The BBC will expand its Radio 4 show "Front Row" brand this autumn into television with a new series on BBC Two.
The corporation is planning “an enhanced digital offer” for the arts and culture programme across TV, radio and online.
The "Front Row" television series will broadcast on early Saturday evenings in September and will explore the changing landscape of the arts, bringing viewers a rich mix of interviews, news, features and performances, as well as arts and culture reviews.
The topical weekly discussion show will air for seven weeks and presenters will include television and radio presenter Nikki Bedi, British columnist and broadcaster Giles Coren and the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan. The BBC Two "Front Row" production team will “work in synergy” with the BBC Radio 4 programme team, with some shared interviews conducted by the radio show’s presenters also appearing on the television programme.
"Front Row" appears on Radio 4 every weeknight at 7.15pm with a weekly audience of 2.1 million according to the broadcaster. It will mark its 20th anniversary on air next year.
The show frequently features figures from the publishing industry: yesterday novelist Philippa Gregory appeared on the programme while Colm Tobin and Irvine Welsh were also featured earlier this month. On Friday (4th August) Waterstones m.d James Daunt and Will Atkinson, m.d of Atlantic Books, discussed bookshop economics and the role of the “recommendation”.
This autumn, "Front Row’s" digital offer will also be enhanced with additional content, including videos, revealing more about what happens in the studio and behind-the-scenes.
The new TV series was commissioned by Patrick Holland, controller, BBC Two and Jonty Claypole, director of arts. It will be produced by Scotland-based Pacific Quay Productions, part of the BBC’s commercial production arm BBC Studios and will be executive produced by Tanya Hudson.
Editor of BBC Radio 4’s "Front Row", Alice Feinstein, will also edit the BBC Two programme and said she wanted to bring the “wit and style” of the "Front Row" team to a television audience.
Holland said he was “delighted to welcome the editorial expertise” of the "Front Row" team. He promised “a fresh and intelligent new topical arts show designed to provide real journalistic depth and insight to our arts coverage”.
Claypole praised Radio 4’s “outstanding programme”. He said: “It is able to reflect the latest developments in UK culture as it happens – and isn’t afraid to set the agenda too, bringing us into contact with some of the greatest artists and practitioners each weekday. By expanding its footprint with BBC Two and enhancing its digital presence, we will connect an even wider audience with the very best arts and culture right across the country.”
Mark Hedgecoe, head of Pacific Quay Productions, BBC Studios praised Radio Four’s “iconic show”. He said: “We are enormously excited about producing BBC Two's version of Front Row, adding to Pacific Quay Production’s growing roster of commissions. "Front Row" is an iconic Radio Four brand and this is a terrific opportunity to bring its rich mixture of arts and culture to a new television audience."
In July it was revealed that the BBC had saved its other cultural discussion programme, "Saturday Review", from the axe. Three months earlier the programme, presented by Tom Sutcliffe on Radio 4, had been announced as a loser in the corporation’s cost-cutting measures. However last month Gwyneth Williams, controller of Radio 4 and 4 Extra, announced she would save the show as “part of Radio 4’s ambitious and wide-ranging arts content”.