“Why I just love BBC4” 

10 December 2003 tbs.pm/762

Media Guardian opinion piece

BBC Four is one of those channels which you may either avidly watch or alternatively dip into when everything else fails to impress; despite my admiration for the channel I (more often or not) tend to fall into the latter category, which seems to be a common consensus because the channel generally has relatively low ratings and regularly attracts fewer viewers than even the “failed” BBC Three. (However once I’m watching the channel I am far more likely to carry on watching it in comparison to most other channels.) The argument that people primarily seek out entertainment as opposed to culture during peak time appears to hold water if you consider raw viewing statistics alone as a source of information, though you have to remember that serious arts and culture programming on BBC Two can still attract audiences much larger than those on BBC Four despite lowbrow opposition on other terrestrial channels.

The author of the article feels that BBC Four is an excellent channel and I for one agree with him, but when you realise that similar programming has a much larger audience on BBC Two (compare the audience figures for programming shown on both channels such as QI), you start to realise that the often repeated BBC Four content at this point in time may in theory be better off being shown on BBC Two instead. (But the BBC are in this for ‘the long haul’.)

Meanwhile BBC Three is resorting to the tactics that David Attenborough used for BBC2 back in the mid-1960s; Stuart Murphy (the controller of BBC Three) is now trumpeting the ‘public service’ aspect of BBC Three as mentioned in this article, saying that big crowd-pullers such as football are essential in order to draw more viewers into watching other and more ‘worthy’ programming (relatively speaking). Of course whether viewers will stay or not for this additional programming is up to how good the programmes are, but this also illustrates that BBC Four may need to either have something that is more popular than “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (but is still of ‘high quality’) or alternatively try and find a more radical approach in order to build and maintain the larger audience numbers that the channel thoroughly deserves but not at the expense of compromising its content. It’s not going to be easy.

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David Hastings Contact More by me

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Liverpool, Thursday 2 December 2021