They don’t care about us

We interrupt my frantic YouTube spamming to try and catch up with my overly-ambitious 30 days til I’m 30 thing (it’s 4 days now and I still have two decades to spam up) to talk about something more important…

The news is full of the BBC Trust review thingy today. The proposals are to make cuts at Auntie, most notably reducing the website, cutting back on imports and axing 6Music and the Asian Network. Rightly so, people are pointing out that they’re removing stuff that clearly fits the PSB remit when there are things on Radio 1, Radio 2, BBC One and BBC Three that don’t entirely fit the remit that well, and, more to the point, there are execs and presenters being paid way more than these minority stations cost.

I like 6Music. A lot. I’d like it more if I could listen to it in my car, mind. Radio 1 is a bit too young for me now, and that’s fine, I’m not 16-25, which is its target age range. Radio 2 is too old and too rubbish – but that’s fine, too, I’m not 35-60, which is its target age range. Notice there’s no target station for 25-35 year olds? Well, not any longer if they’re getting rid of 6Music, anyway. This is the place where those of us that like music, especially of a more eclectic or alternative variety can go. This is a place that isn’t full of inane chatter (yes Moyles, Cotton and pretty much everyone on daytime R1 and 2, I’m talking about you). What’s even more ridiculous is that the same report which is claiming it’ll try and make Radios 1 and 2 more distinctive also calls for Radio 2 to be 50% TALK in the daytime. 50% TALK?! With TV not showing music these days, save Jools Holland and yer odd performer on Strictly/X Factor, the decision to get rid of a music station, and one that does a distinctive job at that, is daft. 6Music doesn’t have a ton of listeners, but that’s because DAB as a whole hasn’t taken off yet – and that’s due to not being able to get decent DAB home stereos or car stereos. But it’s daft to pull the plug on two DAB stations if DAB is the future. The Asian Network issue is slightly different, as, unlike 6Music, its audience has declined – but it’s been filling a niche nothing else covers and surely addressing the reasons for the decline is better than pulling the plug?

As for all the talk of ‘cancel BBC Three! Cancel Radio One!’ – these calls are pretty ageist, TBH – and yet, the BBC is also axing services like Switch and Blast, claiming it doesn’t need to have many PSB commitments to teens. Well, sorry, but that’s just rot. The BBC should be for everyone, teens included. When I was a teen, evening Radio One was my lifeline, and those of us who are campaigning to save 6Music would do well to remember that the likes of Peel, Radcliffe, Whiley and Lamacq provided us an essential service in our own youth that we shouldn’t deny to today’s young people. Daytime Radio 1 may not be as distinctive as it could/should be but that doesn’t mean it is exactly the same as commercial radio – it isn’t. It plays all kinds of things commercial radio wouldn’t touch as well as the stuff it would, and radio without adverts is a blessing. They’d do well to lose Moyles, Cotton and the other blah DJs but then maybe I’m not young enough to appreciate them – by the same token, most of the Radio 2 daytime lot could also go (snoooooze) – but people don’t argue as vehemently against R2 because it’s not aimed at young people, despite daytime R2 having a lot in common with Magic and Heart. Radio 1 and 2 probably both need a bit of a shaking up to be more distinctive, but though neither currently tries to embrace music fans my age, both should stay.

As for BBC Three, there is a lot of potential for a distinctive channel here providing cutting-edge comedy, drama and docs with a younger remit. The issue with the channel is Danny Cohen, plain and simple. When he turned it into a station for teens rather than a station with a young feel, he patronised those teens with shockdocs (some of the docs are actually quite good, but the appalling titles would lead you to believe otherwise. Some are just dross, mind you), terrible reality/makeover nonsense and abysmal comedy like Coming of Age. The stuff that made BBC Three in its earlier days – Gavin and Stacey, Little Britain, The Mighty Boosh, Torchwood etc is stuff that youngsters appreciate way more than the current output. If it wants to be a teen channel it should be showing the equivalent of Skins, not the equivalent of Chucklevision with added boobs and willies. Sack Danny Cohen and talk to real life teens about their needs for radio and television and young people will have things they turn to Auntie for. Pretending you don’t need to cater for young people while at the same time maintaining a channel and radio station that are supposed to be aimed at them gives mixed messages, and providing quality TV and radio for young people will help keep them loyal in the future when it’s time for them to pay the license fee.

