Scots Programmes

We have a broad range of Ulster-Scots-related content in development and production. We are still looking for vibrant and authentic music-related ideas to add to the portfolio.  We are interested both in grassroots musical activity and also in events of scale. We welcome projects which offer co-production possibilities and music-related subject matter/non-traditional genres which has the potential to connect with younger audiences.

We are looking for ideas that explore how Ulster-Scots voices and stories have fed into NI’s musical landscape in unexpected ways. We are open to developing projects which engage with other cultural stakeholders (museums, galleries, universities, etc) who are bringing Ulster-Scots stories to the wider public.  We’d also like to hear from you about drama development - we’re interested in authentic, rooted stories that can hold their own in a very competitive area.

As always, we are open to big ideas, opportunities for landmark projects that present ambitious and unexpected stories in fresh ways.  We’re always keen to see new talent coming through, and projects with the potential to make an impact across our different platforms.

Please talk to us if you are interested in developing ideas in this territory.


  • One Ulster-Scots Music Series, for delivery in 2017
  • Two Ulster-Scots Landmark Documentaries, for delivery in 2018
  • Contemporary Landmark Projects & Films

We are re-issuing our call for landmark documentaries on a contemporary theme. We are not looking for any more historical or conflict-related proposals. Your film must have other funders attached and be able to play to discerning and broad audiences at 9pm. Please talk to Commissioning Executive, Justin Binding, about broad subject areas – he can let you know what we already have in development.


  • One 60' Contemporary Landmark Doc/Film, for delivery in 2017
  • Two 60' Contemporary Landmark Docs/Films, for delivery in 2018
  • True North

True North is the BBC’s documentary strand for Northern Ireland – a home for films that illuminate and challenge perceptions of what life is like in contemporary Northern Ireland.  We are looking for ever-more creative and insightful ways to tell the true stories of NI life.  This is a slot for film-makers who have a strong vision – we are looking for extraordinary stories told by ordinary people. We want more films that are challenging and intriguing to add to the list of those we have commissioned over eight series.


  • Two 30' True North films, for delivery in 2017

Important Dates To Note:

Deadline for receipt of ideas on BBC Pitch: Tuesday 21 March 2017 at 5.00pm.

Commissioning Pitches:Thursday 30 March / Monday 3 April / Thursday 6 April.

The BBCNI TV Commissioner is Susan Lovell.

For more information on BBC NI Commissioning Spring Updates please visit the BBC NI website.

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