The fine print: what the report promises to bring us

Yesterday, Maggie Brown watched the BBC unveil plans to revitalise its entire radio and TV output. She explains what is in store


Popular drama is a key problem for BBC1,facing hugely successful ITV series night after night. With two outstanding exceptions, Eastenders and Casualty, it has failed to combine artistic ambitions with accessibility and mass audience appeal. Yet popular drama is at the heart of successful schedules, reaching across class boundaries. Nor can the BBC match ITV's drama budgets.

Major disappointments such as Eldorado and A Year in Provence, "which fail to deliver either in audience or artistic terms", the report admits, have tarnished the channel's reputation.

The report promises action: an increase in quantity and quality of popular drama; something new to be scheduled throughout the year, including the dead summer period; more drama made in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and from regional English centres. The BBC will pilot a second daily mini-drama on Radio 1, introduce adaptations of popular literature to Radio 2, and try to vary Radio 4 drama to appeal to more people. Radio 3 will also have major seasons of classic drama.

Costume productions such as Middlemarch and Martin Chuzzlewit are safe.


The BBC feels the mission to entertain is getting harder, and the cost of hiring top stars is rising hugely because of competition. Further, not all programmes appeal nationwide: Birds of a Feather does not go down well in Scotland.

The report details the scale of the problem with television light entertainment. By the early 1990s, the stream of hit shows was drying up, except for Noel's House Party. While the Generation Game continued to flourish, most programmes (eg, That's Life) were left on air beyond their useful life.

"The challenge of mainstream entertainment for all channels should not be underestimated," says the report. Some new shows, Do the Right Thing with Terry Wogan, and How Do They Do That? with Desmond Lynam, have been encouraging, but not enough.

There must be a systematic method of moving BBC2 stars to BBC1, and the BBC must improve the way it manages its stars. The report wants more shows for older people, especially musical entertainment; and more roles for talented young blacks and Asians.

In contrast, the new generation of situation comedies is highlighted, including Absolutely Fabulous, The Vicar of Dibley and Goodnight Sweetheart. And credit is given to the "remarkable flowering in sketch comedy" - Harry Enfield, French and Saunders, Fry and Laurie and BBC2 programmes such as The Day Today, Knowing Me Knowing You, The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, and Fantasy Football League.


The arts are a target for big changes. Too much coverage has reached a narrow band of the middle aged and middle class, while research shows the tone and style can be offputting to everyone else.

With more and younger people visiting art galleries, the cinema and events, the arts are breaking out of their old categories, and the programme-makers should follow them with more relevant and accessible shows. Proposals include more arts programmes from outside London, an experimental and polemical arts strand on BBC2, and a search for individuals to present programmes.

The report backs programmes devoted to one subject rather than a magazine approach. BBC Television's concentration on modern opera and music needs to change: "This trend runs counter to the mainstream of audience taste."

There is little or nothing on BBC Television to cater for classical CD buyers, says the report. It promises more dance and more architecture and design on BBC2. Radio 1 is to introduce regular coverage of cinema and video.


The BBC is aiming to popularise its output. It is also facing a rising demand for local news and weather. The report says that presentation can seem "distant and unfriendly" compared with ITV and commercial radio. The huge investment in specialist coverage has not impressed audiences. People appear to be fed up withpolitical programmes geared to a small lite: they want more on health, education, employment, science, the arts and sports results.

The report admits that until recently, both Panorama and Question Time seemed "in danger of losing touch with their audiences". The BBC has also seemed slow to react to big news stories.There is to be an extra 20 minutes per week for regional news bulletins after the Nine O'Clock News, and, possibly, regional editions of Question Time. The report hopes there will be new programmes about politics for younger people, and new forms of consumer programmes, on health and legal issues.


The BBC concedes it faces a dilemma: how to attract new listeners without alienating existing ones. "There is a lesson to be learnt about the pace of change" from Radio 1, it says; some people found the abrupt changes confusing and difficult. But there is no hint of backtracking on the changes here.

Accordingly, Radio 2 is told to reach out to the Beatles generation, who are in their forties and play rock music, but without alienating existing audiences. Changes must be evolutionary. Radio 3 is to make itself more welcoming, and increase its output of live music.

Radio 4 is expected to continue as a "broad editorial church", despite the growth of niche broadcasting. It will be expected to increase the emphasis on non-journalistic programmes, comedy, entertainment, and to start a new gardening programme. It is also urged to find new ways of covering science and natural history.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas