THE BBC series Songs of Praise could in future be made by an independent programme-maker.
The show, which first aired in 1961, is one of a number of BBC-made shows coming to the end of their current run, and the Corporation is taking the opportunity to fulfil its recent pledge to open up 40 per cent of its content to competition over the next two years. Other programmes going out to tender will include Question of Sport and Holby City.
A BBC spokesman said: “The first programmes chosen for tendering were chosen because they are already approaching recommissioning decisions. As with any programme at that point, we would look at the ambition for the series, but the tendering process will test value for money and ensure we are delivering the very best programmes for audiences. They are some of our best-loved shows and are precious to us.”
Songs of Praise could remain an in-house product, as the tendering process will include pitches from BBC Studios, which currently makes the programme.
No decisions have been made whether the format of the next series would alter, but it is understood that the BBC is open to new ideas. Details of what it should contain will be included in the tender document due for publication later this autumn.
The BBC was keen to point out that the tendering process would not affect its commitment to religious programming. “It’s just about the choice of supplier to make it,” the spokesman said.
Under the terms of the BBC’s new draft charter, all BBC shows will be offered for tender over the next 11 years. In return, BBC Studios will be allowed to become more commercial next year and make shows for other broadcasters.
The strategy is part of a bid to help the BBC stem the tide of talent moving to the more lucrative commercial sector and, instead, encourage them to stay and come up with new hits for the corporation.
The BBC TV managing director and BBC group commercial director, Bal Samra, said: “It is a big, bold move, but I think what we’re doing in generating this competition — with a strong independent sector and the creation of BBC Studios — could make our industry even stronger. These are BBC shows that will still be on BBC channels, and we will still own the rights.”