I have just been quoted in The Times’ storify of Twitter’s response to the announcement of the demise (and subsequent online rebirth) of BBC3. The tweet in question was perhaps slightly hastily thought through – see here – though entirely accurate in terms of my reaction to a vast amount of television that I skim past, albeit not all from one channel. Still though, in terms of being a comedian who has the occasional ill thought out dreams of being on telly, slamming one of the few outlets that is there for new comedy is never a wise move. There is a half written script on my computer that I had aimed to send to BBC3 in particular as I thought it’d suit exactly that demographic. By ‘that demographic’ I meant it was probably the most puerile script I’ve ever written in terms of vocabulary and dialogue, but I started writing this knowing it would actually fit in with the rest of the structure of the show. Regardless of that, it’s still sad that it was that element that made me think ‘this is perfect for BBC3′. Herein lies the problem with the channel as a whole.
It maddens me that the BBC have to cancel any channels when certain Beeb execs are reaping huge pay packs. It then maddens me even further that these cuts are all due to constant attacks on the state television service by the Conservatives, who are constantly angry at the success of something that is nationalised. The UK is still the only country in the world who’s state channel has to pay Sky to be broadcast amongst its channels, thanks to a contract signed by Mrs Thatcher in the 90’s to the benefit of Rupert Murdoch. Years later this has lead to the BBC having to move from it’s iconic home of TV Centre and various funding issues, not to mention its television being more focused on rating than content. Hence Strictly Come Dancing, The Voice and all those shows that ask you to switch off your brain for a while so that celebrities that already have a lot of money can gain some more money. I have nothing against those shows but it seems a shame they are at the forefront of a nationalised television service while documentaries such as Panorama have been cut in time and all but Attenborough’s work relegated to BBC2 or 4. I don’t say all of this from exact knowledge I should add, but just from speaking to enough telly types who through a variety of whispers explained it to me. Either way, it feels stupid channels should go when other more overly costly areas could take cuts first. But I’m not in telly, so chances are, I don’t really know.
What I do know though, is that as well as being a victim of cuts, BBC3 has been, for a long time, a victim of demographics. Starting out as BBC Choice, it pioneered such shows as 15 Storeys High, and has since then been the launch pad for comedies such as Pulling, The Mighty Boosh and Nighty Night amongst others that I won’t mention because I don’t like them as much. In the latter years though, all of its shows had to be aimed at the ’16-25 year old’ market, which to many meant more sex jokes, less depth and a general ‘dumbing down’ of its content. I do regularly shout swearwords at it when I find a show that has less plot than a miniature allotment, but does have a teenager finding a new way to say ‘fucking’. Aside from comedy there is show after show of vacuous documentary about people binge drinking in a Mediterranean country or endless repeats of Family Guy to the point where it’s not enjoyable anymore. That’s what the yoof like isn’t it? Well it is if that’s all they get and that’s all they’re told to get. BBC3’s Free Speech regularly asked its audience inane questions about fashion or sex, which was shown to be just patronising when compared to the Question Time episodes to teenage audiences who gave more thoughtful queries than most adult ones. Sure there have been shows like the excellent Uncle or In The Flesh too, but these are few and far between in comparison.
When I was 16 there wasn’t a channel for me. I hadn’t ever though of it like that. Instead I assumed TV was for everyone. With the exception of Songs of Praise and Antiques Roadshow which was for ancient beings with no will to live anymore. Instead I would just watch lots of things and then from that discern what I liked and was interested in. My comedy was Spaced, The Day Today, Friday Night Armistice and This Morning With Richard Not Judy. I’d find the late night music shows or weird programs about computer games (oh how I miss Bits.) that I felt were just for me because I’d discovered them. Sure, some of those shows were aimed at a younger audiences but not explicitly. More because its writers were young and/or it was what they wanted to present. It wasn’t written with anyone in mind but instead what the comedians and comedy writers wanted to do.
Here in 2014 we have so many channels, so much content online, that it has to be categorised for everyone otherwise we’ll get lost in a void of random programming and shows that have no justification for their existence. We have to have a young persons channel, or an intellect’s channel, or all the boring shit during the day that no one cares about, or one just for people who like cooking because don’t forget not everyone eats, or a channel that’s just for people who like flicking channels so it gives them something else to skim past. There are reasons that it is sad that BBC3 is going online only- not least because new comedies will struggle to get seen when they are only broadcast on the internet – but I’m hoping on the plus side it means BBC will have to tighten up it’s programming and focus on quality, interesting television for everyone like a nationalised service should have.
———————————————————————————————————————————— I’m doing a tour of my new comedy show, all over the UK. Next stop is Bristol at The Wardrobe Theatre on March 6th. Please come. All details and my new mailing list you can sign up to at www.tiernandouieb.co.uk.