(Full Disclosure: I write for The Revolution Will Be Televised so everything I say above should be taken with a pinch of whatever condiment you like because it airs on BBC3. Oh, and it won last year’s BAFTA for Best Comedy, while we’re talking about quality programming)
I don’t listen to Radio 3. I don’t enjoy the programming, it’s almost all repeats of music that has been around for hundreds of years, and I suspect with the amount of Wagner they play that everyone who does listen to it is probably a bit anti-semitic. Radio 3 is not for me.
I don’t, however, want to see the BBC axe it.
More than that, there are some channels I think are actively detrimental to human life. With the tag-team property fetishism of Philandkirsty and Sarah Beenie, Channel 4 supported a bubble in the housing market for more than a decade. Their relentless propaganda claiming property ownership was the only route to happiness fuelled the sorts of mortgage lending that led to Northern Rock going bust, priced ordinary people our of most city centres and created it an atmosphere in which social housing now can’t be built because of the effect it will have on house prices. If you build a council house you’re robbing from the real humans, you see. Essentially, I’m saying Channel 4 are mainly responsible for the recession, and for the crisis in housing stock we currently face. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing us he wasn’t Kirsty Allsop.
But I wouldn’t cheer if Channel 4 closed.
The reason for this – and here comes the science part – is that I actually don’t think my personal viewing preferences should govern all the television that exists. Nor do I think my personal preferences should be the yardstick by which the BBC’s performance is measured.
So here’s why we shouldn’t close BBC3, even if you don’t like the programmes it makes.
Nighty Night, Monkey Dust, Pulling, High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman, 28 Acts In 28 Minutes, Mongrels, Dead Boss, Him And Her, Annually Retentive. Those are all excellent comedies you wouldn’t have without BBC3.
Oh, and then there are the little shows like Little Britain, The Mighty Boosh and Gavin and Stacey, which some people liked..
And, just thinking about what’s currently on, there’s Uncle (giving a new performer a deserved lead in a BBC sitcom), Bluestone 42 (which is both ambitious and relevant) and The Revolution Will Be Televised (which was nominated for a Rose d’Or last year as well as winning some award or other). There’s Live At The Electric, giving new acts (with some notable omissions – ahem) some of their first television exposure as well as being presented by the oldest man in comedy (unfortunately, the new acts are sacrificed after the show so that Russell Kane can drink their blood and soothe the ache in the lump of black gristle he has instead of a heart).
So let’s talk genre. And mention The Fades, Being Human, Torchwood and In The Flesh.
In fact with Little Britain USA, La La Land, and the US versions of Torchwood, Pulling, Being Human, and Dead Boss, BBC3 has exported loads more television programmes to America than, say, ITV1. Which has managed Jeremy Kyle USA. In fact, Sharon Horgan alone has exported twice as many programmes to America as ITV1. Programmes which started on BBC3.
BBC3 has commissioned a lot of great comedy over the last ten years. And, importantly, when BBC exists more comedy is commissioned. Which means something you like is more likely to be commissioned. More is better than less. When you cheer the demise of BBC3 you are shouting “Huzzah! I shall have fewer choices of what to watch in the future! Thank Christ! I’m such an idiot I usually end up watching complete shit!”
But it’s so expensive! Yes, and it’s not like that’s offset by its producing world-beating cash cows like Little Britain and Gavin and St-oh.
Yes, there are also some terrible programmes, quite a few terrible programmes. But there are terrible programmes on every channel. Have you tried watching television during the day? It’s almost enough to make you pull your trousers back up and get back to work. Almost.
Then there’s the cost argument. The BBC needs to save money because the licence fee’s been frozen. And it has to find it somewhere. So why not here?
Because the money isn’t being saved. It’s being spent again.
Closing BBC3 will save between £80 and £100 million. That sounds like loads.
Until you realise that they have pledged to spend £30 million of it on new drama for BBC1. And £30 million of it creating BBC1+1. Oh, and there will still be a programming budget for BBC3, but it will be online only.
I would say that only the BBC could get rid of something that cost £100 million and only save themselves (at best) £40 million, but that’s patently not true. I reckon I could.
So, if the programmes are successful and it’s not saving much money, why is it being done?
Now, call me an old cynic, but it seems to me that the sorts of people who watch BBC3 are generally not the sorts of people who read the sorts of newspapers who will influence the sort of government who will oversee the next licence fee agreement. This is a move to show the BBC can make tough choices (unless that tough choice involves standing up to governments).
What makes it more nakedly political is the use of the money to fund BBC1+1, a channel that will only be watched by people who can’t use their set top box, and haven’t discovered the Internet. Old people.
It’s yet another broadside in our current war on youth.
From the removal of the EMA, through the introduction of tuition fees, the removal of housing benefit for under-25s, to the current proposals to remove all benefits from under-25s, we are at war with our young people. We used to hate them because of their sexting, their hoodies, and their riots. Now I’m not sure we even need a reason.
A fifth of them – close to one million under-25s – are unemployed, and the message coming out again and again from the political class is that they don’t matter. Politically, they are expendable, and now we’ve decided they’re culturally expendable, too.
And then we can hitch up our petticoats in horror when they dare listen to that beast Russell Brand, and we can ask ourselves “What is to be done with the young people? Why are they so angry? What have we ever done to them?” before we get an attack of the vapours and lie around honking like broken geese, perplexed by the incredible mystery of it all.
And we can turn on Sarah Beeney and thank our lucky stars we got on the property ladder when we did.
(Now go and sign the fucking petition to #savebbc3)
(Oh, and BBC3 also remain responsible for one of the most entertaining hours of television ever broadcast. Go and get some popcorn and tuck into Danny Dyer, I Believe In UFOs. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. My favourite bit? The bit where he’s discussing crop circles and descrobes how people “read about them in the newspaper, but then forget all about them to turn the page and look at some tits.” Because that is how all newspapers work.)