Wednesday, March 31, 2021

What happens to art after the demise of BBC Four?

Yesterday we had the very sad news that BBC4 is to become an "archive only" channel.

BBC4 will no longer commission new documentary series as the arts and culture channel is downgraded to a repeats-led network.... 
Executives have decided that its relatively small audience, older than the national average at 62, does not justify continued investment in commissions." (The Times | Repeats rule roost after BBC4 funding cut)

It's interesting that the BBCMedia Centre's page of news highlights makes not one mention of the demise of BBC4. 

These are the relevant BBC documents

Below I discuss what they mean and what might be an alternative. 

Let's bear in mind that this is a BBC which is well aware that it is within the targets of the current government because of its perceived antagonism towards Brexit - and various other issues over the years.

Ageism alive and well at the BBC

Apart from what appears to be an extremely ageist approach to audiences - this also suggests we have seen the end of proper / serious / educated programmes about art.

Instead, the BBC is resurrecting BBC3 for an audience which does not watch television anyway. Plus an interrogation of the current programmes highlighted on the BBC Arts platform indicates art has become very low in the hierarchy of what gets counted as culture.  Instead Books, Film, Theatre and "BBC New Creatives" (Film / Dance / Animation) get the bulk of the platform.

It looks to me as if the BBC has abandoned 

  • Art History 
  • All those that have enjoyed watching programmes about art on BBC4
  • The audience in general aged 64+ (BIG mistake!  These are the people who vote!)
My other half refers to BBC4 has what BBC2 used to be before the BBC decided it wanted to become "popular". It's the only BBC channel he watches.

The alternative to mothballing BBC4

Here are a few suggestions for the BBC in relation to its recent budget decision
  • remember that the BBC mission is to "Inform, Educate and Entertain" - which is demonstrated more clearly by BBC Four than any other BBC channel. 
  • stop paying presenters absolutely ridiculous salaries
    • start setting an example - rather than continuously inflating costs
    • stop employing people to present who will not take the equivalent of a pro-rata fee to the salary of a BBC employee
    • if you want to cut costs there is no better way to start
    • stop paying ANYBODY more than the Prime Minister - period.
  • create a better balance of arts programmes - recognising that each appeals to different age groups in different ways
  • stop being ageist i.e. 
    • reintroduction of priced television licences for the 75+ audience
    • elimination of a channel which caters to the interests of those who are:
      • not part of the "yoof" culture
      • more likely to be unable to travel for events and visits to cultural centres
  • create better equality between the age groups
  • create a channel specifically for the 22% of the population aged 60 and over 
    • in the same way as it has a channel for kids
    • recognising that more older people spend more time at home 
    • recognising that more older people spend more of their time watching television or listening to the radio

I rather suspect that the 60+ population will not take this lying down and I look forward to signing the petitions which will doubtless emerge and get the necessary number of signatures which means they must be debated in Parliament.

Indeed I've just signed LAST YEAR'S petition Save BBC Four from closuree started last May after the rumour that the BBC wanted to chop BBC Four.

If you appreciate BBC Four and its arts programming I recommend you sign it - and share it with likeminded others!

Other articles about the demise of BBC4 and the BBC's ageist approach to programming

Below are articles which focused on the decision to "archive" BBC4

Increasing repeats requires an amendment to the BBC’s operating licence, which is overseen by Ofcom.

There is likely, however, to be a clamour from older BBC4 loyalists who feel that the corporation is prioritising younger audiences. Earlier this month it was announced that the youth-focused BBC3 was being revived six years after it was scrapped, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds.

and this one - 
The BBC has headed off mounting criticism by announcing that BBC Four—the specialist arts and science channel known for programmes such as Life Drawing Live!—will not be closed. Instead it “will continue to have originations [commissions], with a focus on the arts”, says a BBC spokesperson.
Why this announcement merits celebration is completely beyond me! 

THEN I REALISED - this was from May 2020!!!

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