|Alma mater||University of Manchester|
|Partner(s)||Tom Rob Smith|
In 1999 Stephenson worked at Granada as a script editor on the television series Heartbeat. He went on to edit scripts for London's Burning and Blood Strangers. Stephenson then worked at Channel 4 for over two years, on shows such as No Angels, later moving to Shed Productions, and Tiger Aspect. While at Shed he served as producer on the military drama Bombshell, commissioned by ITV but never shown in the UK. It was screened in New Zealand in 2006.
Stephenson joined the BBC in 2004 working as Head of Development for Independent Drama, later becoming Head of Development for Fiction. Stephenson then took the roles of Head of Drama Commissioning at the BBC.
His hit-rate during 2011 included a boost of £10m a year extra for BBC2 drama over the next 3 years, described by Stephenson as "a breath of fresh air". Several of 2011's dramas including The Crimson Petal and the White and single film United have performed well, though 8-part science fiction drama Outcasts, despite heavy promotion, drew disappointing ratings. Five out of the eight BAFTA drama awards for 2011 went to the BBC, including two for Sherlock (including best drama series).
In July 2009 Stephenson wrote a blog article in The Guardian newspaper in response to criticisms of the BBC's drama output in which he stated:
"If I didn't think differently, have different ideas of what works and what doesn't, wouldn't your lives, and more importantly, your TV screens be less interesting? We need to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, postcodes, my class only stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking."
The comment caused controversy as it was considered to be a breach of the BBC's Royal Charter which obliges the organisation to be impartial in its output. Jeremy Hunt, shadow culture secretary at the time called for Stephenson to make "an immediate retraction and apology", stating "no journalist or editor should be following a political agenda, let alone someone as senior as a controller" with his concerns also echoed by Peter Whittle and Jonathan Isaby. Critics such as Stephen Glover also suggested that rather than being idio-syncratic, Stephenson "is part of the status quo, conforming to the Leftist beliefs that predominate in the BBC." Stephenson later denied that he had meant his comment to have a political meaning, likening it to the phrase "left-field".
- Inside the BBC - Ben Stephenson biography
- BBC - Press Office - Ben Stephenson biography
- Interview with BBC's controller of drama Ben Stephenson | Media | The Guardian
- "Is drama safe at the BBC?" The Guardian
- The New Zealand Herald May 3rd 2006]]
- Interview: Ben Stephenson on the future of BBC drama - Telegraph
- 'If people don't like BBC drama, they should come and speak to me' | Ben Stephenson | Media | guardian.co.uk
- BBC executive says corporation should foster 'left-of-centre thinking' - Telegraph
- Senior BBC Executive faces Tory anger over 'left of centre' thinking comments | Mail Online
- Drama should be Left of centre, BBC confirms. So why pay the licence fee? – Telegraph Blogs