The BBC is to play “hardball” over terms in its Great British Bake Off contract which would prevent Channel 4 from airing a full series next year, RadioTimes.com understands.
Senior Corporation insiders have indicated that the BBC is unlikely to waive its rights to hold producers Love Productions to a clause in its contract preventing a full run in 2017.
The holdback or “cooling off” clause stipulates that if the show moves to another broadcaster it cannot be aired until the following year.
“We’re going to play hardball on this,” said a Corporation source.
Channel 4 is to air a celebrity Bake Off in aid of Stand Up to Cancer in the autumn of next year, featuring Paul Hollywood who is the only one of the original presenters who have stayed with the show. But at the moment the channel is still unsure of where it stands in terms of a series for 2017 as Love Productions are understood not to have been notified by the BBC about its position on the clause.
As RadioTimes.com revealed yesterday, C4 has already begun the search for new bakers. The hopefuls have been told that the broadcaster does not yet known which year they will appear if they are successful.
The BBC is believed to be keen to launch a new cookery-style competition show of its own next year, though it has not confirmed any details, and the absence of Bake Off on C4 could prove a boon to any new format it develops.
Last night BBC director of content Charlotte Moore unveiled the BBC’s Christmas schedule and said: “The Voice and Bake Off might be going but this presents us all with a fantastic creative opportunity to invest in more home grown ideas and discover the next generation of hits. We’re going to play with formats, create new slots across the week and on Saturdays, we’re already piloting some exciting shows.”
When asked by RadioTimes.com at the launch event whether the BBC would be holding Love to its contract or whether it would be launching a new baking show next year, Moore would not comment.
A senior source said: “We are planning something – but it won’t necessarily be a baking show.”
Channel 4 declined to comment on the “speculation” and said: “We have not announced the scheduling dates for The Great British Bake Off.”
A spokesman for Love Productions said: “We will not be commenting on rumours.”
Despite the wall of silence, the BBC’s position is understood to have divided opinion in the TV industry.
While some believe the BBC is within its rights to uphold the clause, others suggest that viewers may object to the Corporation preventing a fellow public service broadcaster from airing a much-loved show for a year.
A Bake Off production source said: “We can’t understand why the BBC would want to delay this programme for a variety of reasons.”
Other sources point to the fact that The Great British Bake Off is distributed globally by the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide, meaning that the BBC would theoretically be out of pocket if the show is not broadcast for a year on Channel 4.