With regards to cutting back on imports – fair enough to an extent, but if they remove Damages, I will spit blood. Better to have some quality imports than rubbish homegrown stuff. I don’t watch Mad Men but I can tell it’s worth 1000 Coming of Ages. As for the web content – HOW are they going to cut it back? The Beeb website is ace, what are they planning to lose?

The main thing is that I don’t even think there should be this many cutbacks. It smacks of appeasing the Murdochs and the Tories, all of whom are wankers, and none of whom will see these cutbacks as anything like enough, nothing will be enough until they get rid of the license fee and then we’ll all suffer the consequences. If the Beeb starts caving now, it can only get worse…


4 thoughts on “They don’t care about us

  1. “The main thing is that I don’t even think there should be this many cutbacks. It smacks of appeasing the Murdochs and the Tories, all of whom are wankers, and none of whom will see these cutbacks as anything like enough, nothing will be enough until they get rid of the license fee and then we’ll all suffer the consequences.”

    Is Ben Bradshaw a ‘wanker’?

    And do you really want the BBC using its muscle and relative financial security to crowd out private provision of media?

    • He certainly is. You don’t have to be Tory to be a wanker, just an idiot 😉

      And yes, to be honest, I do – a) it isn’t really crowding out other media and b) other media often isn’t as good. The BBC can do things other broadcasters can’t precisely because of the license fee and its remit, and I’d be happy to pay more for more of that. Look at how dreadful ITV is lately – and Sky, aside from the sport, is even worse.

  2. Well, I don’t. Plurality of news and media sources is a good thing. Other media aren’t as good because they’re not making enough advertising money – because the BBC is crowding them out of certain programme genres. The BBC can do things other broadcasters can’t – but then often does the same thing anyway, e.g. a lot of BBC3, big shows like Strictly Come Dancing etc. Is that really serving the BBC’s public purposes?

    • Plurality is a good thing in theory, but the Murdochs and their ilk don’t want plurality – they want dominance, let’s not forget that. The free market is never all that free as we all know.

      Other media not getting advertising is down to much bigger factors than just the Beeb’s existence – the recession, people fastforwarding ads, overall decline in audiences across all channels, much more choice in terms of digital channels, the internet, video games etc. To say the BBC is solely or even primarily responsible for a decline in advertising is nonsense. The license fee may have protected the Beeb against some of these things that have led to a decline in advertising, but that’s a good thing isn’t it? That at least one broadcaster can maintain quality rather than everyone’s output becoming worse, which is what would happen if it was a total free-for-all (unless we went to subscription channels etc). And of course, advertising (especially on radio) is really, really annoying!

      However, I am not completely opposed to C4 getting a portion of the license fee for some of its PSB output.

      I agree some of the BBC’s output (esp some of the stuff on BBC Three and One) needs reevaluating, though of course entertainment is part of what it’s about, but reevaluating this doesn’t mean abandoning the Beeb or the license fee – and the areas that need reevaluation in terms of how distinctive they are are BBC One, Three, Radio One, Two and Three, NOT Six Music or the Asian Network! There’s definitely a place for BBC One and Three and the music radio stations but I’d agree some of their output needs tweaking to make it more ‘BBC’ and less ‘commercial’ – but then if they don’t have high ratings-hitters like Strictly or EastEnders people will moan about them not getting a big enough audience.

      At least the Beeb (in theory) supports plurality of views – when you get into the private sphere you start to get monopolies by people with their own agenda (look at Italy for example). Don’t think ITV, Five and C4 would have to meet the same requirements if it was a free-for-all – things would become lax and we would lose so much, not just from the Beeb but from the other networks who currently have public service obligations. The BBC’s governance and remit means we have protected, quality programming that you simply would not get in a totally free market. Axing 6Music and the Asian Network is the start of a slippery slope….

      Free markets are a fine idea in theory but in practice they just become dominated by big players – there’s no such thing as open competition or an equal playing field.

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