The Controller’s Chair: BBC One 

1 January 2004

Ian Beaumont takes over another channel

Well, this one really is the top seat of the top channel. If any controller told you they didn’t want this job, I’m convinced that they would be lying. This is the one channel that truly has a £1 billion budget, and a ton of prestige – and yet the viewers are not scared of telling you when you get it wrong. It’s likely that the controller of BBC1 comes under more pressure than the controller of any other channel.

The main question at the moment, though, is how to improve our ratings, maintain our mainstream focus and still fulfil a public service need. With this many balls to juggle, it’s no surprise that sometimes they get dropped.

News programming

Obviously the first area I have to give serious consideration to is News. The current provision has pretty much been in place since 2001, and whilst it certainly can’t be considered to be stale, perhaps it could be considered to be in need of some work. How we achieve this is undoubtedly open to question. There’s been talk of having the One O’clock News replaced by a News 24 simulcast. However, I would reject this idea as inappropriate. The viewers’ needs for news on BBC1 are not the same as those of BBC News 24 viewers. Indeed, I am very much in favour of having Breakfast as a BBC1-only programme, rather than shared with News 24, for this very reason.

Another possible consideration is actually shortening the One to 15 minutes rather than 30 minutes. But again, I’m not convinced this is the right idea either. Rather, I would personally prefer an idea that’s totally new to the UK, but is firmly based on existing practice elsewhere. I would seek to increase the regional news provision at lunchtime to a full 30-minute programme, something that used to be done in various parts of the ITV network for a time. This would then be followed by a new lunchtime news bulletin at 12.30pm, making a heavyweight lunchtime news hour at just the right time. Both the Six and Ten bulletins would currently stay as they are.

Kids and Sport

There are two other areas where I am most concerned, and those are Sport and Children’s Programmes. Both are shared across both of the main BBC terrestrial channels and I feel that cannot continue. In the case of sport, there have often been complaints about sport being shown on both BBC1 and BBC2, and this needs to be resolved. In the case of Children’s programmes, it seems that outside of the prestigeous after-school hours and Saturday mornings, Children’s programmes are exclusively on BBC2.

My proposed solution might stir up some controversy. I would arrange with my opposite number on BBC2 to swap our afternoon outputs, meaning that BBC2 would take over all Children’s output, and other than in exceptional circumstances, all sport would be on BBC1. I would also bring back a couple of old favourites, which really shouldn’t have been axed. Sportsnight will return to Wednesday nights on BBC1, and Sport On Friday, which was originally on BBC2, will cross over to return on BBC1. Sunday Grandstand will also come over from BBC2 to BBC1.

Increased regional commitment

I also want to increase our commitment to Regional News and other Regional Programming. I would like to see at least two new slots created for regional programming. Wednesday at 7.30pm, and Friday at 10.35pm are my preferred slots for these, and I would like to see independent production companies in the relevant region encouraged to pitch for those programmes as much as possible.

So, there you have it. My plans for BBC1. I’ve laid my ideas on the table. Some might consider them controversial, but this is what I think BBC1 needs to do in this multi-channel era.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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