Austen to BBC in arts shake-up

BBC Drama Production is to adapt Jane Austen&rsquo;s classic novel <em>Emma</em> for transmission on BBC1 in the autumn.<br /><br />Bafta-winning writer Sandy Welch, who has already adapted <em>Our Mutual Friend </em>and <em>Jane Eyre</em> for the screen, will write the production, which will be broadcast as four 60-minute episodes.<br /><br />Ben Stephenson, controller, drama commissioning, said: &quot;This four-part adaptation&mdash;the first serial version of <em>Emma</em> since the Seventies&mdash;gives Sandy the opportunity to find new detail and added psychological depth in Austen&#39;s characters.&quot;<br /><br />The BBC today announced a stronger commitment to the arts; BBC director-general Mark Thompson said: &quot;The BBC has a special responsibility to support and enable the cultural life of Britain, particularly though our investment in arts and music programming.&rdquo; He pledged to create a new arts editor role for BBC News. <br /><br />Projects lined up include: a documentary on John Donne by Simon Schama and a film on Milton by Armando Iannucci on BBC2 this spring; a poetry series called &quot;Lifelines&quot;; a programme on T S Eliot for &quot;Arena&quot; and a nationwide poetry recital compeition for primary schools &quot;Off By Heart&quot;.<br /><br />On BBC4, Owen Sheers will explore six works of British poetry; Ian Hislop will welcome the new poet laureate; Simon Armitage discovers <em>Gawain and the Green Knight</em>; and there will be a programme about Radio 4&rsquo;s &quot;Poetry Please&quot;. BBC4 will also present a &quot;Why Reading Matters&quot; season. <br /><br />Radio programming includes celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Tennyson&rsquo;s birth, and a dramatisation of John Le Carre&rsquo;s George Smiley novels on Radio 4.<br /><br /><br /><br />