The Save BBC 4 Campaign

BBC Four LogoCurrently there is a campaign and online petition in place to save BBC 4.

The BBC are having to make cuts – or savings – our Prime Minister prefers the term savings but then as he is the leader of the coalition government making those cuts he would! But when is a saving not a cut – just more Orwellian newspeak…

Save BBC 4 CampaignSave BBC 4 CampaignThis need for savings arises from the BBC’s Delivering Quality First (DQF) initiative – the name of their consultation agenda for their current charter period ending 2017. The TV License Fee has been frozen by the government until that period meaning the BBC will have to save one-fifth of its current budget – oops, I used the phrase ‘save’ – its subliminal!

And BBC 4 is in the firing line – as is the daytime output of BBC 2 and the extent of how BBC News 24 is sourced. I understand that cuts do have to be made – consciously resisting the subliminal message now! – and whichever channel they target is going to have its fan-club up in arms resisting the changes. It is positive testament to the BBC that their channels inspire such fierce loyalty.

And if BBC 4 is to escape unscathed then other channels will have to be scathed, and which?

BBC local radio?

BBC News 24? – they do have a number of discrete programmes, such as Hard Talk and Click, but much of the news is repeated fifteen minute chunks always bordered by sports and weather updates (an aside, why do we need weather updates – surely that could be scrolled on the screen or we could use our digital red buttons to access our local weather – I don’t want to know what the weather is like five hundred miles away from where I live at any time of the day nevermind every fifteen minutes!).

There is so much going on in the world, so much going on in Britain, yet we would never know it from the limited items reported on, then repeated ad-infinitum on BBC News 24. Not so much BBC News 24 as BBC News Quarter of an Hour.

They could share the cuts across all the channels? The BBC equivalent of all being in it together?! Less daytime and after-midnight output, but leaving the evening and weekend peak-viewing times intact?

Just as anyone of us can become an armchair general or armchair football manager so we can become the admittedly less glamorous armchair accountant – sitting in all cases at a comfortable distance not having to deal with difficult details and the inevitable messy human cost.

My concern for BBC 4 is that it is already like its younger party-going sibling BBC 3 a part-timer – clocking in at 7pm for its evening and then graveyard shift – heading off home to rest in the early hours of the following morning just as their older sibling channels are waking up to offer us their various Breakfasts.

BBC 4 LogoAnd then much of its content is repeated – if you miss Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency of an evening chances are it will be shown again after midnight and then later on in the week. And with the excellent BBC iPlayer that is of itself not that much of a selling point rather that BBC 4 is already padded out as it is – I am not sure how much saving there is in cutting down on the multiple showings of new content? Perhaps too if BBC 1 and 2 never had their younger siblings, 3 and 4, much of that content would have made it on to 1 and 2 anyway?

The BBC could also consider more content broadcast solely online – the iPlayer itself is a recognition of the time-shifted nature of how most of us now live our lives and watch our television – though perhaps this is an idea whose time is not yet ready with the user experience simply not as satisfying on a smaller computer screen with the vagaries of Broadband.

BBC 4 Library LogoThere is much support for BBC 4 – not just the viewing public but its jobbing actors and presenters – on Twitter there are many speaking up in favour of it and urging us to sign the petition – I have done so – such as Armando Iannucci, David Mitchell, Stephen Mangan and there is also a Twitter account Save BBC Four we can follow to monitor the progress of the campaign.

It is my favourite BBC channel too…for its arts and science output, its comedies, its literary adaptations,  its European crime dramas! – for example in no particular genre order the aforementioned Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency, The Art of Russia, Ego: The Strange and Wonderful World of Self-Portraits, Lead Balloon, The Thick of It, 2012, The Killing, Wallander, Spiral, Everything and Nothing, Women In Love – I could go on but run the risk of merely listing their entire schedule!

Considering its allotment of hours is relatively small it has managed to cram those hours with programs full of quality and originality. I hope, as with the campaign to save BBC Radio 6, that BBC 4 will be ring-fenced and the channel’s current creative content continue.

