There has been a lot in the press recently about how the Government has appointed a person who has shown public antipathy for the Corporation as head of DCMS (department of culture, media and sport). Comment has also been made on how the Government has raided the BBC for £750m to fund the license fee for over 75’s, with cynics querying whether the power companies will be asked to fund the winter fuel payment. The final nail in the coffin of the doomsaying has to be the selection of the Charter Review panel, of which it has been said is clinking with the sound of special interest group affiliation.
I don’t think the BBC is perfect and to lobby for no change on the basis it does nothing wrong isn’t right in my view.
One of the big noises that has been made by Government involves the BBC website, which they feel impinges on commercial interests too much. I have a big problem with this. Commercial websites are inherently driven by traffic which in turn drives advertising, which leads to content being written for search engines or in a lot of instances, just for the sake of having new content:
Mail Online Journalist’s Cry for Help Found Within Article. pic.twitter.com/daFzt3Usxw
— Michael Spicer (@MrMichaelSpicer) July 15, 2015
The thing is, if you look at the BBC news website (or the sports section for that matter), you won’t find awkward headlines or “list” articles written as click bait or for search engines- the BBC doesn’t need to bring advertisers in, so it can write about the news and sport without having to worry about that aspect of things. Getting rid of something that avoids all the issues that Peter Oborne wrote were the reasons he resigned from the Telegraph (articles about HSBC scandals not run as HSBC were an advertiser, subdued reporting on the Hong Kong protests as China was a big advertiser) would be a big step backwards and a massive boon for the press barons who, like the owner of the Independent did in the days before the election, use their papers to further their own interests.
At times the output of BBC1 looks much like the output of ITV, with trailers for other BBC shows replacing the advert breaks. The current fad for gameshows dressed up as reality TV, celebrity this and that, makeover shows and so on generally means that there isn’t much on before 9pm in the evening. At the same time BBC2 has recently started showing some antiques game show that I’m positive used to be day time television fare. I’m not going to pretend there were halcyon days of perfect television on the BBC in some rose tinted version of the past that never really existed but I would suggest the following:
- Ditch 90% of the reality/gameshow stuff from BBC1.
- Ditch the majority of panel shows full stop. They’re cheap television, and it’s boring to see the same faces week in and week out smugly reading the same sort of gags off the Autocue. Don’t insult me by even pretending you’re doing to show for points either for goodness sake.
- Move over the more populist programmes from BBC2 to the main channel to make up for the loss in programmes. For example, Gardeners World and Top Gear would be BBC1 programmes, a lot of the sit com output could shift to BBC1 with little or no effort. Click could also get it’s own prime time BBC1 show without changing the way it is currently made to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
- Bring back all the proper programmes from the ghetto of BBC4 to BBC2. You can tell the difference between a BBC2 and a BBC4 documentary easily- one will be framed as a “whodunnit”, with scientists being the detectives searching for an elusive clue, the whole programme hung on a “story”, which plenty of out of focus dramatic re-enactments, the other will be a straight presentation of the subject at hand, by men with beards who are often painfully uncomfortable in front of a camera.
- Use the iPlayer more efficiently as a method of consumption rather than an online catch up service. If a series is running weekly, don’t offer an episode on catch up for 7 days.
Reducing the output by effectively shifting BBC4 back to BBC2, and scrapping a lot of the toss on BBC1 would allow for more focus on quality rather than quantity.
I like the BBC, in theory as well as in practice but there are changes it needs to make to be better. I’m not buying the current Government narrative about the BBC not chasing ratings though, this is a Trojan Horse that will eventually be used as a stick to beat the BBC with; “nobody watches their stuff, that means the license fee isn’t fair.”