Strictly speaking: the BBC can do better

Last week's unusually self-critical BBC annual report highlighted five key problem areas. Lucy Rouse asked the experts what they would do to solve them

Saturday-night schedule

Mike Beale, Deputy managing director, 12 Yard Productions (producer of BBC1's Saturday night programme 'In It To Win It')

I would say BBC1 is starting to get it right. With the success of Strictly Come Dancing there's been a return to the family show where everyone can sit down together and watch a bit of live music, some dancing and fun. But it also included some of the modern-day elements of interactivity with viewers phoning in and voting.

Our show, In It To Win It which is part of the Lottery, works because it's a straightforward quiz, it's not too clever or over-complicated plus it's in its third series and people know the game - they've grown with it. The BBC's controller of entertainment Jane Lush has been quite brave trying to do things like Come and Have a Go If You Think You're Hard Enough which was a fully interactive quiz and it didn't really work. But part of the BBC's remit is to try new things. The audience is slightly fickle and they probably don't know what they want. It's down to commissioners and producers to try to guess what they want but it's tough to get it right every time. The idea of family viewing can still work - we have three TVs in our house but my wife and daughter and I all sat down together for Strictly Come Dancing. Another example of good family viewing was the Ian Wright show, I'd Do Anything which had a bit of wish fulfilment and involved husbands and wives. The success of a show isn't always judged on how good it is but on how many people are watching.

The BBC should give series time to grow and find an audience so there's a bit of stability to Saturday nights. If you look at the golden days there was Blind Date on ITV and Noel's House Party on BBC1 for 10 years, so you knew what was on. Now they move shows around so much from 7.30pm to 7pm to 6.05pm that viewers don't know where to find programmes and it's harder to build audience loyalty. I understand that sometimes the BBC is forced into making change, because there's so much criticism when a show isn't working, but if it could let a few shows come back for more series - especially ours! - I really think it could build up audiences and loyalty.

BBC3 - too many celebrities?

John Hambley, Chairman Satellite and Cable Broadcasters Group and chief executive of Artsworld

Our group doesn't take a position on individual BBC digital channels, but our view is very firm on the BBC's digital channels as a whole. We think their cost in public money is excessive and out of all proportion to their public value. Like other BBC digital channels, BBC3 has a pathetically small audience share and by any objective standard it is a failure, just like its failed predecessor BBC Choice (which at least cost the public less).

Everybody pays an above-inflation increase in their licence fee every year to finance the BBC's digital channel adventures, yet the majority of licence payers either can't get the channels or don't want them. BBC3 in particular is not different enough from what is available elsewhere to justify its huge cost. In 400-channel Britain there is simply no need for the public to be forced to pay for BBC3 and to be threatened with jail if they don't. BBC digital channels will never win large audiences because of the nature of a 400-channel universe. Any other organisation running BBC3 would say the match between audience and cost isn't working. The BBC should begin to make those sort of judgements - it's got to use cost-effectiveness as a measure of what it does. I think the BBC's digital strategy will soon be seen to be wrong and wasteful.

Radio 3 - too much non-classical music?

Paul Brown, Chief executive of Commercial Radio Companies Association

It's certainly a move forward for the BBC governors to make comments without being influenced by BBC management. We'd prefer them to pay closer attention to the number of commercial mentions on BBC radio services. As for Radio 3, I've met a number of people who rather relish the fact that it makes plays things other than classical music. I'm intrigued to see that's one of the things the governors have picked up on. No one in commercial radio would quibble with the idea that Radio 3 is providing a service that could not exist without public funding and if the BBC wants to expand that service to jazz and so on that's its own matter. I don't think the Guardian Media Group [owner of Jazz FM] is going to worry that it plays too much jazz on Radio 3.

Religious programmes sidelined?

Catherine Pepinster, Editor, 'The Tablet'

As a BBC1 viewer I'd say religion comes across as something very tedious. But as the editor of a religious publication and also as a practising Roman Catholic I think religion is incredibly interesting particularly in this day and age.

We see a growing interest in religion as a consequence of the role it's playing in the world - I'm thinking of 11 September 2001 and so on.

The BBC has got to get its act together and stop thinking of religion as something that's about fulfilling a duty. If the BBC thought about religion in an imaginative way it could be as interesting as politics.

The BBC is very good at lively discussion programmes such as Late Review and This Week. Let's have more intelligent and imaginative programming like that. Gimmicky shows like Heaven and Earth or a tired old format like Songs of Praise just aren't enough.

News for children

Anna Home, Children's Film & Television Foundation and former head of BBC children's TV

It's always very difficult to do news for children. As far as Children's BBC (CBBC) is concerned - because it is a digital channel which is in competition with lots of other different channels, it's very difficult to schedule news in depth so they probably do have to have short bites at it.

Newsround on the analogue channel (BBC1) is still very successful - and it's been going for decades. The other thing that kids are interested in is issues of the day - not so much politics, but they can get very involved in other issues and into debate about things like ecology and climate. That's something worth thinking about, if it can be done in a way that involves children.

Comments