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…
This 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.
And 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.
There 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.
- BBC3 v BBC4: no contest … keep both (guardian.co.uk)
- BBC4 won’t be axed, says channel boss (independent.co.uk)
- The Real Jane Austen (blogrestandplay.com)