Save BBC 4 Campaign

The Real Jane Austen

The Real Jane Austen - Anna Chancellor

Presenter Anna Chancellor

The Real Jane Austen a 2002 one hour documentary of the life of Jane Austen is currently being re-broadcast on BBC 4.

It was presented by Anna Chancellor who you may remember as Caroline Bingley from the 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice but who is also an eight times great niece of Jane Austen.

Jane Austen herself is played by Gillian Kearney – the 2008 BBC TV film Miss Austen Regrets also portraying her life had Olivia Williams in the Jane Austen role and who has become in my mind Jane Austen! – but Gillian Kearney presents a very convincing Jane Austen too. You being I presume an Austen Aficionado will know there is only one picture of Jane Austen and of which there are doubts to its accuracy – but in any case the measure of Jane Austen is her personality and spirit which is abundantly clear to all who read and understand her works. Both Olivia Williams and Gillian Kearney capture this.

The Real Jane Austen - Gillian Kearney

Gillian Kearney as Jane Austen

Her close sister Cassandra is played by Lucy Cohu.  Lucy Cohu was to have a small part in another Austen film. the biopic Becoming Jane, and which had Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen – I can feel another blog post about all the on-screen (and radio) portrayals of Jane Austen!

Their mother going only by Mrs Austen, is played by Phyllis Logan. Their father going only by Mr Austen, is played by John Standing. Neither as far as I am aware have ever acted in a Jane Austen screen-play – I note this only because most prolific British actors, as these two are, have usually acted in one such at some point in their Thespian career!

This illustrious cast of British actors also included Jack Davenport as brother Henry and Wendy Craig as Aunt Lefroy.

The program was directed and produced by Nicky Pattison.

The program explores her life in detail – her upbringing and education, her immediate family and various significant relatives. Then the upheaval of having to leave her Steventon family home for Bath which she could not endure before settling with her sister Cassandra and their mother in a cottage in Chawton on their brother Edward’s estate.

The Real Jane Austen

The Real Jane Austen, maybe!

Naturally her literary life is detailed too – her prolific precocious output and the routines and processes for her writing, to the publication of her first novel Sense and Sensibility by ‘A Lady’ – as alas at this time writing was not seen as a fit profession for a woman – with the second Pride & Prejudice by the ‘Author of Sense and Sensibility’ before the mystery of its author could be hid no more and her name finally put to her seminal works.

By the time of Emma her fame was such that the Prince Regent himself was a huge fan and wanted Emma to be dedicated to himself! Though, like many of her fellow country, she did not like or respect him, she could hardly refuse and settled on a compromise dedication.

The Real Jane Austen also addressed her love life – a brief youthful romance with Tom Lefroy, a nephew of her neighbour and who was to become the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, where he eventually abandoned her due to her not being seen as a respectable match owing to her relative poverty. Speculation also that he was source material for Mr Darcy!

Then later a marriage proposal from a brother of her friends, Harris Bigg-Wither, which she initially accepted then having slept on it rescinded the following morning. She could have had much wealth and position had she accepted but declined as could not endure a marriage without love let alone affection.

The Real Jane Austen - sister Casandra

Sister Cassandra by Lucy Cohu

She, like her sister Cassandra, whose own husband died whilst they were engaged, was destined never to marry, never to have children. Though Jane Austen often refers to her own books as her children.

The Real Jane Austen makes clear that she did eventually experience recognition of her great talents in her lifetime and some degree of fame but she can hardly have expected to become such a posthumously popular, beloved and significant author in British Literature – rubbing shoulders with both Shakespeare and Dickens.

Finally the latter stages of her life and her premature death aged 41 to an undiagnosed illness are played out.

The program reminding us that she left six great works and then asking how many more might she have written had she lived a longer life.

This program is an informative insight into the heart and mind of Jane Austen.

Miss Austen Regrets presented I think a more fitting tribute as it treated Jane Austen’s life as one of her own novels but The Real Jane Austen manages also to capture her sense and sensibility.