BBC challenges serious issues in new winter line-up

LONDON – The BBC is using its £177m winter schedule to help address sensitive issues such as asylum seekers and the rise of the far right, in a controversial new drama starring Stephen Mackintosh as a family man who returns to his far-right roots.

'England Expects' aims to show how the negative attitude to asylum seekers and cultures such as Islam are feeding the far right in the UK, which has scored a number of political victories in the last 18 months.

Lorraine Heggessy, controller of BBC One said, using drama was a powerful way of getting viewers to engage with difficult subjects.

"It can provide viewers with a three-dimensional and emotional understanding of often complex situations. Drama introduces them to issues and dilemmas that they would otherwise be likely to ignore, by getting under the skin of subjects," she said.

The channel will use two documentaries to try and reverse negative opinions toward childcare. The first called 'About a Child' is about children in care, while the second, 'After Care', is about older people who grew up or spent time in care.

Heggessey said: "I have long felt passionately that as a society we have betrayed children put into care through no fault of their own. In this season, through documentaries and special storylines in our drama series, we hope to bring to life the reality of the impact of being in care to viewers of all ages."

The BBC winter schedule tackles the rising amount of debt among consumers with a series called 'Hey Big Spender'. Financial advisers will offer simple suggestions on how people can save £116 or the cost of their TV licence.

On a more light-hearted note, a racy and witty political drama called 'The Deputy', starring Jack Dee alongside Warren Clarke and Dervla Kirwan, tells the story of deputy prime minister Bob Galway, played by Clarke. Dee plays a self-seeking politician Stephen Sharples, and Kirwan plays director of communications Terri Leonard.

Stephen Tompkinson is back in a new drama as a campaigning journalist telling the story of Stephen Downing and the 1973 murder of Wendy Sewell in 'In Denial of Murder'.

Other new dramas include 'Hustle', from the makers of Spooks, about a gang of con artists in London; 'Sea of Souls', an investigative drama about parapsychology starring Bill Paterson, while a new series of 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' returns to screens.

Comedy shows will include 'Mad About Alice', which stars Amanda Holden and Jamie Theakston as a couple "who broke up long before their marriage was really over", and 'The Worst Week of My Life', starring Ben Miller and Sarah Alexander, which is about getting married.

Celebrity-fronted documentaries include Victoria Wood's 'Big Fat Documentary', which is about the nation's obsession with diets, and Rolf Harris' 'Star Portraits'.

ITV also unveiled its winter programming line up today, with celebrities and drama at the heart of it.

Drama includes 'Brides in the Bath', starring Martin Kemp as a serial killer, and 'The Return', with Julie Walters also playing a killer, in a drama about a lifer on parole after serving a sentence for the murder of her husband.

The commercial channel is also relying on the UK's obsession with Victoria and David Beckham with a documentary, filmed with their permission, following their move to Madrid.

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