It is not yet clear which companies will bid to make the show, which is currently made in-house by the BBC Studios department, but any commercial bidders will have to offer strict assurances about the future of the programme which has always prided itself on its “pure science” approach.
Since 1964, Horizon has won numerous awards with many Bafta and Royal Television Society Awards to its name.
Chernobyl’s Sarcophagus (1991), Assault on the Male (1993) and The Fall of the World Trade Centre (2003) have all won International Emmys. In 1988, Horizon won a Bafta for Best Drama, Life Story about the elucidation of the structure of DNA.
However, if BBC Studios loses the right to make Horizon it will be a major blow to the BBC, which is still reeling from the loss of Songs of Praise.
The BBC had made the religious show since 1961, but now it is to be made by independent companies Avanti Media and Nine Lives Media who have agreed a three-year deal worth an estimated £12m.
And Songs of Praise could be forced off the air if staff walk out in a row over pay and pensions.
Workers have been unhappy since the two external companies took over production for the BBC’s flagship religious programme last month and broadcasting union Bectu has said that it is not ruling out strike action.
“The Beeb’s in-house Einsteins need to get their thinking caps on if it is not to experience similar difficulties with Horizon,” said a source.
A BBC spokesman said that the pitching process is “ongoing” and that “there isn’t anything to announce at the moment”.
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years. After a two year stint on local newspapers in the mid 1990s, he spent more than 5 years as the broadcast reporter at the Stage newspaper. Following that he enjoyed staff reporting positions at the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times breaking stories and writing features before settling as a full time freelance writing for an array of newspapers and magazines - but mainly for the Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.