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Read Danny Cohen’s letter to BBC staff following his shock decision to quit

The outgoing Director of Television cites Poldark, Happy Valley, Peaky Blinders and Wolf Hall among other shows in his tribute to the Corporation

Published: Tuesday, 13th October 2015 at 10:16 am

Danny Cohen was always a strong and passionate defender of the BBC in his eight years at the Corporation.


So it is perhaps no surprise that he chose to outline the reason for his decision to quit in an email to BBC staff, deciding not to give any press interviews today.

Here is what he said about his stint at the organisation that he joined as controller of BBC3, then BBC1, before becoming Director of Television.


I wanted to let you know that I have decided to leave the BBC for a new adventure after eight wonderful years here.

The time feels right for a new creative and management challenge and I’ve decided that it would be better to leave and transparently explore these new opportunities rather than risk creating rumours and uncertainty for our teams.

I feel very lucky to have worked with you all for the last eight years and I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved together.

This is a time of uniquely intense competition and rapid technological change in our industry and I’ve loved leading you at such a stimulating and demanding time.

We have faced challenges the like of which the BBC and the television industry has never faced before. But we have achieved so much and there is a huge amount to be proud of.

In the end it is all about the content: the shows we make, the creativity we unleash, the risks we take – and across BBC Television we have delivered an unparalleled amount of outstanding work that’s been loved by our audiences, won dozens of awards and become global hits.

We have made extraordinary imprints on our national culture and the BBC’s international reputation. We have made our audiences laugh, cry and think. We have delivered an utterly unique offer to the people who pay for us – and I know you will continue to do so.

For me personally, I’ve been very proud to lead BBC Television since 2013 and to have been the Controller of BBC One and BBC Three before that. In these roles I’ve been humbled by the quality and creativity of the people I have worked with and very proud of our shared achievements. I’ve been grateful to oversee a wonderful range of programmes and digital innovations. Together we have successfully worked to ensure that the BBC is the UK’s most successful broadcaster, delivering a range of high quality and popular shows that are admired across the world.

Because of all of you, the list of BBC Television’s successes in this period is incredibly long and I will of course inevitably miss mentioning very many wonderful projects – but there’s a few things I wanted to mention as examples of our shared achievements, the power of teamwork and the wonders of the BBC.

Having worked intensely on the Channel, seeing BBC One in such fine form over the last few years has been a source of great pride. BBC One is indisputably the nation’s favourite television network and its richness and quality of output is a model for television across the world.

From Call The Midwife to Happy Valley, Car Share and The Voice to Poldark and the forthcoming Dickensian and War and Peace, I’m grateful to all the producers, writers, performers and Channel Team members who have played a part in the Channel’s success. Particular thanks also to the people behind those absolutely crucial heartbeats of the BBC One schedule, from Eastenders to The One Show and Graham Norton, from our unrivalled News’ output to Match of the Day.

I’ve also felt very honoured to lead BBC Productions over the last few years. It’s unique creativity and culture never feels more beautifully realised than at the BBC Production Awards at which unsung heroes and deeply committed teams celebrate what they have achieved. We’ve been making thousands of hours of content a year, across a range of scripted and unscripted genres that no other production unit in the world can match. Our reputation continues to grow and grow despite all the competition out there. That is down to all of you who work for BBC Productions and your commitment to making great television and digital content. At this time of change I truly believe that BBC Productions will continue to thrive and innovate and will soon have the opportunity to take its global reputation to the next level.

There is so much else from these years that I want to thank you all for: the extraordinary revival of drama on BBC2, with the commissioning of award-winners like Wolf Hall, Peaky Blinders and The Honourable Woman; the BBC’s creative dominance of UK comedy with new shows including Car Share, Inside No.9, Cradle to Grave and The Wrong Mans following Miranda and Mrs Brown’s Boys; the commitment to entertainment from Strictly to Russell Howard’s Good News, Only Connect and The Revolution Will Be Televised; and the great collaborations we have enjoyed with Sport on huge national moments like the London 2012 Olympics.

I also wanted to celebrate you all for your work to create the most diverse range of factual programmes produced anywhere in the world. The skill of your storytelling across science, history, the arts, music, natural history, religion and popular formats is remarkable, whether it is Our War, The Eichmann Show, Stargazing or countless others.

And we have seen an extraordinary amount of digital change for BBC Television in this period.

The new pan-broadcaster Digital Player Reports show that the iPlayer is leading the way with online television viewing in the UK. The biggest risk to long-established media businesses is that they can’t face the idea of disrupting themselves as the world around them changes. With the iPlayer, with BBC Studios and BBC Three we are showing a willingness to innovate and take major risks to keep the BBC healthy for the long-term.

I also want to thank you for your commitment to improving our record on diversity over the last couple of years. We still have a long way to go – and consistency and the stickability of this change is what matters now – but I am beginning to see the change on-screen and off and I’m proud of it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this note. There is so much more I could say about what you have all achieved, from individual programmes to the creativity and team spirit that has meant BBC Television has continued to lead the way on TV and online in the UK and globally.

I have found it very humbling working with you all and wish you all wonderful things for the future.




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