Since we came back from our Summer trip, we noticed at BBC Breakfast and in other news broadcastings on BBC 1 we are not able any more to watch the local or London News. We only come to see a red page with the notice we are not allowed to see that broadcasting in our area (Belgium).
Normally, my day starts with the Breakfast show, me wanting to know what might or should get our attention that day. It is strange the notice let us know it is a matter of copyrights, that we are not able to see that part of the news, whilst at BBC World, luckily we still can see the whole newsbroadcasting.
Furthermore, in recent years, we cannot rid ourselves of the opinion that the BBC seems to be repeating more and more. Since BBC First was all about repeats, we had given up on that channel, provided we felt the extra payment for that channel was then unnecessary. For BBC 1, BBC 2 and BBC World, we still pay extra in our television subscription (which includes Science and Discovery Science in that package)
ITV we cannot receive here in the middle of Belgium, but we are lucky the VRT (or Flemish television) buys a lot of its series so that we can enjoy them even without annoying advertisements in between.
Concerning the BBC we are not the only ones who get the impression the national public broadcaster is taking fewer risks in the last few months. The number of new shows on the BBC has fallen by almost half. In its annual report, Ofcom, the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom, said that the BBC is increasingly reliant on returning series, many of which have been going for decades.
I am sad to note that this also happens on Flemish television, where on VRT 1 they have been broadcasting repeats of “FC De Kampioenen” (F.C. The Champions) a long-running Flemish sitcom chronicling the (mis)adventures of a fictional local football team, for “ages”, for which there are remarkably still many viewers. But last year, the television season seemed to end as early as March/April, on which then almost no new productions were shown.
The private channels seem to be in the same bed ill, but there one may wonder why they have created so many channels, when these then fill up their programming anyway with repeats of each other’s programmes. Sure, it’s all about sending as many adverts into the world as possible. But they would do better to charge more for these commercials and send fewer of them to the viewer. In any case, we at home only watch VTM News and ignore everything else. We don’t feel like being orendulously annoyed by the adverts that constantly interrupt films and series.
Stalwarts of the BBC schedules include Have I Got News For You, now on its 64th series, and Bargain Hunt, which returned this year for its 62nd series. Since 1963 the British science fiction television show broadcast by the BBC, Doctor Who, seems still going strong, approaching its 60th anniversary. The BBC began producing new episodes in 2005, which quickly proved popular. Lots of people wanting to follow those adventures of the extraterrestrial being that with various companions combats foes, works to save civilisations, and helps people in need, it surprises me that still so many are eager to see the new episodes.
Other shows which have been around for years include Mastermind (series 48), Top Gear (series 33) and Silent Witness (series 25).
In its report, Ofcom said that
“the balance of new and returning series sheds light on the BBC’s level of risk-taking”.
But when one looks at new productions one can see there are less new shows or series since 2021, showing a high reliance on returning series.
The lack of new shows is illustrated by this year’s BBC Christmas schedule. Continuing the trend set in recent years, it predominantly comprises festive specials of familiar shows including once again the period drama series about a group of nurse midwives working in the East End of London in the late 1950s and 1960s, “Call the Midwife”. Originally, we also watched every episode, but in the long run it seemed like it was always the same, and we had had enough.
For those who love the British–French crime comedy drama television series created by Robert Thorogood, starring Ben Miller, “Death in Paradise”, there shall again be an offering this Christmas season. (Oh boy, oh boy.) Though that series has enjoyed high viewing figures and a generally positive critical reception since its debut, leading to repeated renewals, I hate it, and find the jokes not classy enough and the plot so predictable. (Not worth spending your time on it.)
The Irish television sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys, with moments, can get me smiling, but for me this would be better left to be played in the 1970s though it was only developed from O’Carroll’s works going back to the early 1990s. The Christmas special broadcast on 25 December 2011 could have been good fun, but the last two years, it all seemed too noisy, exaggerated overcasting. Already in December 2020, O’Carroll announced that additional Christmas specials had been commissioned up to 2026, stating
“This new deal we signed last week goes all the way to 2026, which means I will be able to grow into the part, and we’ve a clause in which guarantees Mrs Brown is aired at 10pm on Christmas night, or else we don’t have to make it.”
