Factual programmes are at the heart of the UK television schedules, whether it’s '24 Hours In Police Custody', 'Gold Rush', 'Long Lost Family', 'The Great British Bake-Off', 'GP's Behind Closed Doors' or 'Gogglebox'. If you want to learn from key industry figures - including commissioning editors and top producers - how mainstream factual programmes are developed, commissioned and produced today, then this year-long, part-time diploma is for you.

The world's first Diploma course in Factual Development and Production delivered with a major worldwide broadcaster.

  • Delivered in partnership with Discovery Networks International.
  • 4 exclusive scholarships provided by Discovery Networks International.
  • Opportunity to pitch to Discovery executives
  • Potentially win £5,000 development funding for your own programme proposal
  • Part-time, evening course.
  • Regular Industry speakers.
  • Develop ideas for factual series and pitch them to commissioners.

We welcome EU/EEA Students. Course fees charged at UK rate.

Application Deadline: 27 Sep 2018

Course Overview

Senior Tutor Simon Broadley, currently commissioning the factual output for STV, is responsible for delivering the course, and said: "The most common reaction I get from the guest speakers themselves is, 'I wish there'd been something like this when I was starting out'. 

The course commences in January each year. Producers have overall responsibility for making programmes happen. They begin work in the development stage and work right through until the programme or series is delivered to the channel and transmitted. Therefore this unique course is structured around three key areas - developing shows and understanding the factual programming market; producing a show; and delivering a show and managing the show post transmission.

Students will be taught by leading producers and commissioners responsible for some of the UK’s most iconic UK factual shows such as Educating The East End, Salvage Hunters and Bear Grylls.

'After working in film for a couple of years, I thought the transition to factual television would be relatively smooth. But I struggled to find interesting, meaningful work - until I started at the NFTS. The support we got from our tutor and the confidence it gave me was invaluable. Within a few weeks I had secured a permanent position at an indie and am now an Assistant Producer, working on a wide range of projects.' - Katharine Fish.  2015 Graduate

The course is part-time (one evening a week and occasional Saturdays) over twelve months and is delivered at Discovery’s UK headquarters in Chiswick, London. Participants will leave the course with a portfolio of material developed during the course, including ideas for factual shows, production bibles and treatments. The course will end with students pitching an idea to senior executives from Discovery Networks International; one student pitched show will be ‘optioned’ securing £5,000 for further development with the support of a Discovery executive producer.

Specifically participants will learn about:

  • Factual programming trends in the UK and US
  • Developing and Researching programme ideas
  • Pitching an idea
  • Casting Contributors
  • Working with Talent On and Off Screen
  • Budgeting and Scheduling
  • Compliance
  • Health and Safety
  • Covering Interviews
  • Shooting the Scene
  • Working in the Edit
  • Writing Voice Over
  • 360-degree ways of working
  • Working with Press and Marketing
  • Delivering a show for a UK Broadcaster
  • Working with different types of broadcasters in the UK and US

Students graduate able to:

  • Develop and pitch marketable factual programme ideas
  • Build and manage factual teams
  • Produce factual programmes
  • Meet the delivery requirements of different broadcasters in the UK and US
  • Critically analyse factual programmes

The course advisory board includes commissioners and established series producers:

  • Aaqil Ahmed -  Head of Commissioning – Religion TV and Head of Religion & Ethics - BBC Religion and Ethics
  • Ade Rawcliffe – Diversity and Talent Manager – Channel 4
  • Alexis Price – Head of Development – Renegade Pictures
  • Alyson Jackson – Head of Production Management at Discovery Networks International 
  • Charlotte Reid - Director of Television, Discovery Networks International 
  • Chris Shaw – Editorial Director, ITN Productions 
  • Dan Korn – Head of Factual at Discovery Networks International
  • Denman Rooke – Managing Director, October Films
  • Dimitri Doganis – Founder, Raw
  • Emma Morgan –  Head of Popular Factual – Oxford Scientific Films
  • Jane Root – Chief Executive, Nutopia 
  • Maxine Watson –  Acting Head of Documentary - BBC
  • Rob Carey – Creative Director, Curve
  • Rob Holloway - Executive Producer, Factual Production and Development, Discovery Networks International 

4 x £5,000 Discovery scholarships are available to students on this course
Discovery and the NFTS encourage applications from the brightest and best talent out there….from all backgrounds. To reaffirm our commitment to supporting exceptional talent and diversity in the media and broadcasting industries, we are encouraging applications from gifted individuals and under-represented groups, and have scholarships on offer to four of the successful candidates. These will be awarded to stand out talent who can demonstrate that without this funding they would not be able to afford the course, or who can demonstrate they bring a unique and distinct perspective to the course.


