And so the BBC is losing The Great British Bake Off – is the BBC losing the plot? If Oscar Wilde was alive today and governor of the BBC, he may well have said: “to lose one incredibly important programme is unfortunate, but to lose two seems like carelessness.”Then again, if Oscar Wilde was alive today, he would no doubt be writing witty prose and not suffering because of his sexuality.
The BBC is losing the Great British Bake Off – this follows the debacle that is Top Gear and the loss of The Voice.
Okay, let’s re-write that introduction. Oscar Wilde may not have been so put out. The loss of the Voice may not have been that much of a loss, while the Top Gear/Jeremy Clarkson debacle was hardly the BBC’s fault; unless that is you think it should be in its charter that it panders to bullies.
But the debate about the BBC, good or bad, surely cuts to the core of the debate about capitalism – good or bad.
In many respects, The Game of Thrones is a British – or at least British/Irish – programme. It is shot in Ireland, but a high proportion of the actors are British, the cultural references are British – right down to jokes about southern softies. Okay, the author George R. R. Martin is American, but he clearly knows his British history. Given this, why was it down to US company HBO – owned by Time Warner – to turn Martin’s books into a hit TV programme worldwide and not the BBC?
Instead, the BBC gave us Merlin, Atlantis, and a plethora or other sword fantasy type shows that hardly set the world alight.
And when the BBC does have a show that has international appeal, such as Doctor Who – it under-funds it.
With its unique funding model, why can’t the BBC throw money at its productions via a two-pronged approach – licence payers’ money in the UK, but an HBO/AMC type model for the rest of the world?
The answer to that surely lies in politics.
For one thing, you have the lobby that says the BBC crowds out the market, that the existence of the BBC makes it nigh on impossible for the UK to have its own version of HBO. The criticism stretches further; critics say it is unfair how the BBC crowds out competitors in the online world.
Yet if sometimes feels as if the BEEB responds to such criticism by deliberately making some of its content less compelling – certainly, the business news section of the BBC web-site is not as good as it used to be – in the opinion of the author.
Part of the problem, is that the BBC has to appeal to the family, there is way too much sex, and violence in Game of Thrones for the BBC to have ever run it – can you imagine the condemnation?
The BBC is allowed to do sex and violence but only if it is done in a hammy way, with low budgets and based on history giving it an intellectual tone – for example I Claudius.
The BBC, accountable as it is to the public, finds it hard to take risks, at least high budget risks, because the condemnation, if things go wrong, could destroy it.
And finally (to quote the ITV news) it has to encourage the private sector – for example not insisting on a contract with the owners of Bake-Off granting joint ownership of the show.
But maybe the BBC has been a good influence – and let’s face it, the institution is good at period drama – and now so is ITV, that can’t be a coincidence?
Al Jazeera may do detailed news better than the BBC, but it was surely inspired by the BEEB.
There is one question though. Does the BBC take risks like it used to? Monty Python was a risk, a low budget risk to be sure, but it was given air time. Creating hits requires risk, and it requires experiment – trying lots of ideas. That means you have to accept failure as a normal part of the creative process, and the UK, egged on by a jealous media, hates failure. Except when it is the BBC, because when it fails, messes up, loses a hit, or produces a bad show, the media love it.