Trends and Perspectives on Digital Platforms and Digital Television in Europe| Commissioning and Independent Television Production: Power, Risk, and Creativity

Anna Zoellner


Project development—the initial stage of television production—establishes the aesthetic and narrative parameters for the final on-screen representations. This article explores this important yet largely under-researched phase of production by investigating the structures and processes of project development in the British television industry with a focus on the conditions for the independent production sector in a broadcaster–publisher system. Its arguments are based on findings of an ethnographic production study in independent production companies in the United Kingdom, which are contextualized by statistical industry data and correlated to published research undertaken across the last two decades to assess changes and continuities over time. The article analyses the cultural and economic power relations between independent producers and commissioning editors and how they affect development practices. It evaluates the implications for creative autonomy and diversity, and shows how the existence of preferred suppliers and the demand-led nature of commissioning constrain producer creativity, leading to fewer opportunities for independent producers and a more homogenous television output.


media production research, television, independent production, project development/commissioning, culture commerce, creative autonomy

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