The course is made up of a number of modules and workshops, participants learn by ‘doing’ as well as understanding theory and developing a variety of practical and creative skills. Each of the modules will focus on the UK in the first instance and then compare and contrast approaches with the US market.

Module 1: UK and US Factual Programming and Shows
Commissioning and big picture market trends: schedules, contracts, ratings, formats, digital.

Module 2: Developing, Pitching and Selling Factual Programmes
Development, Pitching and 360-degree opportunities

Module 3: Producing single factual programmes and series for UK Broadcasters
Budgeting, Scheduling, Health and Safety, Casting Contributors, Working with Talent, Integrating Digital Content

Module 4: Managing the Shoot and Edit of Factual Programmes
Covering Interviews, Shooting the Scene, Working with Contributors, Writing Voice Over, Working with an Editor, Conducting Viewings

Module 5:  Delivery, Transmission and Post Transmission
Broadcaster Requirements, Compliance, Press and Publicity, Other potential post production/delivery issues

Module 6: Developing a Factual Idea (Graduation Project)
Develop an idea for a Factual Series - producing an outline/treatment and a first series production bible. The module will end with students pitching their show to leading Discovery executives. One student pitched show will be ‘optioned’ securing £5,000 in order for further development with the support of a Discovery executive producer to take place.

In addition, there is the possibility – for those that wish to pursue it and subject to availability – to undertake a two week attachment with a production company or broadcaster in the UK.

NFTS Benefits

Factual  Development and Production course participants will have full access to the NFTS’ optional creative stimulus strands, including: Passport to Cinema (weekly screenings of classic and pre-release films in the state-of-the-art campus cinema); and NFTS Masterclasses (major creative figures from film, television and games screening their work and discussing with students in the campus cinema. Recent speakers include Graham King (producer, Hugo, The Departed), Guy Ritchie (Director, Sherlock Holmes), Danny Boyle (Director, Slumdog Millionaire), Ian Livingstone (former President and CEO, Eidos) and Graham Linehan (Father Ted, IT Crowd)


Course leader Simon Broadley has worked in television more than 25 years, in both production and development. He is currently a Development Executive with STV Productions. Simon has been Head of Development or Development Producer at a wide variety of broadcasters and independents, including the BBC, ITV, Sky, Hotbed Media, September Films etc. Simon has devised and developed a wide range of factual, factual entertainment and entertainment series and specials (from crime series for Discovery Investigation to formatted factual for CBBC; popular art for the BBC to lifestyle shows for ITV) with a number of these licenced and produced internationally. 

Many of the people on the course advisory board also teach on the course. In addition Discovery Networks International executives support the course.

Entry Requirements

Applicants will typically have some experience - if only at a junior level - in  Television and have the commitment to progress to a more senior role.

Applicants do not necessarily have to have a university Bachelors degree to apply for the course, but must be able to: demonstrate a knowledge of television; provide details of past achievements; demonstrate a clear focus for their future ambitions; and, crucially, show a passion for Factual programming.

If you are not an EEA National, you must already be in possession of a UK visa valid for the duration of this course.  We are unable to accept your application if you do not.

Apply With

  • An idea for a factual series on Discovery Channel UK no more than 750 words max
  • Tell us about a stand out Factual TV programme you’ve watched in the last month. Explain why you think it was a success. 500 words max

How to Apply

You can apply directly to us at the NFTS by clicking on the link below:

When selecting your course, please ensure that you have read the entry requirements and details of the supporting materials that should accompany your application.

Timing your application

We are happy to receive applications 24/7 and 365 days a year up until the deadline.

  • 12 Month Course
  • Part-time evening course
  • Course runs Jan-Dec each year
  • Next intake: January 2019
  • UK and EEA applicants only

‘Personally I’ve gone from working in a pub to working for one of the largest, most prestigious broadcasters on the planet, doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do. None of this would have been possible without knowing the field inside out, which is exactly what I learned on this course... and having an NFTS stamp on my CV really makes it glow.’
George Richardson. 2016 Graduate. Production & Development internship at Discovery.