Too worthy? 

2 April 2007 tbs.pm/145

Official: BBC is too upmarket

Every so often, the BBC goes through the ritual of reassessing itself as to whether its output is still appropriate for the majority of licence fee-payers, and of course it should do this periodically otherwise the BBC could end up becoming irrelevant to more and more viewers and listeners as tastes evolve over time.

However it is a myth to assume that anything upmarket and intellectual doesn’t appeal to the poorest people in society, and likewise the upper classes may enjoy watching downmarket quiz shows as a means of entertainment which doesn’t stretch the brain too much after a hard day’s work of being the boss of a large organisation.

In recent times there has been a huge increase in the quantity of cheap and tacky television available to view, especially for people with some form of digital TV. This of course presents new challenges to the BBC, especially when trying to appeal to some poorly-educated people who for whatever reason may resent being ‘talked down to’.

If it is true that ‘poorer people’ (however that measure is defined) tend to watch the likes of ITV2 instead of BBC Four, then the BBC has to find new ways of reasserting its relevance to these people without compromising its own standards or running the risk of being accused of “dumbing down” its output.

One observation seems to be that many programme presenters appear to come from respectable backgrounds, but there again the television industry has always been predominantly the preserve of the middle classes. And people who are good communicators usually have had a good education.

In recent times that BBC has sometimes gone down the easy route of cheaper programming which may fulfill the remit of having something on-screen which isn’t the test card, but these may fall short of providing programmes that appeal to more than a predefined audience.

But there are some changes that the BBC could make to its output to make it a bit more accessible, namely by using a wider pool of presenters to avoid the impression of being too elitist. Achieving the perfect balance that satisfies everybody may be next to impossible, but if anyone can produce popular and high quality programming then it’s the BBC.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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David Hastings Contact More by me