Tuesday, 11 September 2007

BBCs Three and Four...

Better people than me have been wondering whether the BBC should continue funding BBC's Three and Four.


My view? Hmmm. It's not straightforward. Some people criticise BBC Three's ratings for being dominated by repeats of EastEnders and Little Britain. Er, that's not BBC Three's fault. It's the viewers' fault. They could've tuned in for Ouch, My Bum Smells Of Poo! or Excuse Me, You've Got Mould Growing On Your Ears! but, no, they watch a re-run of the tedium in Albert Square instead.

I won't go on about stupid titles again... well, maybe once - Help, I Smell Of Fish! being this week's corker.

"They cost so much money!" is another complaint. Yeah, well, BBC Choice, the forerunner to BBC Three, had a tiny budget and as a result had no viewers. BBC Four struggles on their budget too, and it was interesting watching a repeat of a 1997 series about the history of gay rights on that channel last week (not sure why BBC Four's Big Gay Week was a month after C4...). The Wall To Wall-produced show was obviously so much better funded than similar docs nowadays, properly researched and filmed, no PDs with Digicams I bet.


"Put the money into news instead, that's more important than Oy Missus, Your Puffin Is Showing!". Er, yes, news is important, but BBC News is well-funded already. You can tell it costs more than Sky News - but not so much more. Notice it's all the not-exactly-poor famous news faces complaining. It reminds me of the scene in top film Broadcast News where celeb anchor Jack Nicholson is in the news office when budget cuts are announced. He commiserates with everyone and as he's leaving someone jauntily says "well, if you gave up a bit of your multi-million dollar salary we'd be OK". The look he gives them is perfect.

"Put all the good stuff on BBC Two". Well, they kinda do that anyway. And whereas I do agree BBC Two has lost a little purpose recently, and needs a rethink, simply transferring more Proms and some subtitled movies from BBC Four isn't going to do it.

My own not-too-snappy view is that channels, in the main, are dead or dying. Yes, there'll still be a core of people who switch on ITV1 or BBC One and sit there for a full evening. I don't know who these people are but they apparently exist. The hideous trailer-and-recap fever that infects all channels proves it.

Look at a six year-old kid flick through the EPG - they don't care about Nick Jnr, CBBC, Cartoon Net or CBBC Two, they just wanna watch Spongebob. Does anyone apart from schedulers and animation nerds obsessed with the little Plastercine logo blobs care whether Torchwood is on BBC Two or Three? I don't, I just want to see the fairies attack Cardiff again.

Sadly, the "programme-is-all" mentality leads to Whoops, I Tumbledried The Cat Again!-type titles. But the main fact about BBC's Three and Four is that the BBC are simply making more stuff. The extra £150m they spend on these channels is justified if the stuff they make is good. And it's wasted if the stuff they make is crap. That's the debate to be having.

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