You’ve got to feel sorry for the BBC. Only a few weeks ago they were being criticised for providing TV programmes which mimicked the commercial sector, even though much of the make-over programmes which came in for criticism actually originated on the BBC and were then copied by ITV or are repeated on the UKTV channels. They even became front page news in the Daily Express when they provided 19 hours of repeats one Bank Holiday Monday; this despite the fact that for as long as I can remember the Bank Holiday schedule has been full of repeats, and there was no criticism or comparison with what other channels were doing on the same day.
Now they are being criticised for being different from the other channels. It seems they just can’t win. The Barwise report into Digital programming complains that BBC Three and Four are poor value for money. Fair enough, but perhaps that is the price you have to pay for being different; almost by definition, if you are providing something different to the commercial sector then you are providing something that the market does not feel it can make a profit on. I don’t watch much of BBC Four, but I am glad it is there. There is the occasional programme that crops up that is like gold dust, and which I think would be unlikely to be shown elsewhere – “The Divine Comedy” at the Cambridge Folk Festival for example. When there is Opera on which I don’t want to watch, I personally am happy that my license fee is helping to provide that service to those who love opera.
BBC Three is a bit of a mish-mash, and I am not sure of the worth of “Eastenders Revealed” for example. Funnily enough the News programme on BBC Three came in for particular criticism, yet it was included at the behest of Tessa Jowell and was not part of the BBC’s original plans.
But there are still some good programmes like “Little Britain” ,“Bodies” and “Spy” which I have watched and enjoyed, and which have provided an outlet for writers and programme makers which otherwise may not have been there.
Perhaps I am the wrong person to make a judgment on all this, however. Coming in for particular praise by the report is “CBeebies”, the BBC channel for toddlers. Now, I know more than I should about CBeebies and I think it is just fine, but it is essentially just a four hour loop of repeats of “Teletubbies”, “Tweenies” and “Fimbles”, with the occasional lamentable new programme like “Bobinogs”, “Boogie Beebies” and “Big Cook, Little Cook”. If that now constitutes a “triumph” then I clearly have no future in TV scheduling or criticism.