There is a fascinating interview out today with John Yorke, BBC’s Controller of Continuing Drama and the man behind shows like EastEnders! Yorke was featured on BBC America’s website with a piece on his thoughts on the troubling US daytime dramas which are being now being continually canceled. BBC1′s EastEnders, and ITV’1′s Coronation Street and Emmerdale do very well in the ratings in the UK, although the dayparts in which they are air is of help. Most shows are aired in the early evening, as opposed to US soaps, which are specifically aired in the daytime hours.
In addition, and key here is Yorke’s shows are funded through Britain’s license fee, which is an annual payment that UK households must make for owning any television-receiving equipment, giving his programs an advantage over ad-supported U.S. content. Yorke admits thought that there is still tremendous pressure to deliver a quality product while keeping costs low in Britain. Here are a a few excerpts from the interview!
Yorke on why US soaps are lagging behind the times on hot topics of the day while British soaps embrace them: “I strongly believe that diversity is a gift to drama and we champion it endlessly. Every new ethnic, religious, or sexual group allows you the possibility of telling old stories in a new way, and viewers do seem to actually love characters irrespective of their backgrounds. The biggest story on British TV last year was a muslim wedding on EastEnders, in which the groom was unmasked as gay. I’m very proud of that, but it also demonstrates that we shouldn’t be scared of going into new worlds and telling stories in those worlds confidently!”
Yorke on how creativity may be stifled or quality of the product of the British Soaps when publicly funded by the license fees: “Well once upon a time it probably allowed us a certain leeway to re-shoot if things got wrong or buy our way out of trouble. But I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, in the commercial world too — and I’ve never seen a more disciplined system of cost control than we have here. There’s no waste: it’s all on screen, and we recognize that part of our job is to be the cheapest. That doesn’t mean the worst.”