Entertainment & Arts

Danny Cohen wants BBC staff 'incentives' for hit shows

Strictly Come Dancing
Image caption The Strictly Come Dancing format is a major BBC export

Extra rewards should be given to BBC staff behind hit shows to "incentivise" them, the BBC's head of TV has said.

Danny Cohen's comments were published in a book called Is the BBC in Crisis? and have appeared in The Independent.

He told journalist Tara Conlan: "I think the idea that if you come up with a global hit, you should in some way benefit from that beyond your basic wage, doesn't seem unreasonable."

His comments come as BBC boss Tony Hall mounts a defence of the licence fee.

Director general Lord Hall is rebuking critics who suggest it should be shared amongst other broadcasters, and in a speech in Oxford this week, he will say that "top-slicing" would place much-loved "content and services" at risk.

The BBC's Royal Charter, setting out the corporation's role, functions and structure, is due for renewal after the general election. The decision to freeze the licence fee during the last settlement negotiations in 2010 led to the BBC having to make savings that included 2,000 job losses.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Kylie Minogue and Ricky Wilson joined will.i.am and Sir Tom Jones for series three of The Voice, commissioned by Cohen

A BBC spokesperson said in response: "Danny was simply talking about how you might incentivise staff who deliver amazingly successful programmes that go on to produce commercial revenue for the BBC outside of the UK. This would not be at a cost to the licence fee."

Some of the corporation's most popular shows include Strictly Come Dancing, Call the Midwife and Doctor Who.

Mr Cohen added: "I think if we want to bring in really smart people and generate [intellectual property] - which will end up making money that will go back into the licence fee - people participating in that, in order to get the best people, then we have to look at and examine what's possible."

'Make our own heroes'

He said that as well as looking at "how we incentivise people" the corporation needed to look at "how we use Worldwide" [the BBC's commercial arm].

"We have to make some of our own heroes: you get young people who come in who have good ideas and they are very proud to work at the BBC," he said. "A great idea can come from someone in their early 20s. We've got to take some bets on new people and we've got to work on incentivisation."

Former BBC One controller Cohen was announced as the new director of television in April last year. He took over BBC Three in May 2007 after leaving Channel 4 as the head of factual entertainment and E4.

His commissions included the critically acclaimed dramas Call The Midwife, The Village and Saturday night talent show The Voice.

His future commissions for BBC One include an adaptation of JK Rowling's book The Casual Vacancy, a sitcom written by David Walliams, a comedy series starring Matt Lucas and an adaptation of the book Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

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