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
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Marketing Executive - Urgent Requirement - Central Manchester

£20000 - £23000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Guru Careers: Social Media Executive / SEO Executive

£20 - 25K + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Social Media...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence