BBC Bosses Forced to Call Security after Blazing Row with Stephen Poliakoff; Anger of Veteran Writer as He Is Told Scripts Will Be Vetted

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

BBC Bosses Forced to Call Security after Blazing Row with Stephen Poliakoff; Anger of Veteran Writer as He Is Told Scripts Will Be Vetted


Byline: James Tapper

AS ONE of the country's leading dramatists, Stephen Poliakoff is used to getting his own way at the BBC.

In fact, the veteran writer once boasted that at the Corporation, 'nobody has tried to interfere' with his work.

So when a BBC executive tried to do exactly that, Mr Poliakoff created such a furious scene that staff ended up calling security after becoming alarmed by the shouting.

The astonishing row happened at Television Centre in West London after he was told that in future he would have to submit his projects for approval.

The 57-year-old award-winning writer was in a meeting with the BBC's drama commissioning controller Ben Stephenson, 31, who has been shaking up the department since he was put in charge in 2008.

Mr Poliakoff - who once said: 'I don't have to refer casting decisions upwards, and that is a right I guard tenaciously' - was told by Mr Stephenson that he would have to submit to the same process of pitching ideas as the rest of the BBC's stable of writers.

He was also told his next project would not be commissioned without him writing a script first.

A TV source said: 'He was shouting and yelling - the noise coming from Stephenson's office was extraordinary.

'One of his staff called down to security to make sure nothing happened. By the time they arrived, the moment had passed so no action was taken.' The meeting was also attended by Lorraine Heggessey, one of the most powerful women in television and the boss of independent production company Talkback Thames, which produces Mr Poliakoff's dramas.

Mr Poliakoff has developed a reputation as one of Britain's premier dramatists. His TV plays attracted large viewing figures for work such as Shooting The Past, about a library threatened with closure, starring Timothy Spall and Lindsay Duncan. …

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