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Afternoon drama for the BBC

Drama is to play a greater role in daytime television, following the success of The Afternoon Play on BBC1 last year, the Corporation has announced.

The organisation’s new drama unit in Birmingham is producing a series of ten short stories from up-and-coming writers due to broadcast later this year. The project – Brief Encounters – aims to give new talent an opportunity to develop their scripts with the help of experienced mentors.

Among the well known talent are veteran EastEnders writer Tony Jordan, Andrew Davies, who adapted Pride and Prejudice, and Russell T Davies, whose credits include Doctor Who and Queer as Folk. The first show, entitled Ted, stars comedian Keith Barron and The Rotters’ Club star Kevin Doyle as a troubled father and son.

Elizabeth Heery, who wrote the programme with Davies as her mentor, said: “It has been a real opportunity. I have taken things away from an afternoon with Andrew that I will probably use for the rest of my career. Drama in the afternoon is a great idea as that timeslot can reach a lot of different people and it’s good to allow new writers a slot that is clearly proving popular.”

The 15-minute, low-budget plays form part of the BBC’s long-term plan to increase the amount of programme-making outside of the capital. They follow last year’s review by director-general Mark Thompson, which examined the finances and structure of the Corporation in the run-up to its bid for charter renewal. The BBC has come under fire for its London-centric approach to programming and last week announced new, out-of-London commissioning roles in drama, comedy and factual departments.

The Corporation’s head of daytime Alison Sharman said the department prided itself on providing a nursery slope for new talent and formats. She added: “Brief Encounters provides yet another opportunity to showcase the work of a range of new script-writers and an example of how the wider BBC is committed to regional drama production.” Sharman has been credited with bringing distinctive programming to daytime audiences with shows such as widely acclaimed The Afternoon Play. She took over her current role in January 2002 and is tipped as favourite to become controller of BBC1, after Lorraine Heggessey resigned from the position to take over as chief executive of independent production company TalkBack Thames.