Bragg accuses BBC of 'hiding away' its arts programmes

Melvyn Bragg accused the BBC yesterday of "brochure broadcasting" by hiding away its arts programmes on the little-watched digital channel BBC4 as a "fig leaf" gesture towards public service programming.

Lord Bragg, 65, the editor and presenter of ITV's The South Bank Show, claimed the policy gave the BBC some arts coverage to mention in its annual report while more populist programmes were shown on the mainstream channels.

In a speech at the launch of the 27th series of The South Bank Show, the Cumbrian-born writer said: "Once upon a time, many of the programmes on BBC4 would have automatically been on BBC2 or even - and not very long ago, let's say the late 80s - on BBC1. And that is a great pity."

Lord Bragg's comments coincide with the annual viewing figures for the critically- acclaimed BBC4, which has only ever attracted one audience of more than 500,000 since its launch in 2002.

The most-watched programmes on the channel last year were the political drama State of Play (560,000) and a preview of the BBC1 costume drama Charles II (420,000). A profile of singer Dolly Parton reached the top 10 with an audience of just 150,000. The life peer commended the quality of BBC4's overall output but said it "may be headed for the category of brochure broadcasting - to flash on the front of the corporate annual report".

He predicted that the BBC would come to regret a policy that he claimed was aimed at winning praise from a small elitist audience. "This could backfire badly. Everybody who produces programmes in radio and television knows that the easiest thing... to do [is] not broadcasting but narrow casting," he said.

"You hit a small and influential audience and you get hundreds of letters commending you for hitting that particular small influential target."

Lord Bragg said that the strategy of concentrating arts coverage on BBC4 "could be seen as no more than a fig leaf and a fig leaf is not enough public cover". Questioned after the speech, delivered in London, Lord Bragg said: "I hope [BBC4] is not seen by the BBC as a token. There's the danger that they are dumping programmes there. I'm not attacking BBC4 as such but I think it's in a dicey situation."

Lord Bragg also used his speech to call for the licence fee to be replaced by a public service broadcasting fund available to all channels.

He said that ITV had been "under the cosh" and that a "ludicrous" £300m government tax on the network was no longer appropriate in the days of multi-channel television and it threatened its ability to produce public service programmes.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "It's a shame Melvyn describes BBC4 as a fig leaf when it's a distinctive channel in its own right, which after nearly two years has laid down its roots and developed a strong identity."

She said programmes shown on BBC4 were "in addition to" rather than instead of the BBC terrestrial schedules. "Many of BBC4's programmes can be seen later on BBC2, such as the critically acclaimed Gauguin."

Leading article, page 16

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Sauce Recruitment: New Media Marketing Manager - EMEA - Digital Distribution

£35000 - £45000 per annum + up to £45,000: Sauce Recruitment: The Internation...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing / PR / Social Media Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A thriving online media busines...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003