David Lister: Sky Arts is showing how to do culture on television – can the BBC please take note?

The Week in Arts


It is not exactly fashionable to recommend praise for James Murdoch, as the hacking problems of News International continue, but with the announcement this week by Sky Arts of a big budget increase, new programming, apps and the rest, he at least deserves a favourable mention.

Mr Murdoch was a champion of Sky Arts in its early days and continued to bless it with increased funding and a higher profile. Perhaps even the most reviled figures are more complex than we like to think. In the breast of Murdoch junior there beats a passion for the arts.

Part of Sky Arts' increased profile is a giant leap up the Electronic Programme Guide, or EPG, which makes both of its channels more visible to people idly flicking through to see what's on. For most of us, the EPG does not have a huge place in our lives or daily conversation, but to television people, it's the holy grail. And this rise up the EPG is further proof that the arts have a surprisingly high priority in the Murdoch empire.

I'm more interested in the fact that there will be a large number of new plays commissioned, including a tantalising one featuring Emma Thompson as the Queen in a re-creation of the night in 1982 when she found an intruder in her Buckingham Palace bedroom. There will continue to be operas every week, a regular books programme, tours round art exhibition openings, broadcasts from leading pop festivals and much more. Building upon these regular treats is actually more important than the solid, if less imaginative, hirings of Michael Parkinson and Melvyn Bragg. And these initiatives show what is lacking in arts coverage on the main terrestrial channels.

Channel 4 is beginning to show signs of renewed cultural life under its arts controller Tabitha Jackson. I particularly like its late-night 10-minute slot Random Acts, which features new, unknown performers. That's more of what's needed in TV arts than Michael Parkinson. ITV remains culturally dormant. But it is the BBC from which we expect the most, and to which Sky Arts offers the biggest challenge. Strands such as Alan Yentob's Imagine are always high class, but only vaguely regular. BBC4 has much that is unmissable, even if its presence has meant a diminution of arts programming on BBC1 and 2. (And I still look in vain for classic drama. When was the last Ibsen play on any TV channel, I wonder?)

Sky Arts has thrown down a challenge to the BBC and Channel 4 this week. If it responds by enhancing its arts programming and budgets, then Sky will have done all viewers a favour. The universally received terrestrial channels should be taking more of a lead.

How useful is the term 'bourgeoisie'?

Congratulations to my former colleague Will Self, the celebrated novelist, psycho-geographer and journalist, on being appointed professor of contemporary thought at Brunel University. He will undoubtedly make waves. Will said about his appointment, and the large British Asian community in the area: "Take the last few weeks and all of this Dickens brouhaha. The bourgeoisie got themselves into an awful pother – 'Why was he so great and we're so crap – where is the contemporary Dickens?' Maybe the contemporary Dickens is going to be a British Asian."

The bourgeoisie? That's not a word I have heard in a while, let alone as an insult. I'm not convinced that one has to be a member of the bourgeoisie to get into a pother about Dickens. In fact, I suggest the subject of the new professor of contemporary thought's first lecture should be why the use of the term "bourgeoisie" should be banished from contemporary thought.

Bring back the old James Corden

I enjoyed the music at the Brits. From where I was sitting at the 02, Blur looked terrific. Adele looked highly impressive and Rihanna looked Rihanna, which is more than sufficient. What I couldn't quite come to terms with was the presenter. What happened to the old James Corden, the funny, irreverent and unpredictable one? Why didn't he bring a single joke with him? And how could he have so crassly cut off Adele's acceptance speech?

Corden wasted no time after the ceremony in blaming the producers for ordering him through his earpiece to interrupt the star. That's passing the buck, rather. They are TV producers, not God. Ignore them. Or say no.

d.lister@independent.co.uk // twitter.com/davidlister1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower