Saturday, January 29, 2005

BBC soap crisis

It may have escaped your notice that the audience for the BBC’s East Enders is collapsing as the punters switch in droves to ITV’s Emmerdale, an everyday story of sheep-shagging somewhere up North (Times Online - The Hatchet quits).

Our state broadcaster has a dismal record when it comes to soaps. Who could forget El Dorado- the massively hyped tale of glossy ex-pats living in a purpose built (with huge amounts of licence payers’ money) village in Spain. It was so dire it had to be pulled after a couple of episodes, the properties probably being divvied up among the governors.

Commercial TV is much better. Apart from Emmerdale, they’ve kept the incomparable Corrie in robust health for nearly four hundred years. In fact, commercial TV is much better at popular telly generally. It’s because they have to start from what the customer wants rather than some kind of inward looking bureaucratic horse-trading.

Ah yes, you say, but that’s just pandering to our lowest common denominator. As Lord Reith was wont to say, ‘the punters don’t know what they need to watch’, or words to that effect. The BBC has that sacred duty to inform and educate.

Hmmm. You probably need to cast your eye over the schedules. These days, once you’ve got Sky, it’s very difficult to find much on the BBC that isn’t available commercially. A detailed scientific assessment reveals that…ooh…well over 90% of the BBC’s output is merely aping what’s already available on the commercial channels.

What’s more, the BBC does it all at a level of cost and inefficiency that makes the old Soviet system look like a beacon of excellence (for a jaw-dropping recent example see Telegraph News BBC taxis cost £33,000 a day).

The BBC Charter is up for renewal in 2006. The whole shooting match needs selling off, raising a chunky sum to pay off some of our ballooning national debt, and reducing future taxation by £3 billion pa.

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