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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 5: BBC News Dominance



BBC News Dominance

News is, after Drama and Soap, the most popular genre on UK television. Every week News provides twenty or more of the 100 top ratings. News is the prime exhibit of public service broadcasting. News is unique also in its scheduling; the two most popular channels, BBC1 and ITV1, both ‘strip’ news across five weekdays at four times a day (breakfast, midday, early and late evening).

Since 1990 BBC News has surpassed the news efforts of its competitors; ITV has lost more than half of its news audience, whereas the BBC has lost only a quarter of its 1990 audience. With newspaper sales also in steep decline, the BBC has become the UK news leader on TV, on Radio and Online. The BBC News provides local, national UK, and world news; and BBC news has 24 hour all-news outputs.

Technology innovations such as satellite transmission, electronic newsgathering, and online news, were developed in the US and later adopted in the UK. American editorial innovations adopted by UK news operations included the newscaster or news anchor,1 breakfast news, and 24 hour news. When adopting an American innovation, both BBC and ITV news executives tended to be wary of possible editorial and commercial implications. ← 135 | 136 →

BBC News versus the competition

The BBC’s present level of dominance in domestic electronic news dates only from the 1990s. BBC Online did not begin until 1997. In...

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