Wednesday 14 September 2016

Bye Bye Bake-off

The BBC tries to please everyone by stuffing so much into its schedules that much of the  content ends up being treated in a superficial and time-constrained manner. Rushed interviews are cut off at precisely the wrong moment to make way for an urgent weather forecast or some vital sports update. Formerly serious programmes like Panorama and Newsnight have gone down the drain leaving behind just a faint gurgling sound. 
24 hour rolling news consists mainly of soundbites and film-on-a-loop repeated over and over so that we can dip in and out as we please without missing much or learning much.

The Victoria Derbyshire programme occupies the weekday morning slot; two whole hours during which they occasionally examine a single topic in depth, but usually it’s the same old fluff.
There is HardTalk of course, I nearly forgot. But what time of day is that shown, and how objective is it?

We already have a plethora of lightweight magazine programmes, ostensibly dedicated to news and current affairs, but in reality padded out with celebrities, people promoting things and pop stuff. The One Show, Breakfast etc etc.

So what am I saying? Am I saying that they’re targeting a self-absorbed audience with attention deficit, limited intelligence and an obsession with social media? In other words, am I accusing the BBC of looking at their own reflection in the mirror? 

Yes, I believe I am. In fact, there is a subject that the BBC is particularly fond of, fond enough to examine in depth and dwell upon interminably. Is it politics, science, medicine, religion or even sex?

No. The topic the BBC gets most excited about, you've guessed it by now - is the BBC itself. 

The BBC has spent the last week or so examining every possible aspect of the storyline - the actors, the producer, the credibility of the court case, the likely sentence, the aftermath, and it has been congratulating itself on how the Archers has brought the issue of domestic abuse into the public domain. Having exhausted every avenue of Ambridge, the BBC has finally turned to the matter of batter. 

Channel Four has poached Bake-off and the BBC is distraught. It actually seems as if the BBC is now trying to reverse the situation, rather like with Brexit. It’s polishing up the old scaremongering tactics and possibly trying to initiate a popular uprising. We’re being threatened with Mary Berry’s resignation, Paul Hollywood’s suspected defection to Hollywood, a sit-in in Trafalgar Square and a stand-off outside Broadcasting House involving Mel and Sue.  (Not really.) 

Breaking News! Mel and Sue are standing off down! 

What happens if they stir up enough unrest? Will the BBC will be forced to better Channel Four’s offer, which is allegedly £1m per episode?

All that complaining that they can’t afford to make decent programmes (or buy them in) yet here’s evidence that there was a whole stash of spare cash available for the BBC to squander on grossly inflated golden handshakes.
“Snouts in the BBC trough: The 'grotesque' pay-offs handed to BBC bosses - revealed by the crusading politician who called them to account” 
I understand that much of the BBC’s output comes from independent production companies. They pitch an idea to the BBC and if it gets the thumbs-up, it’s commissioned. 
If not, the idea might be offered to Channel four, ITV or some new-fangled channel that I don’t know about.  So why be taken by surprise if an out-production is poached? It’s a free market scenario, surely. They don’t even bother to make all their own programmes.

The Times (£) wonders why the BBC has lost its most popular show. (Is it the BBC’s most popular show? I thought Strictly was that. Oh well) 

Jay Hunt, Channel Four’s chief creative officer asks:
“Why couldn’t they afford it? If it had been an entertainment show or a drama nobody would have blinked at the idea of paying that much. But because it’s a factual show they go, ‘No factual show costs that much’, which is absurd. They apportion the money in a mad Soviet way. Why don’t they pay what it’s worth rather than stick with a classification system which is completely nonsensical?” 

Hunt apparently believes that with the format thriving in about 20 countries, the architecture of the show is essential, not its personalities That belief will now be tested..

Am I the only one who really thinks bake-off should quietly bugger-off? It peaked a while back and it’s been in an acute state of exhaustion for some time. How much more could possibly be squeezed out of the already flogged to death format? Even the elite forum of previous winners and runners up that was subpoenaed to the Victoria Derbyshire studio had doubts about the programme’s everlasting durability.  High time someone made it into a trifle.

People are too fixated on the architecture of these shows as well as the personalities. It’s the content that’s the real attraction for many viewers. The creativity of the contestants is what it should be about, and the architecture should be able to adapt to that, rather than the other way round. The personalities might be part of the attraction, but as the saying goes, no-one’s indispensable.

There are all sorts of questions these programmes raise.  Why do contestants volunteer? Is it for their fifteen minutes of fame? Is it to launch a career? Has Nadiya Hussain been exploited, or is she exploiting everyone else? If the BBC is using her to further their ‘good Muslims’ agenda, should she be required to publicly condemn radicalisation? I won’t go into all that here, but you might get my drift.

Since it’s the topic they’re most interested in, the BBC could commission an independent production company to investigate its own internal workings, in depth, either for a one-off V.D. programme special, or better still, a whole series. 

Never mind ‘Love Productions’. What about, say, 'Onanistic Opportunities Film Company'? 
Every single investigation it would undertake would have to be solely about the BBC, and would be aired on the BBC, like a snake eating its own tail. The BBC would eventually disappear up its own fundament, giving itself a great deal of pleasure in the process.

Just imagine the formulaic structure they could weave into a series. The infrastructure is already there. BBC staffers would have to devise innovative programmes and pitch edgy ideas, with an outrageously time-constrained, immovable deadline before being judged by ‘experts’ who would announce, with an ever-expanding and increasingly-more-annoying suspense gap, who was going home. Then the loser could say “It’s been a rollercoaster, but I’ve enjoyed the experience,” and the others could promise to up their game, and so on. 

Then it could be poached by Channel Four.


  1. 'If the BBC is using her to further their ‘good Muslims’ agenda, should she be required to publicly condemn radicalisation?'

  2. Onanistic Opportunities Film Company - what an excellent idea. I look forward to hearing BBC producers telling us how “passionate” they are about their project, or how “it means everything to them”.

  3. Never seen it, never shall.

    Quite why a cookery programme should be allowed to dominate a supposedly serious news agenda is beyond me. But the truth is, it is all about advertising. The Beeb actually advertises every bit as much as the commercial channels, the only difference being it advertises only its own programming.

    Witness how the weather forecast gives you a weather update for that day's sporting events which might seem like a useful service if you're planning on going, but then you notice that the only sports events you get a forecast for are those being covered by the Beeb & that if you were going to one of Sky's events - tough. The whole thing is just another chuffing advert.


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