BBC4 – home of top quality international crime drama – threatened with cuts

The UK media yesterday reported that the BBC, driven by the need to find 20% in financial savings, was planning a range of cuts across its channels.

BBC4 – home of top quality international crime drama such as The Killing, Wallander and Spiral – not to mention a raft of other excellent documentary and drama programmes, is one of the channels in the firing line for the biggest cuts.

The threat to BBC4 has prompted indignant protests on Twitter and the setting up of a petition calling on BBC executives to rethink their short-sighted plans. If you would like to add your signature to the petition you can do so here. There’s also the option of making your views known via a comment.

Those of us here in the UK are of course TV licence payers, and contribute directly to the funding of the BBC. It follows that our views should be taken into consideration when the BBC is planning its programming strategy. This particular licence payer doesn’t watch a huge amount of TV, but what I do watch is more often than not on BBC4. It’s a top channel and should be given the BBC’s full support.

If any BBC execs should happen to stumble on this page: please do take a look at the many, many comments on this blog praising BBC4 and its output.

The Killing: one of the many examples of BBC4’s excellent programming
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5 thoughts on “BBC4 – home of top quality international crime drama – threatened with cuts

    • Thanks! I think the formal announcement of cuts will be towards the end of September, and we’ll hopefully have an impressive number of signatures on the petition by then.

  1. I think this is very sad but I have to say I have the same reaction as to when they wanted to cut that radio channel — why on earth isn’t there the same anger about the cutting of Bite Size? As far as I can see this is the main way to get children/teens actually interested in studying , they all seem to be happy to use it and it has cool lacking in school websites etc. To me this is much more of a tragedy than losing entertainment (sorry!). People can always read books or watch other channels for entertainment but engaging children in their own learning and educational development is more precious than anything that could be broadcast. Sadly, this is not the stuff of twitter campaigns by the trendy!
    My second vote for non -cuts would be to all the world service broadcasts that bring independent news and comment to so many countries in the world, so important in cases where the state controls information.

    After that, then we can worry about entertainment – that’s just my take and a minority one, sadly, if one reads media or twitter, newspapers etc, which get indignant about their own journalists’ consumer interests before those who are less able to reach out to global readerships.

    • Thanks for your comment, Maxine. I can see where you’re coming from: there are so many excellent initiatives and services being cut at the moment that it seems impossible to try to save them all. I’ve lost count of the petitions I’ve signed (and was involved in a campaign to stop some educational cuts last year, which thankfully had a positive outcome). My philosophy as far as petitions go, is simply to support as many as possible, as each set of cuts tends to come out of a different budget pot, and to have varying dynamics and chances of success (and it’s often difficult to anticipate which the most successful will be – depends a huge set of factors). A petition is quite frankly just the tip of any campaigning iceberg, but it can at least give a quick indication to the powers that be that xxx is an issue that people care about. Actually joining a campaign on the organisational side is much, much more time consuming, and I guess that’s the bit I’d agree with you on – you have to think very carefully about which cause to support, as there’s only so much of any one individual to go round.

      As a blogger on international crime drama, as well as fiction, I do very much want to get the word out about the threat to BBC4. Yes, it’s entertainment, but it’s also *quality* entertainment and, I would argue, more than entertainment too. I think the simple fact that BBC4 is buying international crime dramas and showing them in their original languages is incredibly important, given the very insular UK/US focus and English-language-dominated content of our mainstream programming. I can’t think of any other easily accessible TV channel that will give you the opportunity to hear French, Italian, Swedish or Danish being spoken in the original on a Saturday or Sunday night. And it’s precisely the fact that these are showcased in an entertainment format that is the stroke of genius. Most people will associate subtitled foreign language films with impenetrable art-house productions. The beauty of a drama like The Killing is that it lures people into watching a subtitled programme for possibly the first time (as per comments on this blog) – and for those who have watched Wallander, Spiral and/or Montalbano, opens up a whole new vista of languages and cultures as well. As a language teacher in a country where the value of speaking a second language is woefully underrated, I can only say hooray to this. I try to watch as much international crime with my teenage son as possible (blood and guts permitting) for the cumulative impact of his exposure to other languages and cultures. He loves spending a couple of hours in Ystad with Wallander and now actually knows where Sweden is on a map!

  2. I disagree with Maxine. There’s no rule that says we can only fight to preserve one thing of value; and I agree with Mrs Peabody in that there is much, more to most of the crime drama series shown on BBC4 than simple “entertainment” – such as their ability to increase our awareness of the politics, culture and “personality” of other nations, as well as showing us that human responses to tragic or dramatic events are more similar than dissimilar. Foreign language programming also helps us to get an “ear” for other languages, which can’t be a bad thing for a country as determined to make no effort to speak other languages as the UK sometimes appears to be. And finally, the more quality drama that is shown on television, the better for all of us, amidst an ever-increasing diet of reality TV that is cheap to make, often gratuitous and manipulative and, ultimately, eminently forgettable – something that could never be said about the superb portrayals of the effects of a murder on those who are left behind in Forbrydelsen (The Killing), for example. And all the above was just a paeon to what is offered by the crime dramas shown on BBC4. The channel offers so much more, such as the recent series on Botany, which made me interested in a subject I have never before paid any attention to; the design and history programming is superb and, as a licence-payer, I would gladly swap BBC1’s entire output for BBC4 any day. I’ve signed the petition, and I hope that many others will do so too.

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