Measuring the BBC's support for on-screen talent

We used appearances by BAFTA nominees on the BBC to provide one measure of the BBC's support for top on-screen talent.

This data visualisation shows appearances by BAFTA nominees on BBC One to BBC Four in 2014. It illustrates how we might measure the BBC's support for on-screen talent in the creative sector. View the interactive visualisation (requires a modern browser, such as Chrome). A set of static screenshots can be downloaded from the right-hand panel.

This is the second of two blogs which describe the BBC’s relationship with the creative sector, using data from the BBC’s programme database, Nitro[1].

The first blog focussed on individuals who work in off-screen roles for television. It showed that programmes broadcast on the BBC connect these people together and support a network that enables collaboration. This blog focuses on those who work in on-screen roles, and looks in particular at how we might measure the BBC’s support for top talent within this group.

Identifying how the BBC supports creative talent is critical in light of the ongoing Charter Review. The Review will shape the debate about the future of the BBC, and will consider the “the role played by the BBC within the wider media and creative sector” (p.10).[2] Another motivation for developing metrics is to assess the BBC’s commitment to “stimulating creativity and cultural excellence”[3], which is currently one of their six public purposes. Existing analysis tends to draw on viewing figures and audience surveys. While these metrics are important for analysing the public’s support for the BBC, they don’t capture the BBC’s support for creative talent.

Before developing a metric, we must decide how to identify the top creative talent among those who appear in on-screen roles. Recognising that a variety of measures are available, we use individuals who have been nominated for a BAFTA award in a performance category.[4] BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards are given annually for film, television and games. The nominees, usually four or five in each category, are chosen by members of BAFTA.[5] Since 1990, just over 500 people have been nominated in performance categories; many have received multiple nominations.

Using the BBC’s programme database (Nitro), and the top-line credits from the programmes broadcast, we identified every nominee’s appearance on BBC1 to BBC4 in 2014.[6] The data visualisation describes the results. It shows that in 2014, 26% of all prime-time drama included at least one BAFTA nominee (based on the length of programmes), and in that year alone 61% of all nominees (from the last 25 years) made at least one appearance. The visualisation also shows the variety of roles and genres in which nominees appear. For example, many nominees appeared not just in acting roles for drama and comedy programmes, but as presenters, participants and interviewed guests for factual and entertainment programmes.

In both blogs we hope to have shown the value of the BBC’s big data in measuring its support for creative talent. These first steps give rise to a number of questions. One particular area of interest is developing metrics to quantify how the BBC, and other broadcasters, support individuals who are at the start of their careers. This would require longitudinal data which includes appearances in minor roles and describes the extent of the broadcaster’s involvement, from screening a programme, to developing the programme in-house. This question and others are left for future research.

[1] BBC Nitro.

[2] BBC Charter Review Public Consultation Document.

[3] Six public purposes of the BBC.

[4] The categories used were leading actor and actress in film and television, supporting actor and actress in film and television, rising star award, best entertainment performance, best female comedy performance and best male comedy performance.

[5] To become a member, individuals must have at least 5 years professional experience in a creative, technical or executive role in film, television or video games, and must be deemed to have made a significant contribution to the industry.

[6] The BBC’s programme database only records top-line credits, and therefore appearances in minor roles may not be detected. Some programmes are missing credits. Appearances include those in off-screen roles. Repeats are included.


Cath Sleeman

Cath Sleeman

Cath Sleeman

Head of Data Discovery, Data Analytics Practice

Dr Cath Sleeman is the Head of Data Discovery.

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