Portent of Doom for Sky Atlantic?

Zai Bennett is set to leave his position as Boss Level Baddie on BBC Three for a new job as head of Sky Atlantic.

Bennett put his stamp on TV when he was appointed the chief of the digital channel in 2011 – and one of his first acts, cancelling the hugely successful show, Doctor Who Confidential, caused massive waves. Namely, Points of View forced him in front of a bright lamp and interrogated him about his appointment, and naturally, he had to defend his decision to cancel BBC3’s most popular programme.

There wasn’t really an excuse. Except this, at the Edinburgh International Television Festival:

Doctor Who Confidential had run for six series… It was a show about a show. There wasn’t much more to say about how they make Doctor Who. We are pulling back from pre-watershed TV because of BBC cuts – I’ve got to make every pound count. I don’t want to make loads of extension shows, a la ITV2.”

I think this is entirely missing the point. Quite aside from the fact that Doctor Who does something new every week, the magnificent crew always found something interesting to show us. Each episode was special.

It was recently announced that BBC Three will go solely online from next year, naturally coupled with budget cuts. This’ll probably mean we won’t get endless Family Guy episodes. Some have speculated that it won’t be around at all for much longer. So what will this mean for Sky Atlantic, the UK’s version of HBO? Hmmm… I’ll leave you Kasterborites to mull that one over.

Many have also said that it’s a bad sign of how the BBC treats youngsters – and I have to disagree with that too. I’m generally considered a youngster, and the worst sign of how the BBC treated youngsters… was BBC Three. I found it patronising and tarred us all with the same brush. Confidential was one of the only intelligent shows on the channel (I did also enjoy The Revolution Will Be Televised). And furthermore, if the Beeb want to attract young’uns, this fangled Internet is a perfect place for BBC3 to lie its weary head.

This might sound harsh on Mr. Bennett. But, as someone who wants to work in the TV industry, Confidential taught me so much. And I feel very bitter that it was taken away from us.

Bennett, who previously worked for ITV, moves from BBC Three to Sky Atlantic this summer.

(Via RT.)

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  1. Harry M VanHoudnos says:

    If what he did is causing BBC3 to go all digital, I shudder to think what he will do to other channels and programs.

  2. Simon Skilling says:

    The shift of BBC3 to online was also in part due to the BBC wanting to use the channel allocation for something else (a time-shifted version of BBC1 was it? I can’t recall right now). Although of course, BBC3 is not in anyway blameless just because of this.

    Poor Confidential though. I never understood why they only ever put the short versions on the DVDs either.

  3. Mugen Pharoah says:

    I’ve said it before about DW Confidential…..they really lost the plot when they interviewed the man who made the bacon sandwiches……I think it was on the Doctor’s Wife episode. It was good in the early years, but it lost its way.

  4. Ian says:

    From what I saw, it was little more than a load of self-congratulatory backslapping. I still remember giggling at the cast of The Doctor’s Daughter telling us all what quality drama it was, tee hee.

  5. Endy says:

    Did he not also cancel the brilliant Being Human or have I got that wrong? Anyway I feel sorry for Sky Atlantic. Does anyone know anything good this chap has done? I am sure there must me some things

  6. rickjlundeen says:

    I enjoyed the cut down versions on the DVD sets but I did have an opportunity to watch a few full versions and yikes, that was just too too much useless information examining every nut and bolt of every episode. Eventually, I even stopped watching the cut down versions. Just give me the episode, I don’t need to see every move everyone makes backstage.

  7. Calico Jones says:

    The reason that BBC3 is being closed is the BBC’s need to save £100,000,000 – this is due to the licence fee freeze. As the Tories have stated that they will be looking for more cuts should they win the next election. While the BBC have to share a portion of the blame for cutbacks – spending too much money on buildings instead of programmes, exec salraies and the like – they have had, while their primary income has been frozen – had to take on sole responsibility for S4C (Welsh Channel Four in Wales) and the World Service. There’s even talk of them helping to finance Channel Four!

    Because Bennett cancelled DW Confidential doesn’t make him a villain – it makes him a TV exec living in the real, and very harsh, world of TV. Some of the “post watershed” documentaries that BBC3 make are extremely good (such as the recent series on teenagers in prison). This is the kind of programming that will be missed, not a documentary series about a TV series.

    As with the unrealistic calls for spin offs every five minutes, I do wish that some DW fans would start attempting to understand the reality of the financial and political world in which the BBC and it’s channel executives now operates. They didn’t axe DW Confidential because they don’t like DW or as a personal slight against fans, they aren’t closing BBC3 because it shows DW repeats.

    • Endy says:

      Sorry Calico but I must disagree strongly with your argument. Confidential was cheep to make and one of the most viewed shows on BBC3. It was also a big hit.. As well as inspiring future producers, writers and directors, it made the corporation a great deal of money, although sadly it is probably true BBC3 did not directly benefit from this financially .I suspect BBC Enterprise got the money. I wrote to the BBC at the time because I believe the opposite of what you say, If BBC3 had been allowed to benefit more from Confidential’s success it might have helped them survive. I suspect there are politics at play here. This issue is not just about Doctor Who, or Confidential for that matter. It is about what happens to all the money Auntie make out of their hit shows one of which happens to be Doctor Who.
      Whatever fans think about future spin offs and we have had two pretty good drama spin offs so far, this is not about that.
      Confidential was already a very successful show bringing in a big audience for BBC3 and helping to keep the station alive and noticed. You could argue that as a result of cancelling it they put the last nail in the coffin of BBC3. I am not convinced it will survive as an on line channel and its loss should be mourned like the loss of any channels that cater for minority tastes..
      I am a big fan of the BBC but they do have the capacity to shoot themselves in the foot sometimes. I fear Auntie is very much under threat.
      . .

  8. hyncharas says:

    Whilst Confidential’s format may have been a problem for the BBC money-wise, I don’t believe a cancellation was the right approach. Whilst keeping some behind-the-scenes extras with retail, perhaps a “preview” mini-show between programmes for subseqent seasons in respect to Capaldi, new foes, the return of old ones and any new series they plan to produce.

    A good example of this exists for the police drama, Blue Bloods, which shows clips from previous episodes as well as short interviews from cast-members.

  9. Geoff says:

    I disagree with the writer entirely on this. Maybe as someone who aspires to work in TV DW confidential occasionally had some merit but I am just an average TV viewer and I found it overblown and boring without fail. They could have done in 15 minutes each week what they dragged out for about an hour.

    Now I’m not some nu who johnny come lately ( and even if I was my opinion would still be valid ). I’ve loved the show for nearly 40 years but I don’t just lap up any old rubbish with the words “Doctor Who” attached to the front. I think the controller has clearly said he wanted the channel to show stand alone TV shows, ie not TV shows about the making of other TV shows and that is perfectly reasonable. The argument about popularity is valid to an extent but it shouldn’t totally over rule creative decisions. After all public executions are popular but we don’t show them on TV!

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