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BBC factual controller lays out plans to tackle "an era of false facts and fake news"

"We are living in a period of seismic change" said Alison Kirkham as she announced a new raft of BBC programmes including a Princess Diana documentary and a new series with Nigella Lawson

Published: Friday, 2nd June 2017 at 10:59 am

A senior BBC executive has said the corporation will become braver and bolder in its programme making to ensure it challenges fake news and remains relevant to its audience.


“Whether it’s a curse or a blessing we live in interesting times,” BBC Factual Controller Alison Kirkham told an audience of celebrities and programme makers in London last night.

“Given that, it would be unforgivable if our programmes ever felt suspended in aspic. We will be unafraid of offering voices prepared to articulate a point of view; to take a stance and stimulate the audience into re-examining long held beliefs and in-built prejudices.”

She said it was important that BBC factual content was relevant to the audience consuming it.

“When people stop seeing visions of themselves on TV then they will stop coming (to us). We will reflect a plurality of voices and opinions. We will reflect our audiences back to themselves. We are living in a period of seismic change when it feels that months happen in weeks. In an era of false facts and fake news it is the role of a proudly independent BBC to respond by offering a trusted lens through which to view the world.”

Kirkham was announcing a raft of new commissions at a launch event that was attended by the likes of Mary Berry, Nigella Lawson, Nick Knowles, John Craven and Simon Reeve. The highlights include a 90-minute documentary to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana in which both her sons – the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry – speak very personally about their loss and also their reasons for making the film.

Says Prince William: “Part of the reason why Harry and I want to do this is because we feel we owe it to her…I think an element of it is feeling like we let her down when we were younger. We couldn’t protect her. We feel we at least owe her, 20 years on, to stand up for her name and remind everybody of the character and person that she was.”

His brother, Prince Harry, adds: “It’s never going to be easy for the two of us to talk about our mother, but 20 years on seems like a good time to remind people of the difference that she made, not just to the Royal Family but also to the world.”

Kirkham said of the brothers, and of the documentary: “They are remarkable people. It may feel a story we know well but in this documentary they talk for the first time about their memories of that shocking week itself – memories of learning of their mother’s death, of the public outpouring of grief, as well as of the funeral. “

In her speech she evoked the spirit of the BBC founder Lord Reith and his “inform, educate and entertain” mantra.

In announcing a new home-cooking series with Nigella Lawson – Nigella: at My Table – and a personal makeover show with Claudia Winkleman, she said: “It is not a coincidence that Reith articulated an aim beyond just education. For him there was a need to also entertain. He knew that facts without emotion are just data.”

The other highlights in the package of programming Kirkham unveiled includes:

The Partition Story

A season of programmes marking the 70th anniversary of the partition of India.

Abortion: What Britain Really Thinks

Another anniversary – this time 50 years since the introduction of the 1967 Abortion Act. Anne Robinson asks whether the legislation still reflects the view of modern Britain.

Chris Packham: Me and My Asperger’s

The much-loved naturalist talks candidly about how his autism has shaped the person he is.

Who Should we Let In?

Ian Hislop looks at the history of immigration into the UK and the legacy it’s created.

Miriam’s Great American Adventure

Miriam Margolyes embarks on a 1000 mile journey across middle America – a country she lived in for 16 years – to see if it’s still the country she remembers.

Earth from Space


A four-part series from the BBC’s Natural History Unit that examines Earth from 400km above.


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