In a major top-level restructuring, the BBC is eliminating its children’s channel controller roles, resulting in the exit of CBeebies head and BBC Children’s vet Kay Benbow (pictured), as well as a new position for CBBC controller Cheryl Taylor.
Following seven years as CBeebies controller—and nearly 30 years at the UK pubcaster—Benbow will depart at the end of 2017. Taylor will become BBC Children’s overall head of content, a new senior role that replaces both channel controller roles. Beginning this fall, Taylor and her team will be tasked with content strategy and commissioning for under-16s.
CBeebies production head Alison Stewart is also set to leave in 2018 after six years in her current position.
Meanwhile, a new expanded head of production role—including preschool-focused CBeebies—will be implemented for CBBC production chief Helen Bullough. Under her leadership, BBC Children’s three in-house production teams, CBeebies and CBBC in Salford, and Children’s in Scotland, will now form a single team across two bases. Sara Harkins will continue to lead the production team in Scotland, but will report to new head of production Bullough.
This fall, BBC Children’s director Alice Webb will be recruiting for two brand new positions—head of curation and discovery, and head of business operations. The former role will centralize all of BBC Children’s distribution channels and oversee presentation, scheduling, iPlayer, core interactive and events. Meanwhile, the new head of business operations will replace the current controller of business role.
Webb is also in the midst of recruiting a new head of commercial and business affairs for BBC Children’s, and will create a new role to oversee all production management that will report to new head of production Bullough. In addition, the channel management team will now report to new content chief Taylor.
All of the changes were made by BBC Children’s director Alice Webb in an internal note to the broadcaster’s staff today.
The restructure follows the BBC’s announcement earlier this month that it is investing an additional US$44 million over its existing budgets in British kids content over the next three years—with a big focus on digital content. To make room for the online growth, the BBC stated it will commission fewer new kids TV brands.
Prior to the funding injection, CBBC underwent a significant rebrand in March 2016 that specifically targeted the digital generation. A month later, the BBC launched its iPlayer Kids app. With today’s rejig, Webb was firm about the BBC not losing faith in CBeebies.
“I want to make it clear in no uncertain terms that our commitment to the preschool audience is still a top priority in terms of both commissioning and in-house production—these changes do not diminish our energy and focus on preschool children or content,” said Webb in her statement.
She also reiterated the pubcaster’s stance on how it needs to evolve with the changing media habits of UK kids.
“For some time we’ve been challenging ourselves and others to make choices and changes necessary to keep up with the dramatically different media habits of UK children. BBC Children’s has been incredibly successful for many, many years, and that’s in part because we have been organized in ways that allow us to deliver exactly what the audience needs. But as those audience needs change so must we,” she continued.
“We won’t lose our focus on distinctive, quality UK content—content that is authentically BBC—but we need to do more to enable this content to cut through the cacophony of media in our young audience’s lives. And as we’ve discussed this means how we commission, format, publish and distribute that content and the platforms it sits on. We also have to recognize the production landscape of our industry has changed, and the introduction of 100% contestability can’t be ignored.”