Wednesday, 4 March 2009


So tv is in crisis - ITV laying off another 600 staff, Five getting rid of 20% or so of their workforce, the BBC... er, well, the licence fee isn't affected by THE DOWNTURN (as BBC News calls it, complete with naff sinking arrow on a red background)... C4 is being pressganged into merging with either Five, ITV and Five, BBC Worldwide or BT Vision - depending on which website you glance at... 

It's even affecting some of the smaller digital channels. I note The Business Channel went bust on January 1st. Insert your own joke here about why watch their business advice shows when they didn't follow it themselves.

The reason I noticed was I was hungover on New Year's Day, hopping around tv trying to find something OK to watch. Literally no-one else did - it was a small news story in Broadcast magazine in late January. It comes to something when even broadcast professionals don't notice a channel closing.

I think the next digital trend will be getting rid of the smaller +1 channels that cost zilch to produce but must cost a bit to broadcast. The bigger channels now get a fairly reasonable slice of their ratings from +1s but I can't imagine Living 2 +1 does. (Great name there, from the people who brought you Dave, Watch and now Blighty)

Dave counts as a bigger channel, in this kerrrr-azy age, and I suppose their +1 channel is safe now it's called Dave Ja Vu. Ho, and indeed, ho.

The reason I mention all this turmoil is twofold. Firstly, you wouldn't particularly notice things being much worse on air. There are still good sitcoms (Free Agents, Moving Wallpaper), Saturday night shiny floor shows (Saturday Takeaway), comedy (Harry Hill), panel shows (QI), drama (one of C4's rare excursions, Red Riding, starts tomorrow), as well as plenty of great imports airing now (30 Rock with Carrie Fisher! Mad Men back again!). And, in a rare lapse of scheduling, there are hardly any big 'sleb reality vehicles on. I don't include Dancing on Ice because no-one on it is vaguely famous, and how they can pretend it is about skill at skating when dead Mark Fowler off of EastEnders could hardly stand up on the rink never mind skate I don't know...

Just the odd programme here or there seems a bit cheap. ITV1 running police chasey car crashy things at 9pm, where drama used to be. Primetime repeats of shows already broadcast in primetime the same week - I think Harry Hill is on three times a week on ITV1 now. 

It's going to get worse. A lot worse. I'm no fan of Heartbeat and The Royal but that's lots of hours of drama just scrubbed from the schedule. To be replaced with Coronation Street's Most Hilarious Rovers Return Moments With Pip Scofield On A Stool On The Set And Twenty Nine Clips, Including Some In Black And White. Or other such quality items.

Small pockets of hope? Well, Sky 1 getting Stuart Murphy as boss might mean more original stuff on that channel. Original stuff not involving Shane Ritchie singing, or Noel Edmonds haranging councillors that is... I can only hope. And channels like Dave and Blighty slowly moving to originating content here and there - much as I adore QI and Top Gear there's only so many times anyone can watch the same episode, and their supplies of new material are small (15 or so eps of TG a year, 8-12 of QI considering both shows are on 600+ times a year)

Right, I'm off to download an episode of House to watch on my iPhone at the gym later. I'm thoroughly modern, me.

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