BBC Runners & Riders: Fiona Campbell Tipped To Replace Patrick Holland Permanently

EXCLUSIVE: BBC3 controller Fiona Campbell has been tipped to permanently take on Patrick Holland’s Director of Factual, Arts and Classical Music role, with several internal candidates also thought to be in the running.

Campbell is overseeing Holland’s vast brief temporarily until he moves to Banijay in April and several BBC insiders and UK indie sector sources predicted she will be made permanent at that point and her current controller role closed in line with BBC1, BBC2 and BBC4. No firm decision has been made and the official search for Holland’s successor begins shortly.

Holland revealed he is to replace Peter Salmon as Banijay UK Executive Chair this week and a note to staff from Chief Content officer Charlotte Moore indicated Campbell will fill his shoes immediately for several months while he focuses on “special projects.” At the same time, a BBC3 Channel Editor to help with the day-to-day running of the youth-skewing network will be hired.

Campbell is about to oversee BBC3’s return to linear TV after six years off air and sources indicated she has carried out the brunt of her commissioning for the next few months, with show announcements expected imminently.

One BBC commissioner said handing her Holland’s old brief, which ranges from natural history behemoths to popular factual-entertainment formats to arts shows, “makes perfect sense.”

“When we found out she was taking it temporarily there were no questions asked,” said this source. “She’s a really popular choice. My view is it’s there for the taking [permanently] and will get the support of almost everyone.”

The source praised Campbell’s “broad strategy approach and popularity with staff.”

The Belfast-based commissioner would also help with the BBC’s push to better represent places outside of London, according to this person.

Campbell has been running BBC3 for nearly three years, joining from the BBC Studios Documentary Unit, which she led briefly. She previously held senior posts in the BBC News team.

If she takes on the role, multiple sources said the BBC3 controller position will likely be abolished in line with the other channel controller posts, which closed earlier this year, at which point Holland moved from BBC2 to Factual, Arts and Classical Music.

“It’s odd that BBC3 remains an outlier and closing the post would give the BBC the opportunity to reduce headcount,” said an indie sector source, who backed Campbell as frontrunner.

Who else?

Head of Documentary Commissioning Clare Sillery was positioned as the main challenger to Campbell by those Deadline spoke with.

Sillery took over from Holland helming documentaries for the BBC several years ago when he moved to BBC2 and is responsible for a vast slate including Hospital, Once Upon A Time In Iraq and Forensics: the Real CSI.

Others within Holland’s current department tipped for potential promotion include Head of Popular Factual and Factual Entertainment Catherine Catton and Head of Science and Natural History Jack Bootle.

The BBC is unlikely to look outside the corporation as the commissioning restructure has only started gathering pace, according to multiple sources.

If it does look externally, however, Channel 4 Head of Documentaries Danny Horan, a former BBC Commissioning Editor, is soon to leave his post and is highly rated.

Other external candidates suggested to Deadline include BBC Studios Productions CEO Ralph Lee and Ben Frow, the maverick ViacomCBS commissioner who has overseen a transformation at Channel 5.

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