But I would not interrupt a family gathering to go sit in front of the television, nor record that Christmas show to see it later. On 19 February 2022, it was announced that Mrs. Brown’s Boys would be returning for a fourth series set to air in 2022, in which I wonder how long people will “milk this”, and how long shall the public accept, or come to terms with, to watch those ever-recurring running gags?.
A lot of games are brought to many television stations, and the end-of-year days are not spared. The British comedy game show which started in 1979 and is still running today, albeit with some sizeable gaps, Blankety Blank, shall also be on the viewing calendar for some people. That show, with Mrs Brown’s Boys, may then provide distraction and relaxation for lonely people, where they can put that loneliness aside for a while and still experience a pleasant fun night in these dark days.
Provided there are so many sports fans then anyway, several state-run channels such as VRT and BBC will also bring enough of this on the board. The “world’s longest running TV sports quiz” shall also be present during this coming end-of-year period.
Unfortunately, such a world-renowned organisation lacks the guts to come up with refreshing and new ideas during these days, where family time is after all important, without having to present films that are too chamois-sweet and certainly not to present “The Sound of music” or “Home Alone” for the 100,000th time (which, for example, the commercial channel VTM would dare to do).
Ofcom’s research found that audiences rate the BBC low for risk-taking.
“Taking risks and innovating in how and what it commissions is key to how the BBC can set itself apart from competitors,”
the regulator said.
If television stations don’t pay attention and keep broadcasting so many repeats with an abundance of commercials being sent into the living room, more and more people will drop out of simply watching a TV channel or paying for cable TV. We can already see that the younger generation prefers not to take out a cable subscription anymore, but to order what they really want to see on the Internet when they want to make time for appropriate entertainment on their TV.
In the coming years, one can therefore expect the popularity of streaming services and companies like Netflix, Disney, a.o. to increase, while many people also bring larger screens into their homes with Dolby stereo sound.
Like me, the regulator also finds that
“Risk-taking can also help the BBC evolve its offering to stay relevant and appeal to a wide range of audiences, including those currently under-served.”
It is now, that one will have to be more mindful of those who are so often overlooked or forgotten.
Viewers and listeners from the lowest socio-economic groups – accounting for a quarter of the UK population – are less engaged and less satisfied with the BBC than their wealthier counterparts, the report found, concluding that they were “persistently under-served” by the broadcaster.
Fortunately, we can still be charmed by the many wonderful nature documentaries and excellent police and detective series, but the BBC has to make choices with its different channels to reach certain viewer groups during certain hours on certain channels.
It is a pity to hear that young audiences for the children’s channels, CBeebies and CBBC, are in decline, with increased viewing to iPlayer failing to make up the shortfall. Another problem with iPlayer screening is that people living outside the UK are not able to see those productions. Because of that, many children are missing an interesting boat. Though good to hear that as of 2022, CBeebies-branded channels exist in the United Kingdom and Ireland (their original flagship service) India, Poland, Asia, South Africa, Australia, MENA and Turkey, while branded blocks currently air on KBS in South Korea, and as well as Kids Station in Japan.
A BBC spokesperson said:
“The BBC invests more in original UK content than any other broadcaster and provides an unrivalled range of programming which includes new and exciting shows such as SAS: Rogue Heroes, The Traitors, The English, Am I Being Unreasonable? and The Elon Musk Show alongside favourite returning series, which our audiences love.”
It is true that we should see that the BBC does its best, and does not perform badly with the amount of money which is available for them. This year they also once more have proven to be cracks in presenting life television. 2022 with the death of the Queen showed the world how BBC is a master in such historical times and how they can bring audiences together for major national moments. We also should admit that on the part of bringing news there is the significance of their trusted, impartial news, which means they’re delivering on their remit and delivering value for audiences. I only can hope they shall find a solution for HD viewers so that they soon shall be able to see the news sections of local news again so that in Breakfast and the Nine o’clock news we shall not have those interruptions for 8 à 10 minutes (with just an image of an announcement board that in our region that news cannot be viewed).
Furthermore, we can only hope that the government will continue to recognise the extent to which the BBC is an international signboard that also still has an important job to perform of informing and infotainment, and therefore shall provide enough funds to do that job properly.