It has been reported in various national newspapers today that as a part of cutback plans the BBC is planning on decimating arguably one of its best channels, BBC 4. I first became aware of the story last night via the medium of twitter as many of the users I follow were using the hashtags #bbc4 and #savebbc4. I do not usually jump onto a hastag bandwagon all that often myself, I may retweet a few messages I agree with but more often than not I’m a passive observer, however the BBC 4 story did provoke an original tweet from me which went as follows:
#BBC4 is perhaps the best justification for the license fee, it produces many programmes which wouldn’t otherwise be made. #savebbc4 (link)
Now I know the TV license fee is for some a contentious issue but I stand by what I tweeted, BBC 4 represents in my mind the main purpose of having a license fee, slowly destroying BBC4 by watering its content down is akin to the BBC drowning itself to death. The channel both produces and broadcasts a REAL alternative to the mainstream. It airs a variety of show types including drama, documentaries, music, international film, comedy and current affairs, however its raison d’être is its broadcasting of art, history and science documentaries, vintage drama and daring comedy; even Richard Little John from the Daily Mail, often a staunch critic of the BBC ,has stated that the channel “embodies the best of corporation’s public service traditions”.
My previous analogy of the BBC drowning itself to death if it were to water down BBC 4, while providing a useful one, does not perhaps give the whole picture, the problem for the BBC is that if it cuts too much of its mainstream output the public will question why they have to pay the license fee if they don’t watch the content; but alternatively cut too much of what would normally be niche market programming and they face stronger calls from the institutions behind the Daily Mail and The Sun newspaper titles who have a vested interest in getting rid of a force they consider to have an unfair economic advantage. It is then a very hard call that the BBC are having to make who are being forced into saving money in light of austerity measures by the current Conservative led coalition government. Despite being in this hard position I would like to implore them not to cut back on BBC 4, a channel which as it currently stands doesn’t even run 24 hours a day yet often provides the best programming the BBC has to offer.
Wether or not you agree with the license fee it is here to stay for a few years yet, and while it with us the BBC should be concentrating on producing programming which the rest of the market would otherwise neglect, BBC 4 should not be affected at all by the cuts that it is being forced to make, if anything the BBC should invest more into it to demonstrate why its place in the UK media landscape is needed.
If you agree that BBC 4 needs to be saved do feel free to sign up to the following petition: http://savebbcfour.com/
(Also check out this great satirical news story on the issue: BBC to consider cutting channel that requires viewers to pay attention