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Commissioning Editor, Documentaries

  • Channel 4
  • London, UK
  • 03/08/2022

Job Description

Job Title: Commissioning Editor, Documentaries
Reports to: Head of Documentaries
Department: Commissioning
Location: London


In Documentaries, we want to make programmes that create headlines, reveal and challenge. We are a broad church, commissioning more than 300 hours a year, from 24 Hours in Police Custody and First Dates, to Jeremy Kyle Show: Death on Daytime, Barrymore: The Body in the Pool, and Crime and Punishment. Everything we do, we aim to innovate – whether through our storytelling, use of technology, authorship, form, and POV. We know – when we get this right – we can reach big, broad audiences. And, more than ever, performance on All4 is crucial to our success.


To oversee and editorially manage the department's programmes and to commission documentaries. The role involves working creatively with independent production companies and liaising internally with many departments.

  • Work with the Head of Documentaries to ensure the delivery of their strategy.
  • To originate, develop and commission innovative new programmes on time and on budget
  • To generate ideas and identify fresh territories and themes for exploration
  • To initiate and manage positive, creative relationships with a wide range of indies to ensure  a steady supply of groundbreaking ideas
  • To identify and nurture new on and off-screen talent, from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds. 
  • Commission programmes for our First Cut strand (our award-winning strand for new directors).
  • To manage and quality control a wide range of often challenging programmes, including returning series, as well as overseeing and managing any complexities that arise 
  • To broaden the range of independent producers and on-screen talent we work with 
  • To work effectively with other parts of the Channel – e.g. legal and compliance, marketing, press, scheduling etc
  • To work closely with our Cross Platform teams to maximise the viewer experience and the impact of programmes across a variety of platforms

Technical & Professional Skills
  • Must have worked at a minimum series producer level, making or commissioning factual shows which demonstrate a Channel 4/E4 Factual sensibility
  • Strong experience of financial, legal and compliance issues around television production
  • Good understanding of budgets for television programme and the commissioning process
  • Will be required to demonstrate a high degree of editorial judgement in the execution of programmes, exceptional personal integrity and insight into the Channel 4 brand and values
  • Exceptional communication and influencing skills
  • Good standard of education, ideally at degree level
  • Ability to generate and manage high volume of programmes
  • Ability to proactively commission content for use across multiple channels – not just linear scheduled TV
Autonomy/Judgement/Decision Making
  • Job requires decision-making and prioritisation across a broad variety of matters within our work area 
  • Making tough decisions which could involve potential risks - for example, if a highly publicised new show is disliked by both audiences and critics, it will reflect poorly on the Channel’s reputation
  • Guidance on work issues is typically met by bouncing ideas and issues at weekly departmental meetings and with relevant heads of department across Commissioning.
  • Handling financial constraints that could impact the role - for example, not having enough money to commission a specific show, being outbid on a project by a rival broadcaster
  • Will be working in a different location to other members of the team, so will need to be autonomous and proactively manage communications between our London, Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol offices to ensure continued effectiveness and efficiency
New talent hunting and nurturing
  • Job requires searching for brand new on-screen talent and nurturing first-time filmmakers to make their first substantial terrestrial broadcast film for C4 for our First Cut strand
Managing Resources
  • Oversee the process of producing a programme after it is commissioned, working with the producer/director in the edit at the commissioned independent production company
  • Determine budgets for projects alongside Commercial Affairs with overall responsibility resting with Commissioning Head
Relationship Management
  • Conduct and maintain good relationships with independents production companies producing programmes for the Channel. Networking is a significant part of the role.
  • Keep abreast of all new talent in the genre and stay one step ahead of immediate competitors
  • Required to handle conflicting viewpoints and gain consensus for the Channel during the editorial process of commissioned programmes with independent production companies
Complexity/Problem Solving
  • Job holder may face a number of unpredictable and unique problems e.g. a ground breaking show may raise problems across the spectrum of editorial, legal, press, marketing, publicity and independent company liaison
  • High degree of creativity required when developing ideas and problem solving with talent and production companies on programme content
  • Role holder will need to assess the impact of any contentious material on the general public
Business Impact/Strategic Perspective
  • Role impacts on short to medium term business targets, and will be required to plan for programmes at least a year in advance whilst maintaining the flexibility to act 
  • swiftly on exclusivity deals, cultural climate, trends and opportunities
  • The Documentaries genre forms an important part of the Channel’s programming strategy and so impacts heavily on the perception and reputation of the Channel, its ratings and advertising
  • Legal, compliance and financial issues e.g. OFCOM regulations on programming have a huge impact on the role