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Landmark BBC series Civilisations “delayed until 2018”

BBC director general Tony Hall denies claims that the BBC arts team is “in the doghouse” because of the delay

Published: Friday, 25th November 2016 at 5:30 pm

The BBC follow up to Kenneth Clark’s classic 1969 series Civilisation has been hit by delays, understands.


The series will probably hit screens in 2018 - nearly four years after BBC director general Tony Hall announced a commitment to a new version of in March 2014.

It was due to air next year but understands that it is "highly unlikely" to meet that deadline.

The production team is said to be anxious to get the follow-up just right – especially when Hall has such a personal investment for a series which he says will show a new generation “the power of art and creativity across the world – from the dawn of civilisation to today”.

Civilisations will see Simon Schama, Mary Beard and British-Nigerian historian David Olusoga joining forces to tell the story of the whole of human history.

The 10-part series is being seen as a remake of art historian Kenneth Clark's 1969 series Civilisation, taking viewers from the dawn of time through the golden ages of art and culture to the present day.

The original series focussed on the influence of Western art, but the new version will expand to include civilisations from Asia to the Americas, Africa as well as Europe.

This week Hall told the Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in London how the original series captivated him as a child and offered him “access to a whole new world of knowledge”.

“Here was the whole world of the arts. A personal tour guide through the churches, museums and galleries of Europe… A whole history of Western arts, architecture and philosophy since the dark ages, crammed into the corner of my living room on Merseyside.

"Because Kenneth Clark had a firm belief that art and culture were life-enhancing, and that everyone should have access to them.”

At the conference, asked Hall about the delay to the series.

He told us: “It’s end of 2017 or 2018 I am not sure yet. If it does move from 17 to 18 that’s fine by me. It’s winter of next year and we are trying to work that through now.

“It’s also about what else we have got going. The schedules are about making sure we have impact and where it should play.”

Asked to comment on claims made by one source that the BBC arts department was “in the doghouse” about the delay, Hall said: “No, no, no. Not all. This is about how we can get most impact.”


A BBC spokesman said: “Scheduling is still to be confirmed for Civilisations.”


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