Apologies to non-UK readers who might not find what follows very relevant…
Now here’s a way to cut costs at the BBC: scrap BBC1.
The biggest complaint levelled against the BBC is that it collects public money to create the sort of programmes that the commercial channels are already making.
Well, BBC1 is the by far the worst culprit, if we take into account costs, profile and content. But few thinking people would wish to damage the rest of the BBC’s remarkably broad and often very stimulating output.
There’s the revealing history documentary on BBC4, the eclectic discussion on Radio 4’s In Our Time, and even White Van Man’s Radio 5 phone-ins. Or, if you prefer, there’s the live classical music performance on Radio 3, the thoughtful late-night essay on the same network, and the World Service bringing us human tales from far-flung lands we may never visit.
All this, and much else that is so valuable, would be jeopardised by heavy-handed cost-cutting across radio and TV channels.
But do we need BBC1, home of Atlantis? Forget the ancient world – the doomed civilisation is ours, if this is what people like to watch for Saturday night entertainment. Or BBC1, home of The Voice, DIY SOS and the dismal neverending soap Eastenders?
Granted, we wouldn’t want to miss out on the Ten O’Clock News. But we can switch to BBC News 24 for this. And some of the silly stuff can go over to BBC3: it doesn’t matter if it squeezes out a few youth-oriented programmes there, because most young people don’t actually watch them, being too busy writing illiterate postings on Facebook. (Smartphones and tablets interest them more than the old-fashioned telly).
Finally, I’m warming to the prospect of the list of BBC TV channels starting at BBC2. Rather as we see mention of MI5 and MI6 and wonder what happened to MI1 or MI4, in years to come people will wonder ‘was there once a BBC1? What was on it?’