Mouthbox ruminates on the loss of BBC Three and the future of televised entertainment.
In a week when the BBC has decided to save money by shutting down one of its most creative TV channels – BBC Three- and “move it online”, I’m beginning to wonder just how much longer all the other broadcast channels are going to survive. They’ll probably all be gone in three or four years time. But don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring. Nothing will really change. Because we don’t watch channels anymore. We watch programmes. If I fancy an episode or two of Family Guy, I can switch to BBC Three or Fox, or even pull up a box set from the Virgin Media server. What do I care where I see the show? Frankly, I don’t give a damn what channel I’m on. As long as I can get my fix of Family Guy, I’m not bothered.
If you’re a fan of Line of Duty, you set your TV to record the whole series, then watch it whenever you like. Your viewing patterns are no longer controlled by a pimply, Excel-punching channel scheduler in West London, they’re set by your TiVo. The only TV channel in your house is you. So let’s not worry too much about poor old BBC Three. Because it won’t be long until even BBC One and BBC Two switch from being old-fashioned “linear” channels to being a couple of slick menu pages on iPlayer. We won’t watch BBC1 One anymore, we will simply navigate our way through it.
Because of the way we all consume television nowadays, it’s really only rolling news channels like Sky News and CNN that will need to continue to broadcast “live” in the traditional sense, and even those channels will increasingly cut up their content into smaller, navigable, time-shifted clips, so that we can better locate the news we’re looking for.
The least of our problems is the BBC cutting channels. It’s when they start to cut quality programming that we’ll notice the difference. When BBC One is nothing but a navigable menu on iPlayer, they’ll be no pressure to fill a linear schedule, end to end, for twenty-four hours a day. So as programme production is slowly reduced, month by month, year by year, no-one will actually notice. They’ll be no gaps in the schedule, because there’ll be no schedule – just an ever decreasing online programme library, with a Beeb logo, a search box, and a rotating continuity voiceover which says, “Coming up next on BBC… whatever you like.”
But it’s not all bad news. No linear schedule means no daytime TV, which means no David Dickinson and no Nick Knowles. Freed from Homes Under the Hammer and Escape to the Country, we’ll be able to sit around all day just watching Doctor Who until that fateful day in the dim and distant future, when we finally realise that Doctor Who is the only programme the BBC still makes…
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