“Let’s play battleships…” 

6 January 2004 tbs.pm/742

Andy Hamilton on BBC One comedy scheduling

Although Andy Hamilton may have a personal axe to grind over the mistreatment of his ‘baby’, it is true that recently the BBC seems to have adopted the same last minute aggressive rescheduling tactics as ITV, with BBC One peak time programming occasionally being substituted with little prior warning if it has deemed to have performed relatively ‘poorly’ for whatever reason.

There has always been a ‘ratings war’ of sorts between BBC1 and ITV(1), but recently this seems to have developed into more of a major conflict; another recent example of BBC One ‘tactical scheduling’ is the cheap and cheerful Saturday night game show Here Comes The Sun, which one Saturday mysteriously vanished having been replaced by a repeat of The Weakest Link.

Now you may criticise Here Comes The Sun all you want for being a tacky downmarket gameshow (though trust me that The National Lottery Jet Set is even worse…), but if someone had taken the time and trouble to commission a series based on a successful pilot episode (which attracted 5.1 million viewers in January 2003) because they liked the idea in the first place, you would have thought the person involved would have had the nerve to continue with the series even if it was performing slightly worse than expected, particularly if it was a relatively new idea. And especially if it was a ‘public service broadcaster’.

At this point some of you may be expecting me to point the finger of blame solely at BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey (and naturally she is largely responsible for this happening), but you can also partly lay the blame at a deregulated ITV for doing much the same thing since the BBC may feel as if it has to do something similar in response. With a bit of luck the BBC may soon stop doing these last minute changes since they don’t exactly portray BBC One as being a ‘dependable’ channel, especially with the charter review on the horizon.

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