BBC Cuts Bite

Andrew Rowland | 13 June 2022 | 0 comments

In the first of measures the BBC will have to take in the light of the real-terms cuts I wrote about last time, it has been announced that BBC 4 and CBBC will cease transmission over the air and move online only [1]. That means they will only be accessible on BBC iPlayer, like BBC 3 was from 2016. Radio 4 Extra will do likewise, to BBC Sound, and the two news channels, BBC News and BBC World News (intended respectively for UK and international audiences) will merge. Expect even more American news on our service, already disproportionately represented. We tend to forget that the US is the BBC’s largest market. It remains to be seen whether foreign viewers will warm to an increase in UK domestic news. Are local elections of interest to most Europeans, for example? We live in a small country. Our national services have been compared to local stations in the States.

Changes were also announced to regional services – We Are England will end – the World Service, separate programming for Radio 4 LW (What? No escape from the cricket all summer?) and the funding of orchestras.

But BBC 4 and CBBC will continue on air for at least three years.

It does seem like something the BBC has been forced into, coming just months after BBC 3 returned to the airwaves (taking time away from CBBC), citing a failure to reach significant portions of the target demographic, particularly poorer, younger viewers in the north of England, who often have less access to digital on-demand services [2]. However, perhaps the BBC considers that the more sophisticated BBC 4 audience is likely to adapt, and from my experience, many families with children already have smart TVs delivering kids’ programmes 24×7. But poorer families with children are likely to be hardest hit by this measure – they were among the ones most affected by loss of TV signal in the North-west after the Bilsdale transmitter fire last August [3].

And it represents merely an acceleration of the move to Internet delivery of programmes, when the transmitters will all be turned off.

© Andrew Rowland 2022

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