3 + 1 = 2050 

11 May 2022 tbs.pm/76013


During a bit of channel hopping the other evening we found ourselves watching a rather fascinating documentary on BBC Three about a fake company setting up business franchises that would never be honoured. It was a superb piece of investigative journalism, the kind that BBC Three regularly dished out in its previous tenure as a linear broadcast channel, notably with the excellent Stacey Dooley Investigates, another series we’d chanced upon by simply hopping through the channels or glancing at the EPG.

This was followed by a short comedy sketch show, some bits of which had us giggling loudly, other bits going straight over our heads, I suspect mainly because being in our bus-pass years, my wife and I fall well outside the demographic target for BBC Three’s audience, so it was more than likely that we simply weren’t “in” on the jokes. That didn’t matter to us though, it was just so refreshing to see someone being allowed to try something new in TV comedy in the same way the Monty Python team had been in 1969.

Not surprisingly, mentioning these programmes to our contemporaries raised a few eyebrows; what on earth were we doing watching BBC Three? In fact, nearly everyone of my generation that I’ve spoken to on the subject has said that they’ve never watched BBC Three on the grounds that it’s full of rubbish. They know this because it’s aimed at the “kids” (teens, twenties and thirty-somethings actually) who never watch TV anyway because they’re always on their computers/phones/iPads/whatever. Often when they mention the channel by name, they do so with the same resentment and venom by which they acknowledge Radio 1, another BBC service that they just know is all “rubbish” and, like BBC Three, should be next in line for the cull or sold to a commercial operator when the next line of cutbacks come along. It’s a shame really, it used to be so good, it just went all downhill from the late ‘eighties onwards.

Now why is that, I wonder? Of course for them Radio 1 was “good” in 1973 when they were being entertained by Tony Blackburn or Noel Edmonds as they got ready for school, or when they tuned in at Tuesday lunchtime to hear Johnnie Walker announce that week’s new Number One. For so many of them it was “good” in the evenings when John Peel or Bob Harris introduced them to new bands and artists that they’d never hear anywhere else. It was still “good” some ten years later when Simon Bates brought the country to a standstill every weekday morning with ‘Our Tune’, while Janice Long and David Jensen had joined John Peel in bringing us new music in the evenings.

Sure, some of the stuff they were now playing was a bit modern, but they still played a few old records, especially with Simon Bates on ‘The Golden Hour’ and anyway, Dave Lee Travis was always a laugh on Saturday and Sunday mornings and Alan Freeman wading through those old charts in ‘Pick Of The Pops Take 2’ at Sunday lunchtimes was just superb. But then in the mid-nineties it all changed. They got rid of all the good DJs and brought in loads of young presenters playing all this modern stuff. It was downhill from there…

I can remember having a conversation with a friend of mine in 2000. He was in his early fifties and still held a grudge about losing the likes of DLT, Alan Freeman and Simon Bates from Radio 1, he still felt that the channel should be playing “proper” pop music rather than all the modern stuff. He really couldn’t get to grips with the fact that Radio 1 had gone back to catering for its target audience, young people being introduced to new music by presenters who weren’t nearly a generation above them.

He was even more reluctant to accept that it was now time to move the tuning dial down to the bottom of the FM band where Radio 2 was happily playing his kind of music, the records (ok, CDs) being spun by some of his favourite jocks from Radio 1. Despite all of this reasoning though, he still felt that Radio 1 had had its day, he no longer required it, therefore it should go.

It’s funny how we think like that as we get older and we fail to acknowledge that it’s us who have changed rather than the pop culture media we enjoyed. As far as I can tell, in playing modern music to a young audience Radio 1 is still doing what it always has done, in many ways it’s possibly doing it better. With so many alternatives for listening to music online I suspect that Radio 1’s audience may be a little more selective these days and of course, being a linear broadcast station it’s still available and accessible for old dears like me to drop in and hear something new occasionally.

This is where I draw a parallel with BBC Three where, by simply doing a bit of surfing with the remote control, I was able to stumble across something that wasn’t directly intended for my consumption, something that I’d never have found had the channel not returned from being an online-only service. The style of presentation and narration in the programme itself was clearly aimed at its younger audience, but not to the point where we felt alienated, in fact given the somewhat staid nature of similar output from the main channels this was all rather refreshing. Those who simply dismiss it as a “kids channel full of rubbish” will simply miss out, while those who see it as a waste of time being that it is aimed at the streaming generation have missed a big point.

In my profession as a driving instructor I come into contact with a fair amount of teens and twenty somethings, as well as young Mums in their thirties and while many of them enjoy movie watching via the likes of Netflix, they will still talk about something they may have seen on the “telly”, maybe on E4 or even BBC THREE. Sometimes they’ll even go really old-fashioned and admit to enjoying Hollyoaks on Channel 4 or even Neighbours on Channel 5! Those into the music scene will happily tell me about a band they heard on Radio 1 or even 1 Extra, again new music and artists being introduced to them in a way that streaming can’t quite do it (or that the commercial sector would be reluctant to touch).

So it would appear that the demise of linear broadcasting may be somewhat exaggerated. The BBC are still providing here for the viewers and listeners of the future, whether they end up paying for it via a licence fee or though taxation, they should never be ignored or deprived of the types of services we enjoyed when they were “good”.

These are the licence fee payers of tomorrow and must be persuaded to value the BBC now.


Geoff Nash is a Staff Editor at Transdiffusion


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