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Alan Yentob’s BBC TV arts series Imagine has been axed after 21 years after it fails to sell abroad


  • Mr Yentob will host one off specials for the BBC after series failed to sell abroad 

Alan Yentob’s BBC arts series Imagine has been axed after 21 years on television, the Mail can reveal.

Sources at the corporation said bosses decided to end the programme after it was sent off to be made by its commercial arm, BBC Studios, but failed to sell abroad.

Mr Yentob, 76, is said to be ‘disappointed’ at the decision and will now instead host one off specials for the BBC after controller Charlotte Moore didn’t fight to save it.

One source said: ‘The BBC made it for years and then it was passed over to BBC Studios but their job is monetise their programmes and Imagine wouldn’t sell overseas so wasn’t deemed financially viable.

‘It is very much the end of an era and you can only imagine how cross Alan is about it.’

Alan Yentob's BBC art series Imagine has been axed after 21 years

Alan Yentob’s BBC art series Imagine has been axed after 21 years

The programme was sent off to be made by the Corporation's commercial arm BBC Studios, but has been discontinued after it failed to sell abroad

The programme was sent off to be made by the Corporation’s commercial arm BBC Studios, but has been discontinued after it failed to sell abroad

First broadcast in 2003, Imagine was a regular art series on BBC One hosted and executively produced by the London-born Jewish presenter who is one of the network’s most senior figures.

There were 22 series in total with between five and seven episodes per instalment, which ranged from Mr Yentob interviewing the playwright Arthur Miller to trying out different styles of chairs.

In 2011 Mr Yentob followed the multi-millionaire chart-topping rapper Jay-Z on tour for six months with backstage access to his concerts in LA, Las Vegas and New York.

Speaking about Imagine in 2010, Yentob said: ‘They’re detective stories. I don’t do the big sit-down interview like Melvyn [Bragg]; I like the film to be the thing, and I play my part in that storytelling.’

Imagine episodes ranged between one hour to 90 minutes with interviewees including Cat Stevens, the artist Tracey Emin, the poet Lemn Sissay with Marina Ambramovic inviting him into her home.

Mr Yentob is said to be disappointed at the decision and will now present one off specials of his programme for the BBC

Mr Yentob is said to be disappointed at the decision and will now present one off specials of his programme for the BBC

Mr Yentob also studied rare archive footage of deceased legends including Cary Grant, the artist Edward Hopper and the Russian novelist Tolstoy.

One three-part instalment in 2005 saw the presenter investigate A Short History of Tall Buildings by studying the technology and people behind the world’s most famous skyscrapers.

Last year the BBC announced a series of Imagine Specials. Rather than the traditional one season per year containing a block of five to seven episodes airing weekly, Mr Yentob will front four films profiling leading figures and events.

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘The Imagine strand will continue as Imagine Specials. There is a film on the Pet Shop Boys coming up later this year and another film currently in production and we look forward to discussing ideas for future Imagine Specials.’



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