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BBC and Television Genres in Jeopardy

Jeremy Tunstall

This book considers British television from the point of view of executive producers: the people who employ the workforce and are in charge of making all television series. The focus of the book is twenty-one separate genres, at least seven of which are in significant decline – namely current affairs, education, natural history, science, arts, children’s and religion. Some other public service genres – such as documentary, history and travel – are in good health. The most commercially successful genres include formatted factual entertainment series, such as cooking, homes, quiz/game, reality and sport.
The author completed 150 interviews not only with executive producers but with BBC and ITV channel controllers and top genre commissioners. Playing a supporting role are another 200 interviews, which were the basis of the author’s 1993 book, Television Producers. Since 1990, and especially since 2008, British television production has faced financial challenges. Meanwhile, BSkyB, Virgin Media and Channel Five are American controlled, and most of the larger London ‘independent’ production companies are now American or Euro-American owned and operated. Public service broadcasting in general, and BBC television in particular, are threatened with probable further decline. This book offers new insights into the state of British television through the eyes of those working on the inside.
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Chapter 1: The BBC and Public Service Genres in Jeopardy



The BBC and Public Service Genres in Jeopardy

In 2012 the British Broadcasting Corporation seemed to have one of its best years since the birth of the BBC ninety years earlier. But in the twelve months from late 2012 to late 2013 the BBC quickly went from triumph to disaster.

The BBC, in 2012, still commanded almost one third of the UK’s TV viewing. BBC Radio had over half of all UK Radio listening. The BBC in 2012 still had about two-fifths of all UK TV viewing and radio listening hours. However, summer 2012 was probably the very last great highpoint in recent BBC history. The BBC’s summer coverage of the London Olympics achieved huge domestic UK audiences. The BBC provided in summer 2012 the main television and radio coverage of the celebrations which marked Elizabeth’s sixty years as Queen.

The BBC’s unprecentedly disastrous 2012–13 year had several overlapping components:

These BBC events generated large quantities of negative coverage across the Press and across TV and Radio (including the BBC’s own news outputs). Less coverage was awarded to some BBC responses. In fact Jimmy Savile’s record of sexual molestation in several hospitals had been even more shocking than his BBC behaviour. Although Newsnight’s initial performance was poor, BBC journalists and BBC News gave massive coverage to the BBC’s multiple disasters. The BBC’s Digital Media Initiative collapse was not its first major computer project disaster; but its DMI...

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