Way back when, when I were a lad, I used to watch some of the best telly. Not the Nine o’Clock News, Edge of Darkness, Boys from the Blackstuff, Das Boot… all shown on BBC 2.
Wind forward 15 years, and the multichannel world is a firm fixture; but only if you have Sky or one of the cable operator services. What was needed was a digital service over the terrestrial network, and the BBC would be one of the key tenants of this digital boutique. So they had to fill the space, and created a range of channels including BBC Choice and BBC Knowledge, which eventually became BBCs Three and Four.
Wind forward another 15 years, and here we are, all on digital. So what do we need these ‘new’ channels for?
Tony Hall’s announcement on 5 March was interesting as much for what it didn’t say as what it did – though that was fleshed out the day after (are there many former government people working at the BBC now? That’s their MO, after all) and raised the inevitable question: why single out BBC Three?
If closing a £85m channel won’t meet the £100m-worth of savings, why not close BBC Four at the same time, and save a further £49m?
If £30m of the former BBC Three budget is going into BBC One, is that on top of the £1,000m-plus current budget, or just to shore it up?
If, as Tony Hall says, iPlayer is so wonderful (I paraphrased there), why do we need BBC One +1? Think of the cost of the transmission fees… Freeview isn’t as cheap as its name suggests.
While I rarely watch BBC Three (Doctor Who repeats and women’s football is about it), even I know that some wonderful programmes have been shown; comedies, dramas and documentaries. But 30 years ago, they would have been on BBC 2. And after watching the programmes I’d tuned in for I kept watching – that’s how you attract viewers to the rest of your offerings, not by ring-fencing an audience to a particular channel that they then never move away from.
Close Four as well as Three, and create a BBC that keeps me entertained all day, every day, for less. No brainer?
(Figures from the BBC at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-26447089)