If the rumours going around the Internet are true, the BBC is planning to shut off BBC Four at the end of this year to save money. BBC Four was always going to be a victim of any upcoming cuts because it doesn’t fit into the BBC’s future vision of trying to attract young people to it’s services.
Most of the programmes shown on BBC Four are to do with arts and culture, something that doesn’t attract the masses and is therefore vulnerable to cuts. So here’s how we save it.
Nicky Morgan, who used to be the Culture Secretary, proposed earlier this year that the BBC could have a “tiered” payment system. The solution to keeping BBC Four would be similar to this.
The licence fee would remain the same, with everyone owning a TV having to pay a fixed amount each year. In return, you would get access to all the BBC services that you have access to at the moment… except for BBC Four. Hear me out on this.
Most of BBC Four’s audience can afford to pay an extra fee to get the content they want, unlike BBC Three’s audience, which is mainly made up of young people who probably don’t want to shell out for yet another subscription. It would be on an opt-in basis and could be around £5/month or £60/year. If everyone who had signed the Change.org petition signed up, then it would have an income of £365,960 per month or £4,391,520 per year (as of 8.51am on 2nd June.) In return, you get access to the BBC Four channel and access to the BBC Four section on iPlayer.
All of this money would go into a pot entirely separate from the licence fee and would be used to make programmes exclusively for BBC Four. The BBC would share infrastructure and some staff, and BBC Four would obviously pay for what it uses. Apart from that, BBC Four would be mostly separate from the rest of the BBC. Content made before this was put in place would not be broadcast on BBC Four.
Another bonus of this is, if enough people subscribe to it, it could allow the BBC’s Writers Room project to be entirely funded by this extra fee so new and upcoming talent have the space to grow, without the political uncertainty that comes with being funded by the main licence fee.
So, what do you think?
UPDATE – 13th July: The BBC seems to have read some of this blog post. It has said in it’s Annual Plan for 2020/21 (which you can read here) that it is looking at making BBC Four a global subscription service that shows previous BBC documentaries from it’s archive. it says the “best of” BBC Four (cough, Lucy Worsley, cough) will be moved to BBC Two.
Outside the UK, we are exploring potential commercial opportunities for BBC Four to become a new global subscription service that takes our strengths in specialist factual to the world stage.BBC Annual Plan 2020/21, page 26