If BBC3 was allowed to keep its hits, perhaps it wouldn't be getting booted online

What the channel has to offer in its last days on Freeview

15 March 2014

9:00 AM

15 March 2014

9:00 AM

So BBC3 will be online-only from next autumn. If the Beeb had presented this news as the channel being the first one to take the daring step of migrating to the internet, instead of it being booted out to save the likes of BBC4, perhaps BBC3 fans would be feeling less aggrieved. After all, as companies like Netflix demonstrate, the future of TV is probably on the web. Linear channels are just so, well, linear and old-fashioned.

The Beeb says the move is part of its cost-cutting, and will result in £30 million more for BBC1 (presumably enough to replenish Sherlock’s coat supply). I had hoped that, as a consequence, our licence fees would also be cut, but apparently not. Instead, the BBC is now proposing that its fee be pegged to inflation. Hopefully, the inflation index it uses won’t include London house prices, or we are done for.

Defenders of BBC3 point out that the channel gave us such gems as Gavin & Stacey and Little Britain, both of which were so successful that they were moved to BBC2, then BBC1. Which brings up something else that has always puzzled me about the BBC: why does it operate as though it were a football league system?

Why does a successful TV programme get shuttled to a channel that’s ‘higher up’ in the BBC hierarchy, as though it were moving up the league tables or across divisions? In a football league, this fosters competition: the league tables are only tables, and an entire team and everyone who’s worked for it gets promoted when the team does well (or relegated when it does not). But if you were a BBC lower-tier channel that conceptualised, created, promoted and nurtured a successful programme, only to have it snatched from you and handed over to a more ‘prestigious’ channel, well, what’s the point of even trying? The delightful Great British Bake Off, for instance, has been such a phenomenon that the next time it comes back it will no longer be on BBC2 but on BBC1. I don’t see why it has to be. If I were a BBC2 executive, I’d tell BBC1 to bake off, and not in exactly those words, mind you.

Why can’t a TV channel get to keep a successful show it’s brought into being? That way, the incentives are much higher and we might get better shows all round. Perhaps even more than slashing away at budgets and chewing the numbers — though it needs to do that — the BBC should take a look at the very way it views the concept of competition and reward.

Anyway, I watched a BBC3 documentary this week — EDL Girls: Don’t Call Me Racist. The programme focused on the female members of the English Defence League, also known as Angels. I found the show broadly sympathetic towards these women, which is probably why some people have taken to Twitter and other social media deriding BBC3 for propagating a group of hate-spreading ‘proper scruff bags’.

The show trailed three women — Gail, the regional EDL leader of Yorkshire, who was beaten up by Muslim men, leaving her jaw broken in seven places; Amanda, an 18-year-old new recruit; and Katie, 16, who comes from a large family of EDL members and who can’t decide whether she wants to campaign with them. Gail’s story is the most gripping, and the scenes of her crying on the street when she gets the court verdict that she has lost her case against the Muslim men were brutishly raw. But the show did not seek to probe further into what made these women tick — Amanda, for instance, had to take down a Facebook photo of herself posing as Hitler (‘We’re far-right, but not that kind of far-right,’ an EDL mentor tells her). But how did Amanda come to think that such a photo was a good idea, and who has influenced her thinking? Is she a neo-Nazi? The show didn’t explore.

By focusing on women, though, and on women who claim they abhor the way extremist Islam treats women, the programme offers an intriguing thought. Are these women feminists, or can’t they be considered as such because they’re with the EDL? There’s one for the intersectionalists to ponder.

I also watched three iPlayer-only drama shorts, since that’s the way it appears BBC3 will be going: Flea, Tag and My Jihad, all about 15 minutes long. Flea was the best, but none was very good really.

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