Schama's Pounds 3m BBC Deal Makes Him a Higher Earner Than Starkey

By Ian Burrell Media and Culture Correspondent | The Independent (London, England), May 21, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Schama's Pounds 3m BBC Deal Makes Him a Higher Earner Than Starkey


Ian Burrell Media and Culture Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)


THE TELEVISION historian Simon Schama is being offered a pounds 3m exclusive deal to produce two new series and accompanying books, the BBC confirmed yesterday.

The package, which ties Schama to the BBC for four years, makes him a higher earner than his fellow television historian David Starkey, who has an exclusive package with Channel 4 and Granada worth pounds 2m.

Schama's deal works out at pounds 250,000 for each hour of programming, not including the time spent on writing the accompanying books. One series will be on art masterpieces, and the other, called Rough Crossings, will be on links between American and British history.

When rumours of the Schama deal emerged in August last year, the BBC denied them. Yesterday Jane Root, the BBC2 controller, confirmed the deal. She said Schama had an "ability to bring audiences to political and social history" and was also "a most distinguished art historian".

She promised that he would "provide for the BBC an engaging and definitive account of some of the world's greatest works of art and their origins".

Schama is best-known for his 15-part BBC documentary series The History of Britain, which attracted more than three million viewers. In a BBC statement, Schama said: "I am delighted and excited to be working again with BBC2 on two projects, both of which happen to be personal passions." Schama, a professor of art history and history at Columbia University in New York, said: "The story of great masterpieces produced at moments of high historical drama, and the often surprising stories which link British and American history, are both subjects which matter deeply to me. "Now I want to persuade millions of BBC2 viewers that they should care too." Schama's deal includes an advance from publishers Harper Collins, thought to be the biggest for a history title.

Schama, who moved to the US in 1980, had said in an earlier interview that his work linking British and American history would include a piece on slavery and the story of the time spent in London by the Native American Pocohontas.

Between them, Schama and Starkey have been credited with popularising history on television. Starkey attracted more than four million viewers to Elizabeth 1 and The Six Wives of Henry VIII as part of an 18-hour, 25-programme series on the British monarchy.

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