BBC comedy commissioner leaves for Hartswood Films

Liz Thomas

Mark Freeland, head of comedy commissioning at the BBC, is leaving to join independent production company Hartswood Films, best known for shows such as Men Behaving Badly and Coupling.

After three years at the Corporation, where he commissioned a range of hits including The Big Impression, The Catherine Tate Show, Nighty Night and The Keith Barret Show, Freeland is expected to join the indie by the summer.

He said: “This has been a really tough decision for me. My time at the BBC has been unbelievably creative, challenging and rewarding. At every level I have worked with unique and talented people from whom I have learned a great deal. However I felt I could not turn down the chance to join Hartswood Films and have the opportunity to develop and produce with the Vertues [the family who run the company] across a range of television genres, especially comedy. Because of Hartswood’s programming track record, the way in which they work with writers, their business outlook and ambitions, when it comes to moving from commissioning to producing, I can think of no better destination.”

His move follows a comprehensive overhaul of the comedy structure at the Corporation, resulting in the creation of a new position of head of commissioning within the department, responsible for all scripted comedy both from in-house producers and independents. This merged Freeland’s role with that of head of comedy entertainment, Jon Plowman. The pair were invited to reapply for the post.

Commenting on Freeland’s departure, controller of entertainment commissioning Jane Lush, said: “Mark has been a fantastic asset to the BBC’s comedy team and leaves a legacy of bold and original programmes. He has always championed the very best ideas and the most brilliant talent. I’m delighted that we will continue to work together in his new role at Hartswood.”

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