Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cheers to the UK! Bringing the Best of BBC “Across the Pond”

by Suzanne Kashuba

At the BBC Showcase, reviewers spend a total of 40 hours over four days viewing and evaluating BBC programming.

Imagine sitting in a library-type study carrel for 10 hours a day, four days in a row, doing nothing but watching television.

WNED’s VP for Broadcasting and Station Manager Ron Santora travels all the way to Britain each year for just this purpose. He’s one of a select group of seven U.S. public broadcasting executives who consult for the BBC, helping to determine which programs the British broadcasting service will make available for distribution in America (reaching the bulk of Canadians in the process).

Santora’s already looking forward to the 2012 BBC Showcase in late February (his ninth, this year in Liverpool).

In 2011, the BBC Showcase was held at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England.

“It’s wonderful. It’s just heaven,” he said. “It’s outstanding television.”

First, the “Group of Seven” peruses a massive BBC catalog describing potential offerings (including drama, comedy, science, arts and nature programming). Then the marathon viewing (and critiquing) begins.


Group of 7: WNED’s Ron Santora (third from left) is one of seven American public broadcasting executives who evaluate and review potential BBC programs for North American audiences at the annual BBC Showcase. The “Group of Seven” is shown here in 2011.

Santora looks for “unique stories and new experiences” for WNED viewers and is not often disappointed.

The BBC, which bills itself as “the world’s storyteller,” creates “some of the best quality television productions made” in terms of research, writing and production values, he said. “When BBC sits down to do a drama, they’re making a movie.”

In a typical month, programs from across the pond account for more than a third (approximately 35 percent) of WNED’s primetime schedule (8-11 p.m.). They’ve included intriguing mystery series like “Poirot” and “Sherlock Holmes;” popular comedies like “As Time Goes By;” and lavish dramas (including the smash hit series “Downton Abbey”).

Listed below are just a few of the British programs that have or will soon air on WNED-TV.


MI-5 (spy drama) (Thursdays at 10 p.m. on WNED-TV)

Robin Hood (Saturdays at 7 p.m. on WNED-TV)

New Tricks  (Saturdays at 9 p.m. on WNED-TV)

And coming soon!

The Queen’s Palaces (Premieres Sunday, Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. on WNED-TV)

History of Science

Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial

Death of the Oceans?


Pleasure and Pain

The Space Shuttle: A Horizon Guide

Surviving Disaster

20th Century Battlefields: Vietnam

Krakatoa: The Last Days

Battle of Britain: The Real Story

Battle for North America


Which do you watch or would you want to tune in to? What other British programs do you enjoy and why?


How does BBC do it?

They can afford to! Each British household pays an annual TV license levy amounting to $227.24 U.S. (or £145.50) in 2010 to support the system. Last year, the BBC budget was reduced, but still amounted to $4.5 billion!

Doing the math, if all U.S. households* contributed the same amount, PBS would amass nearly $25.6 billion! (*112,611,029 in 2005-9: U.S. Census)


Did you know? WNED is a Britcom Pioneer!

WNED has been ahead of the curve in offering British comedies to American (and Canadian) audiences. The station acquired (i.e., purchased) the rights to air the quirky cult classic “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” beginning in 1975. Three decades later (in 2006) PBS began distributing “Monty Python” nationally in the U.S. (It remains the first and only Britcom distributed by PBS.)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting way to choose shows. Great lineup. I would not like to pay that steep tax every year.