Contact: Simon YoungRegion: All UK

Title: Commissioning Editor, History
Genre: History
Region: All UK

About Channel

The BBC is the world's leading public service broadcaster with a channel portfolio that  provides entertainment, news, drama, factual, current affairs, comedy, children’s and arts coverage across BBC One, BBC, Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, CBBC and CBeebies. 

Programme Interests

Simon Young takes the lead on history commissioning at the BBC, which sits within the wider specialist factual commissioning team. Tom McDonald is the Head of Specialist Factual and Natural History Commissioning. All proposals for history should be submitted via BBC Pitch to the relevant commissioners as listed above.

Visit the Pitching for TV page for further information about pitching including top tips from BBC commissioners and training from the BBC Academy.

Looking For

BBC 1:

Commissioning slots


History hours on BBC One are limited - meaning the bar for a successful idea is really high. Who Do You Think You Are? is now joined by the Invisible… series as a BBC One history brand but it always feels like there’s room for at least one more returning history format on the channel. We’d especially love another closed episode returning history format which has the potential to deliver in volume.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are? continues to be a powerful brand for BBC One and long may it continue - but are there are other ways of using celebrity to deliver powerful history narratives. Are there different ways into family history?

Living history

BBC One has commissioned living history in the past - from Turn Back Time to 24 Hours in the Past - it needs to be living history of national importance and scale, based in a precinct which is a broad audience instantly recognises. Living history has the potential to grapple with some of the issues facing us in the contemporary world, as Turn Back Time: The High Street did so brilliantly. 

Large scale revelatory history

From Pompeii to Vikings, we're looking for ideas with new insight and new revelation at their heart on subjects which the BBC One audience are familiar with already. We'll go back to the blockbuster subjects as long as we have a fresh take or approach - from the ancient world through to the 20th Century. Is there a way we can make these titles noisier, a bit more provocative, a bit more room for a point of view?

Anniversary singles and specials 

We’re always on the lookout for imaginative ways of commemorating big anniversaries on BBC One

Commissioning opportunities

Opportunities for singles and series in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

BBC 2:

Current commissioning steers


Landmark history

We have a long and illustrious track record of working with some of the greatest historians in the UK offering the definitive take on their subject.

We remain proudly committed to landmark history - and we want to do substantial singles and series on big history subjects, whether that's periods, decades, monarchical reigns, famous battles or moments - but we're looking for new ways of delivering this kind of content.

We want to find new and different ways of working with our key presenters - and are especially interested in innovative ways of how these pieces are filmed, directed and delivered to the audience.

Living history

Living history has had a massive renaissance on BBC Two over the past few years, with Back In Time... looking at the domestic through time (made by features), Victorian Bakers (looking at trade through history) and the forthcoming series The Slum which is large scale, precinct based living history. The Slum is looking at a subject which feels massively relevant to the modern audience - urban poverty - through a very particular prism. It's not cosy: it's tough but it's all driven by authenticity and specialist factual. We have ambitions to continue making large scale living history for Two which doesn't feel timeless but which grapples with the issues of today. We also want to engage suppliers with grappling with how we turn the wheel on living history. 

Social history

The department has not engaged with social and/or contemporary history in very high volume. We want to change that - we want to look at the last century in a variety of ways and use living people’s historical testimony imaginatively. How do you bring history right into the present, making it feel vivid and relevant?

Closed episode formatted, returnable history

We're actively seeking the next generation of formatted history - series which have the potential to return year on year and become channel defining brands, much in the same way that Inside the FactoryTrust Me I'm a DoctorAn Hour To Save Your Life have become mainstays of the science roster on BBC Two.

This might be social history, recent history, reinventions of biography, or span multiple centuries through a different prism. This is an area of huge priority for us - but at their heart they need to have strong layers of specialist factual revelation. We don't want shows which feel ‘soft’ with only a light history layer - we're not looking for leisure shows with sprinkles of history - we need depth of specialist factual insight.

Adventure and expedition history

Travel and adventure are a key part of the DNA of some of our key history titles. We are not looking for generic travel, though. Our presenters need to have expertise and a genuine history endeavour to grapple with and revelation to uncover.

Event history/factual theatre

How can we create an event out of history or historical moments? What could we do in the space of the Pride and Prejudice: Having a Ball? What's the history equivalent of Live From Space (Channel 4)? What are the ongoing, real world historical investigations which are happening which we could follow.

Hybrid drama meet history

We're really interested in the intersection of drama and testimony or drama and analysis from experts. The Last Days of Anne Boleyn vividly brought her final days to life for an audience very familiar with her story. But how else can we go into the past and bring it back for the audience.

We have very limited opportunity to do full scale scripted drama - we have a fantastic legacy of full drama projects but we're currently more likely to commission a title which has factual elements.


Part of our remit is to cover the major anniversary moments but we encourage ideas which offer a completely new perspective, not a summary of events. We are especially interested in talent or ideas which have a particular take on an anniversary - not revisionism for the sake of it, but a perspective which will make historical events feel new and relevant.

We play a vital role in key seasons across the channel - but to avoid being deluged with seasons ideas and wasting time, we will issue individual season briefs at the appropriate time.

Noisy singles

We'll always look at noisy singles which deliver a history perspective on a hot button topic in the way that Ian Hislop's film on benefits did last year. We’ll also do singles on familiar subjects if there’s new journalism underpinning the premise.

Ideas which start from newly released archive

From Back in Time... to The Secret History of Our StreetsThe Somme - From Both Sides of the Wire to our forthcoming SAS series, our very best ideas start with revelatory archive or source documents. Back In Time.... has vividly brought the food survey to life in an exciting way, SAS works from newly released source material to give the definitive story of the SAS, The Secret History of Our Streets took Booth's maps as a way into the world around us today.


We are actively seeking ideas of scale which can be co-produced with international broadcasters.


Business on BBC Two

The business slate has only a limited number of hours. 

Alongside domestic treats such as last year’s film Inside John Lewis, we’re looking for big, landmark business ideas which speak to the most pressing issues our audience face and which explain the world we take for granted in an entirely new way. 

We’d love to have a roster of credible, expert business talent with a historical perspective and overview of the business world, both here and overseas.

We’d love more special business access ideas.

Formatted shows, eg business transformation shows, should be pitched to features and formats. 



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