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Channel 5 boss admits regrets over programmes commissioned during the pandemic

(Luciana Guerra/PA)
(Luciana Guerra/PA)

The chief content officer of Channel 5 and ViacomCBS has admitted he regets commissioning some programmes during the early months of the pandemic.

Ben Frow said during a session at the Edinburgh TV Festival that he had wanted to “keep the show on the road” and support independent production companies while also being restricted by travel and social distancing issues.

The TV chief joked that “an awful lot of programmes” conceived during lockdown had prompted his team to ask: “What were you thinking Ben?”

During the session, in which he spoke to broadcaster Lucrezia Millarini, Frow detailed his channel’s successes during the pandemic but also addressed its failures.

He said: “It’s funny. I am always happy to talk about failure because we do have failure and we do have things that don’t work.

“Let’s just say I seem to have commissioned an awful lot of programmes during lockdown where we are kind of looking at them and going, ‘Really? Two hours on this subject? What were you thinking Ben’.

“And I think what I was thinking was that you have got to keep the show on the road. How do you keep the team together? How can you protect the independents? What can you make?

“So you are very limited on what you make and what you can make when you can’t travel abroad, you have got Covid restrictions.

“You are trying to keep the business together. There is a lot of pressure on that.”

Frow refused to name the TV projects in question, but suggested some may go straight onto digital services.

He also addressed the number of programmes about the British royal family that appear on Channel 5 and revealed that Katharine, Duchess of Kent had written him a “very nice letter” about their recent documentary about her.

He said: “I have done Princess Anne three times now. I literally go, ‘We are not doing any more royals. We have got to stop doing royals. It is getting embarrassing’.

“And a rival might play a royal doc and we go, ‘I’ll be damned if they are going to do a royal doc – okay let’s think of another angle’. I make them up essentially.

“I got a very nice letter via an agent – via your agent actually – from the Duchess of Kent saying she liked her royal documentary and I think we try and be kind and respectful and informative.

“We are doing Princess Alexandra who is an unsung heroine within the royal family. So they have done very well for us.”

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