Zai Bennett began his TV career in the post room at Carlton Television in 1995 where he sometimes delivered the mail to David Cameron. He didn’t stay as a mailman for long though, quickly rising through the ranks of both Carlton and then Channel 5 before moving to ITV where as head of programme strategy he helped commission shows such as Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Celebrity Juice.
He was poached by the BBC in 2010 to take over the vacancy at BBC Three left by Danny Cohen in a move which the Telegraph described as ‘dumbing down’. However now he is in the BBC Three hot seat he has Channel 4 firmly in his sights.
Speaking about his role at the BBC Bennett said: “I had always wanted to work at the BBC, it is the most creative broadcaster in the world, you can’t work in television and not think about whether you would touch some part of the BBC at some point.”
Given that he hasn’t had to keep his eye on the Return On Investment at ITV for any particular show Bennett has said that he is now afforded much more creative freedom with the BBC.
Speaking to the Guardian at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in 2011 Bennett said he was looking at comedy closely and though he has tried to rebalance the channel, he has admitted that so far BBC Three hasn’t replicated the success of shows such as The Mighty Boosh and Gavin & Stacey.
“I want us to have weird crazy stuff which people don’t originally get but then love like the Mighty Boosh. Comedies take time, and we will let them grow.”
Zai hasn’t been in the job long, but he has rung the changes, with many regular shows including Ideal, Two Pints and Mongrels given the chop. He is open to new ideas though, and isn’t looking to limit a channel which he sees as being writer led.
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