Lord Hall today laid out the future of the media corporation and with it more threats of reductions in service and projects to be pulled. BBC4 is the latest to face the chopping block in one form or another. I wonder though why we are allowing the destruction of one of our greatest achievements as a country.
For such a small amount of money each day, consider the impact and reach that the BBC has. Most people use their website for their news, have favourite shows on their channels, listen to their radio stations – at breakfast alone the majority of the population are tuned in at some point to one of its many transmissions. Yet we are just sitting back and going to let the Tories rip the heart and soul out of something that we will miss when it’s gone – and that day will come.
Market forces alone will eventually pull apart the organisation and then the vultures will circle the corpse to pick away at it. We can’t let this happen. Too often we wait until it is too late to do anything about issues like this, but without BBC4 comedy, documentaries and drama will suffer. With BBC3 going online we will lose the impact of the channel that gave us Little Britain, Gavin & Stacey, In the flesh, Bad education and hard-hitting documentaries made for teenage viewers. The variety that each and every point of transmission is varied and unique.
From 6music to the Asian Network, iPlayer to the World Service there are so many great offerings that we would never get back. Recently groups and families who were against the licence fee were asked to go without any BBC output. 75% of them changed their mind and said they would rather have it in their lives because they didn’t realise just how much they used it.
Some say the BBC shouldn’t make shows like Doctor Who and Strictly – nonsense! The argument that these are successful so we must lose them is counter intuitive. It’s like removing the most popular items off a menu because they are enjoyed. The BBC needs to do the big shows to allow them to do other programming. Think of the impact Sir David Attenborough has had on all of us, or Dr Brian Cox with his Wonders series. What about the Last night of the Proms or Election Night? University Challenge and Only Connect would never find a home anywhere else on Terrestrial TV.
Chris Evans gets around ten millions listeners in the morning; BBC Breakfast is the most popular show on in its slot; upcoming adaptations of An Inspector Calls and Cider with Rosie will follow in the footsteps of Poldark and become a worldwide success; Radio 1’s big weekends will draw the biggest names in pop & rock while BBC Introducing has opened the door for so many of our most popular artists. We shouldn’t be talking about demolishing this great institution we should be protecting it and adding to it.
Yes there need to be tightening of belts and reduce the flab that the peerless W1A conveys so well, but we can’t take away from the output. When Tony Hall talked about more integration with the Arts and Science I was pleased, but don’t forget all the brilliant sitcoms, dramas, entertainment shows, documentaries and radio output as a compromise.
The question that is often asked on these occasions is “If we didn’t have it, would we need to invent it?” I would argue that we could never invent it in this day and age. While at times it’s clunky and imperfect, I would choose it any day over its terrestrial and digital competitors. As Mitch Benn sang “I’m proud of the BBC”. We all should be, and maybe it’s time we made ourselves heard before the Conservatives do it permanent damage.