We always like to know aboout people from the old place who’ve made it, don’t we? Shane Allen is one the most influential people who comes from Northern Ireland. What is he? A politician on the rise (hah!) A journalist/writer (hah again)? A business mogul , a poet? Nope. He’s the BBC’s head of comedy commissioning and so a guy who has the power to shape popular taste. Don’t know him at all but he sounds as edgy as some of the stuff he commissioned. Shane has joined a tiny elite who cruise round the TV channels as producers, commissioners and back to production again in a world that’s becoming more global and big business orientated. His last billet was Channel 4 where it seems his edginess wasn’t always appreciated.
It was Shane’s last chance to be ‘a bit C4’ and to go too far – because that is what C4 is there for. He also did a lot of sincere stuff about how he grew up in Belfast and C4 was a beacon into the world.”
Cosgrove has also tasked Allen with growing Northern Ireland’s share of the pot and building on two Comedy Labs won by Belfast indie Green Inc in recent years.
In this interview with the Guardian today he emerges as the champion of Mrs Brown’s Boys which seems to me as original as used toilet paper – but boy, is it box office. As Shane says:
“It was a game-changer. I think sometimes people in TV land make TV for people in TV land, and Mrs Brown’s Boys is a perfect example of how to serve an audience.”
It’s a basic rule of the people who commission the commissioners to allow commissions through that they may not like themselves and give the likes of Shane their head. They’ll note his careful obeisance to tradition and enjoy his cheek for as long as he delivers. He may not feel any great loyalty to the BBC as an institution, a quality that’s now material for nostalgia programming like the farewells to BBC Television Centre on BBC 4 last week.
How has Shane ‘s background as a BRA lad shaped him? I can find only this reference which implies that Channel 4 was a window out of our small world. No surprises there. He sounds talented, obsessive and not exactly highbrow. Does anyone know more about Shane Allen?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London