Saturday, August 22, 2015

Making the wool thicker

The BBC has pencilled in Monday 7th September to make its case for Charter Renewal. But will it be a case for the defence, spelling out what the Corporation can afford to do under the Osborne funding deal, or a call for more investment, essential to maintain a meaningful relationship with the media habits of 21st century licence-fee payers ? Or will there be a new "Big Idea" ?

Expect plenty of "ambition", "creativity", "cohesion" and "value" in the presentation. Having threatened to close BBC2, BBC4, local and national/regional radio in the poker game with Osborne, dare Lord Hall offer the prospect of new services ? I think not. Here will come old favourites "quality" and "distinctive".

The TV problem is that the current BBC commissioning pipeline fills up the gaps between programmes of quality and distinction with five-day-a-week quizzes, cheap observational series, endless get-rich-quick-shows about houses, antiques and auctions, and just too much cooking. That and repeats from the days when BBC commissioning was more sure-footed and in tune an audience outside London. A further retreat from weekday daytime spending wouldn't be a bad move - you could probably still beat ITV with a mix of children's, OU and repeats, properly "curated". Later in the schedules, we have an apparent aversion to old-style, more thoughtful fillers - in the style of "All Our Yesterdays", "The Brains Trust", "Late Night Line-Up", and "Face The Music".

The network radio problem is overheads. The cheapest radio programmes require one microphone and one voice. Yet BBC Radio, in its perpetual desire not to be done down by Vision/Television, has accrued over the years, television-style layers of senior producers, executive producers, assistant editors, editors, departmental management and over-arching production management. I don't expect any big moves here - these managers have already convinced the Trust "you can't possibly do comedy and drama cheaper", and will argue that maintained spending is vital for Tory acquiesence to a decent licence fee.

Something's got to give.

  • September 7th is the Feast Day of St Anastasius the Fuller, patron saint of fullers and weavers. Fulling is the process of cleaning wool and then making it thicker, often involving the use of tenterhooks. 


  1. Trouble is that the five-day-a-week daytime quizzes, cheap observational series, endless get-rich-quick-shows about houses, antiques and auctions, plus all that cooking ARE usually repeats too. It's a real effort to find a new series to watch (and not because we're becalmed in the summer schedules).

    Are the relentless quizzes so that Worldwide can flog the formats abroad?

    And speaking of "relentless", I tire of all the trails - they're even seeping into the News Channel and BBC4.

    Rant ends.

  2. Worrying ....tenterhooks are used in the process of "hanging out to dry". Ooh err.


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