Everybody Still Needs a Place to Think.

 TV  The BBC's new annual plan has been released an oh boy do it make some reading for those of us who enjoy the kind of low stakes, lower overhead documentaries about niche subjects BBC Four produces.  Their approach to documentary is to shift towards the more expensive landmark type series like Civilisations, which presumably cover more of the four quadrants are easier to sell in the US.  The upshot of that is BBC Four is going to properly shift to become the "arts and archive" channel originally proposed in 2011 (which I got really excited about here) but became forgotten in the meantime.  To quote the report:

This approach will necessitate a shift away from commissioning a high volume of lower cost programmes on BBC Four, which are less effective at reaching audiences on the channel and on iPlayer. Instead, BBC Four will become the home of the most distinctive content from across the BBC’s archive. It will also remain the home for performance, such as the BBC Proms, BBC Young Dancer and BBC Young Musician. It will continue to showcase arts and music acquisitions and maintain its unique role in partnering with arts institutions (e.g. The Lyric Theatre, Belfast; Opera North; The National Theatre Scotland and The Royal Shakespeare Company ). The proposed changes to BBC Four will build on the channel’s current archive content offer which already comprises 76% of BBC Four’s broadcast hours and 69% of the channel’s broadcast viewing hours.

These are fine words, but there has to be some follow through.  Throwing around lines like "distinctive content from across the BBC's archive" would hopefully include material like the Face to Face interview with Simone Signoret from 1960 and indeed anything made in the previous century that isn't a music programme or sitcom.  

Honestly, I'm mostly fine about all of this.  The BBC's budget has been slashed and it has to justify commissions on the basis of audiences.  If not enough people want to watch an hour long documentary about the gut especially when BBC Radio Four had already covered the same subject four an hour and a quarter without pictures, you can't really argue against that.

Similarly, there's been a *lot* of content duplication in documentaries, much walking and talking across the same ancient monuments by different academics across the years saying roughly the same thing.  If a topic is already adequately covered by an old episode of Chronicle, what's the point in going again if nothing new has been uncovered?

So Britain's Lost Masterpieces doesn't seem long for this world because people prefer Fake or Fortune or something and it doesn't look like we'll get the much needed three part history of black hair presented by Emma Dabiri.  But if the result is a tarted up BBC Two which actually feels like it has a creative direction again and a repeat of Churchill's people, well, fair enough.

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