Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Saturday, 2 January 2010

Lynda La Plante criticises BBC drama commissioners

Lynda La Plante
The writer and actress has mainly worked for ITV

Prime Suspect writer Lynda La Plante says the BBC would rather see a script from "a little Muslim boy" than her.

La Plante said she found the BBC's drama department "very depressing", as she had meet a "retinue of people" to get to drama controller Ben Stephenson.

"If my name were Usafi Iqbadal and I was 19, then they'd probably bring me in and talk," she told the Telegraph.

Stephenson said he found La Plante's comments odd, as she currently has two scripts in development at the BBC.

"I don't quite understand these points," he said. "She has one piece at the moment, and one piece that we paid fully for the script development.

"She wrote the script, but ultimately we decided that we didn't share the vision for that project so we parted."

He added: "She absolutely got in the door, I know her pretty well, I've had a couple of lunches with her over the last year or so."

Branching out

La Plante has principally worked with ITV during her career, writing series including Widows, Trial And Retribution and The Governor.

She told the Daily Telegraph: "If you were to go to the BBC and say to them, 'Listen, Lynda La Plante's written a new drama, or I have this little Muslim boy who's just written one', they'd say: 'Oh, we'd like to see his script.'"

Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect
La Plante has won two TV Baftas for crime drama Prime Suspect

"Whether they're just frightened of me being an independent [production company], and quite a powerful independent, I don't know."

The writer previously aired her grievances at Britain's TV commissioners in the Radio Times, saying they only wanted her to recreate the success of Prime Suspect.

"Personally, I'd love to do historical drama, but I'm not allowed," she told the magazine last month.

"I'd love to hear someone say, 'What else have you got?' and I'd say, 'Well, I've been researching Mata Hari for five years now'.

"But nobody wants to know. A completely unknown 18-year-old stands a better chance of having that kind of project done than I would right now."

In a statement, the BBC said: "The BBC does not base its commissioning decisions on the ethnicity or the age of a writer.

"In the drama department there are executives in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose job it is to find and develop projects from new and established writers.

"Their only motivation is to find scripts that are innovative and challenging for audiences to enjoy."

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Observer Forget Shameless: X-Factor holds up a truer mirror to the working class - 10 hrs ago
Times OnlineThe television blockbuster is coming your way - 31 hrs ago
Scotland on Sunday Online La Plante says BBC favours Muslims - 32 hrs ago
Telegraph BBC would 'rather read a little Muslim boy's script', claims Lynda La Plante - 47 hrs ago
Mail Online UK Lynda La Plante: 'The BBC would take a Muslim boy's script over mine' - 55 hrs ago
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