Archive for the ‘Licence Fee’ tag
Last week was, Stephen Glover writes in The Independent, ‘as bad as could be’ for the newspaper industry. Falling circulations, plummeting advertising, and large scale redundancies. The Independent announced 90 jobs would go. The Daily Mail and General Trust said 400 would lose their jobs. Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press continued to drop ever further in value.
What is the BBC’s commitment to news and current affairs? A number of reports over the weekend suggested the BBC is about to increase its popular entertainment output to the detriment of news and current affairs (‘BBC approves “dumbing down” at expense of current affairs’ - Sunday Telegraph, ‘Official: BBC is too upmarket’ - Observer). They refer to a new ‘Household Value’ review commissioned by the DG Mark Thompson, to see how to appeal more to lower income families who, the reports say, are turned off by serious factual programming.
Such reports always have to be taken with a pinch of salt – the BBC is an easy target for the rest of the media (and the BBC may be playing politics). But, given the timing of the review, one suspects there may be some truth in it. The BBC has spent the last 3 (5? 10?) years making sure it secure another 10 years of Licence Fee income. Part of this meant producing programming with a clear Public Service Remit (capitals intended). Now that the Licence Fee is secured, the BBC can start worrying about how to keep hold of its audience (ready for a post Licence Fee world?).
There is absolutely nothing wrong in the BBC being conscious of appealing to the whole population. The problem is if it confuses elitist programming with public interest programming. I deliberately distinguish public service from public interest because public service covers the whole spectrum of programmes from The Trap to Jane Eyre. Public interest programming is predominantly news and current affairs and is produced not just for education, information and (potentially) entertainment, but because it is in the public interest. In other words, it is better for society as a whole that it be made.
It is less important, for example, that Panorama’s expose of the damage done by the anti-depressant Seroxat got ‘only’ a 15% share (3.7m viewers) than that it had a major impact amongst that audience, made the government more conscious of the problem, and almost certainly prompted GlaxoSmithKline, the company that produced Seroxat, to change its behaviour.
Public interest programming generally takes time to make, can be quite expensive, and often doesn’t get many viewers. It’s also good for us (in every sense of the word). If the BBC doesn’t do it, who will?