The Ecology of TV Drama Production

  • Ruth McElroyEmail author
  • Caitriona Noonan


This chapter provides an original analysis of the ecology of contemporary British television drama production. It identifies the vital role played by public service broadcasters in maintaining a plural domestic production industry. We isolate three key elements in the production and distribution of drama. Firstly, the commissioning process itself is interrogated as an occupational practice that centralises power in the hands of commissioners who are often distant from local ecologies of production. Secondly, the role of independent production companies (‘indies’) and the increasing move towards national and international co-production deals is understood as a direct response to the mobility of television content and the riskiness of its production. Finally, we examine the challenges presented by the rise of subscription video on demand (SVoD) providers, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney and Apple, to the existing business models, intellectual property rights ownership and broader relationships between PSBs and the UK’s indies. We argue that the production practices of contemporary British television drama reveal meaningful tensions between primarily national models of PSB-funded drama production serving plural audiences and export-driven production models in which the unregulated power of major global firms is being consolidated.


BBC Studios Commissioning Co-production Independent production Public service broadcasting Rights Subscription video on demand (SVoD) 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Creative IndustriesUniversity of South WalesCardiffUK
  2. 2.School of Journalism, Media and CultureCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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