Keeping the distinction 

5 July 2010

The announcement that BBC Radio 6 Music has been saved from closure may have dominated today’s media news, but that’s not the only thing that the BBC Trust has been working on in recent months; also published today is the Trust’s interim service review of BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four, available as a PDF or text document.

Overall there are no real surprises contained within this report but it does highlight a few remaining weaknesses within the BBC television schedule from a ‘pure’ public service perspective, such as:

“Increasing variety in pre watershed peak. The range of output has decreased on BBC One in recent years, with viewing becoming more concentrated around fewer programme titles, particularly between 7pm and 9pm where the number of unique programme titles has fallen by around half since 2005.”

Any decline in programming variety between 7pm and 9pm on BBC One since 2005 can of course be attributed to The One Show that’s now shown for most of the year, although this (and of course EastEnders) should just provide an even greater incentive for providing a much wider variety of peak time programming.

So in theory there should imminently be fewer excuses available for showing yet more Countryfile, Holby City and New Tricks as opposed to something else entirely, fingers crossed.

Also there are variety issues to be found elsewhere within the schedule:

“BBC Management should look further at ways to improve the quality and distinctiveness of parts of the daytime schedule. Daytime output on BBC One and BBC Two makes a contribution to the delivery of the BBC’s public purposes but the levels of quality and ambition of parts of the schedule are not meeting audience expectations.”

In theory this could ultimately mean the end of such repetitive daytime numbness currently offered by programmes such as Diagnosis Murder, Doctors, Escape to the Country and Ready Steady Cook, and there are already small but encouraging signs of a change in this regard (such as a repeat of The World at War, for one thing).

Although these criticisms could be regarded as relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things, it’s rather worrying that it has supposedly required ‘outside’ intervention to make BBC management aware of such issues, which does somehow suggest that channel controllers are currently either being too cautious or ratings-obsessed.

And finally…here’s a BBC One-related statistic from the report which may be a shock to a fair number of people, namely that “more than ten million of its audience do not watch any other of the BBC’s main TV channels”.

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