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BBC Northern Ireland Announce a Range of New Television Commissions for Next 12 Months
03 Oct 2018 :
BBC Northern Ireland has announced a new slate of local drama, more comedy and a greater range of documentaries over the next year.

Addressing a range of independent production companies and members of the Northern Ireland creative sector, the BBC NI Director Peter Johnston highlighted some of the new local comedy, entertainment, drama and factual commissions reflecting life in Northern Ireland, as well as the return of some audience favourites.

New content in these genres has been made partly possible through an additional BBC investment of £11million over three years into BBC Northern Ireland content and services. Part of this significant investment provides an increase in commissioning spend on local television content - meaning more drama, comedy and factual programmes that are relevant to audiences in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at a BBC Northern Ireland commissioning briefing in Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast, BBC NI Director Peter Johnston said: 

“This investment into commissioning spend has enabled us to broaden the ambition and to deepen our public purpose to inform, educate and entertain our audiences.

“We are committed to bringing audiences the best content and we do that by investing in independent production companies, programme makers and our creative partners within the industry.”

In drama, two one-off hour-long dramas have been commissioned as part of BBC Northern Ireland’s pilot ‘New Perspectives’ initiative. ‘New Perspectives’ aims to find and develop new drama writing, production and acting talent. Firstly, the drama ‘Counsel’ centres on a female barrister, played by Valene Kane who must balance representing a new young client with supporting her high-profile husband amid a job promotion and an impending scandal. The drama ‘Up And Downs’, starring Susan Lynch, follows a young man with Down’s syndrome who goes on an adventure with his younger sister.  The two dramas are supported by Northern Ireland Screen.

In entertainment, Colin Murphy looks back anxiously on a world he was once told to worry about in the new series ‘Colin Murphy’s Panic Room’. In comedy, The ‘Soft Border Patrol’ officers start a new shift as the mockumentary returns for a second series with some unexpected cameos. Ma, Da, Uncle Andy and company return for special editions of audience favourite ‘Give My Head Peace’, while Tim McGarry, Colin Murphy, Jake O’Kane, Neil Delamere and guests continue pointing the finger with a new series of ‘The Blame Game’.

BBC One Northern Ireland factual series and documentaries will also have more breadth than ever before with a range of content covering everything from troubled young people and missing persons to horse racing, historical monuments and the beauty of our landscape.

Among the factual programmes are Dan Cruickshank’s ‘Monuments Of Remembrance’, which sees the historian and broadcaster tell the story behind iconic WW1 memorials in this centenary year. Clare Balding narrates the series ‘The Horsey Set At Down Royal’ as cameras go behind the scenes at Northern Ireland’s famous racecourse. Actor Colin Morgan (Merlin, The Fall) narrates the series ‘The Chronicles Of Mourne', bringing the magic of Northern Ireland’s renowned mountains to life, season by season. The documentary ‘Showbands And Me: Ardal O’Hanlon’ sees the comedian (Death In Paradise, Father Ted) examine the history and popularity of Irish showbands. And as the 148th Open takes place at Royal Portrush in the summer of 2019, ‘The Wild Man of Golf’ spends time with Bangor-born personality David Feherty who swapped his golf clubs for a life on stage and in front of the cameras.

Also in factual programming, ‘The Hospital – From The Inside’ goes behind the doors of the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust while ‘The Search’ – NI’s Missing Persons meets the Community Rescue Service and explores the impact on the life of families when a loved one goes missing. Tara Mills meets young people dealing with life challenges in ‘Kids on the Edge’ (working title). BBC Northern Ireland will also mark the 25th anniversary of The Shankill Bomb.

Returning series include ‘Nolan Live’, ‘Spotlight’, ‘The View’, ‘The Top Table’, ‘Home Ground’, ‘Getaways’, ‘Parents’ Evening’ and ‘In My Family’s Footsteps’, while the ‘True North’ strand will continue to tell diverse contemporary stories of life in Northern Ireland.

The additional BBC investment is also facilitating new local digital content and services for younger audiences and new content to mark major historical anniversaries in Northern Ireland. At the event, BBC Northern Ireland commissioning asked programme makers for content to mark the centenary of the partition of Ireland and for new innovative, multi-platform programme ideas.

Significant projects marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the Troubles will be announced in 2019.

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