Drama at the Beeb: Poliakoff in script row
Executive told ‘pet writer’ he would be treated like everyone else in future
The playwright Stephen Poliakoff, who is used to getting priority treatment as a "pet writer" at the BBC for such works as Shooting the Past and Gideon's Daughter, is reported to have had an almighty bust-up with the Beeb's young head of drama, Ben Stephenson.
According to the Mail on Sunday, 31-year-old Stephenson told Poliakoff that the days of "special treatment" were over. In future, Poliakoff would have to "pitch" his ideas for approval like any other regular writer and the BBC would need to see the finished script before commissioning.
A BBC source told the Mail that Poliakoff was furious. "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."
The news emerges just a week after the novelist and screenwriter Deborah Moggach criticised "the dreaded" Poliakoff for writing "very poor drama" and the BBC for commissioning too much of it.
"He has taken most of the money, for which other writers feel slighty sore," Moggach told the Sunday Telegraph. "I think he is complete rubbish, actually... He gets quite a lot of very, very poor drama put on and a lot of wonderful writers don't."
Moggach blamed an "over-reverential coterie of people at the BBC who think he has something significant to say. I am not entirely sure it is not 'sound and fury signifying nothing'."
Ben Stephenson's angry meeting with Poliakoff would suggest that if he ever was one of the "over-reverential" brigade, he certainly isn't any longer. As for Poliakoff, he reacted to Stephenson's lecture by saying: "It's difficult enough writing drama without being given suggestions and rules devised by Kafa-esque committees." ·