And what about the views on the BBC of Radio Times readers, as expressed in the results of our recent BBC survey? A large number – 41 per cent – thought that the BBC should do fewer entertainment shows. Not surprisingly, she disagrees.
“We only spend two per cent of the licence fee on entertainment,” she says. Which sounds OK until you work out that’s £74m. And then there’s the issue of scheduling. Should she pitch Strictly directly against The X Factor?
“We’re scheduling Strictly in the place we’ve always scheduled it, and I think our audience expects it to be there at that time.” But is it really in the viewers’ interest to counter-schedule in this way (42 per cent of Radio Times readers said they had an issue with high-profile head-to-heads)?
“I think it’s when the flagship entertainment show is expected to be shown on a Saturday night. There’s no evidence that it’s had any [negative] effect on ITV’s entertainment over the years. Knowing that the BBC is giving people an alternative is absolutely right.” Again, in the nicest possible way, the critics are dismissed.
And in the end that is what you realise about Moore. She couldn’t be nicer – and it’s true that finding anyone with a bad word to say about her is a pretty thankless task – but she has a streak of steel. She doesn’t hesitate to kill off programmes she thinks have run their course – Waterloo Road, New Tricks (below), to name but two – and she doesn’t give an inch to critics of her channel.
She is calm (“I don’t do rows”), thoughtful, talks about ideas a lot (“I don’t do this job as a dictator”) and, drawing on her background in documentaries, is a programme-maker at heart. But far from being overawed by drama and entertainment producers and commissioners – both key genres for BBC1 and in which she’s never worked – she says she quickly realised “how similar the conversations were… documentaries and dramas are all about the narrative arc, how stories connect with audiences, character and so on.”
Which can all sound a bit airy-fairy. But Moore has sat on both sides of the commissioning divide – as a buyer and a seller – and plainly has an instinct for handling creatives.
“Nothing ever turns out exactly as you expect,” she says. “Writers are at the heart of the drama, but the way it’s realised, brought off the page by directors, actors and others, is just as important to the outcome. If anyone ever says everything is going brilliantly, that’s when I get worried.”
If BBC1 continues to perform as it is doing – watched by 75 per cent of the British population every week – with the range of new programmes Moore has commissioned, she’ll have given the corporation a big boost in the Charter Review game now unfold- ing. BBC1’s new slogan is “The one to watch”, and if this all works out, the same could be said of its controller.
Steve Hewlett presents The Media Show on Radio 4