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‘End of an era’ as Banijay UK shutters RDF Television amid unscripted shift

UK prodco RDF Television, maker of hit factual entertainment formats such as Wife Swap and Faking It, is to be closed down by parent company Banijay UK.

Patrick Holland

In an email to RDF staff, Banijay UK chief Patrick Holland explained that the decision was taken because of “structural changes, particularly to our unscripted business.”

European production and distribution giant Banijay had been reviewing RDF’s future ever since it merged the prodco with Remarkable Fiction last summer.

A comment from RDF on its Facebook page read: “With the devastating news that RDF is closing, an enormous thank-you to all the freelancers who’ve contributed to the fabulous, ground-breaking output over the years.

“All the staff, past and present, are so shocked and saddened by the news, as RDF was a very special place to work.

“We all hope that the industry comes through this really difficult period and all the wonderful, talented programme makers are working on new commissions soon.”

Holland said in his email: “Broadcasters are increasingly moving away from general factual and lifestyle programming, the traditional domain of 8/9pm linear schedules, as they focus on a digital-first strategy.

“While we are seeing exciting and sizeable commissions coming through (particularly in scripted, reality and entertainment genres), given the channel slate changes and the ongoing economic pressure being felt across the global industry, we are making some structural changes particularly to our unscripted business.”

The UK arm of Banijay has scaled up its scripted operations in recent years, with premium dramas such as SAS: Rogue Heroes for BBC One and The Rig for Amazon’s Prime Video.

Speaking at a Royal Television Society event last week, Holland bemoaned the recent lack of green lights from UK broadcasters for factual programming.

“It’s one of the big stories which is happening under the radar of this economic crisis,” he said. “The kind of mid-range factual content that used to fill terrestrial channels has sort of disappeared from the commissioning market.

“It’s a massive reset, because Banijay UK has lots of factual labels and that space is at the heart of the UK market.”

The news, first reported by UK trade publication Broadcast, has caused shock and concern among UK unscripted executives.

Producer and format creator Jonathan Glazier called the news “the end of an era.”

In a post on LinkedIn, he said: “It’s not just the end of a chapter but a reflective mirror on the evolving landscape of British television.

“RDF has been instrumental in crafting the genre affectionately known as ‘fact ent,’ which has been a cornerstone of British TV, showcasing RDF’s gold standard in creating content that is both engaging and innovative.

“The closure represents a poignant moment, indicative of a broader shift in broadcaster strategies, moving away from the traditional domains of general factual and lifestyle programming towards a digital-first approach.”

RDF Television was founded in 1993 by the late David Frank, who died in 2021, and Matthew Frank, laying the foundations for what eventually became Zodiak Media, the UK-based superindie that merged with Banijay in 2015.

Specialising in entertainment, factual, daytime and factual entertainment programming, it produced shows like The Secret Life of 4, 5 & 6 Year Olds for Channel 4, and Shop Well for Less for BBC One, growing to become one of the biggest production companies in the UK.

RDF West was opened in 2006 under the creative leadership of Mark Hill in Bristol. RDF’s entertainment label Fizz, meanwhile, makes quizshow Tipping Point for ITV and Shipwrecked for Channel 4’s youth-skewing channel E4.

RDF London is headed by former Channel 4 commissioning editor Meredith Chambers, while ex-ITV executive Jo Scarratt-Jones was appointed MD of RDF West at the start of 2022.


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