I was asked to write a 500 word opinion piece for Broadcast magazine on the announcement that two production companies – Avalon and Hat Trick – wanted to buy BBC3. They aren’t and BBC have announced they wouldn’t let that happen, thankfully. But if you don’t subscribe to Broadcast, like me*, then here’s the piece:
It was announced today that Avalon Entertainment and Hat Trick Productions are making a bid to buy BBC3 and save it from it’s future of online banishment and low budgets. Damien Kavanagh has already stated that BBC3 is not for sale but I can’t help but feel they’ll be letting a lot of people down with this statement. For a start, all those young people who simply shudder at the idea of approaching anything online when they could be watching it on television, that device they sometimes see when glancing up from their phones, tablets and laptops. Then of course there are the independent production companies who would relish having to approach a much larger production company with their new and original idea, knowing full well it’ll likely be given a backseat to the owner’s own projects. Don’t forget all the upcoming writers and performers who aren’t with the agency that’d be running the channel and therefore likely won’t get a look in edgeways. I’m sure they’d have been over the moon hearing that they could use all that newfound spare time to chase other hobbies like staring at walls or crying.
I am of course being cynical, which is part of my remit as a comedian that isn’t on television (despite efforts). But it does cause some concern that even the idea that a comedy agency in the UK can also be a production company that could potentially own a broadcasting channel. Not only that, but a BBC channel, supposedly the nation’s network. It would become not dissimilar to the oligopoly of the 1940’s Hollywood system where a few studios owned the acts and the theatres, blocking all creative output from any other providers. It’s arguable that this has already been happening in the television industry for a while now, especially in the comedy sector. The last few years especially have seen several larger agencies producing shows that include almost exclusively only the acts they represent. I don’t blame them for wanting to help their clients and rake in the dosh, but after seeing the same faces again and again on our screens, it can start to feel unhealthy.
Instead an online BBC3, that’s still owned by the BBC, and paid for by the licence fee might actually allow for some new talent to break through. With less focus on ratings and with lower budgets it may force creativity and experimentation with programs. I think that’d be far more preferable to the possibility of a profit driven rota of repetitive programming. The BBC is a well loved and treasured broadcaster in the UK by audiences and media alike. If its channels start being sold off, it will feel like the beginning of its end. As a comedian and writer who’s not very good at staring at walls or crying (believe me, I’ve tried) I welcome our new online channels with open arms. Open arms that happen to have my agent’s details and ‘I will work for hot dinners’ written on them.
* To be honest, I have no idea if they’ve put this up. They could just have re-edited it to make me look bonkers. If I don’t ever get any work in telly ever again, I’ll assume this has happened.
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