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Countryfile star Tom Heap says budget constraints impact on show

Showbiz | Published:

He says the show is very cheap considering how many viewers it has.

Countryfile star Tom Heap has said the budget for the popular show is “very tight”, which sometimes impacts on the quality of the programme and leaves him feeling “constrained”.

The rural affairs show, which has beaten The X Factor in ratings battles, has sometimes not been able to afford a few hundred pounds for the use of a drone, the presenter said.

The presenters at Blenheim Palace (Handout/Fisher Studios)
The Countryfile presenters (Handout/Fisher Studios)

Heap told the Press Association he is confident the show has a future, but thinks it needs to move with the times.

He said: “There is no reason it can’t go on, I would say it needs to evolve to survive.

“I don’t think revolutionary change is what it’s about, but I think staying alert to changes that are going on in society and the countryside, both in the audience we are broadcasting to and those that we are filming (is important). But I don’t see why it can’t continue.

Countryfile presenters Anita Rani, Ellie Harrison, John Craven, Adam Henson, Matt Baker and Tom Heap
Tom with Countyfile presenters Anita Rani, Ellie Harrison, John Craven, Adam Henson and Matt Baker (BBC)

“We have a very good slot and as long as the lords of the BBC keep us there that will help, and as long as they don’t cut the budget to the bone as well.

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“The budget is tight, very tight, for such a popular programme.”

Asked if that has an impact on the show and their ability to do what they want, he replied: “Yes it does.”

t) Presenters John Craven, Charlotte Smith, Ellie Harrison, Matt Baker, Adam Henson, John Hammond, Anita Rani and Tom Heap during the photocall to open BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
(Joe Giddens/AP)

He continued: “We would like to do bigger investigations and the budget makes that difficult, in terms of people time and camera time.

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“If we are a journalistic outfit, we are called the investigations unit, sometimes a little bit more room on that would be very handy.

“And when you are one of the BBC’s premium brands, that occasionally would feel a little bit constricting.”

(Handout/Fisher Studios)
(Handout/Fisher Studios)

Heap said this sometimes impacts upon “smaller things”, adding: “We will be out filming something and there are times you can’t afford a couple of hundred quid for a drone, and you think that would really advance the piece.

“I wouldn’t be able to put my finger on individual issues, but some things maybe require undercovers, time to follow things, where you can’t just turn up and film on schedule, and those could be things we struggle to do.

“I’m sure all BBC programmes say they want more budget, we are not unique in that, but I do feel we are constrained.

“I don’t know the figures, but per audience member we must be one of the cheapest programmes on the BBC.”

Heap will join the rest of the Countryfile presenters when Countryfile Live returns to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire from August 3 to August 6.

(Joe Giddens/PA)
(Joe Giddens/PA)

The event, which features live arena shows, hands-on activities and animal displays, attracted 125,000 people last year.

Full show information and tickets are available now from www.countryfilelive.com.

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