A news item was brought to my attention this morning which suggests that Channel 4 is about to take the axe to some of its news production teams and cut back on the news broadcasts. While it seems that the flagship 7pm news program will be generally unaffected, the cut-backs elsewhere will reduce the available pool of journalists and presenters, and that just has to have some impact eventually.
As it happens, Channel 4 News and Newsnight on BBC2 are pretty much my favourite news programs as they are more in-depth and often run “magazine” items which offer an insight that is overlooked by the mainstream channels – so I am just a tiny bit biased in my thoughts about them.
Incidentally, Newsnight is also facing job cuts.
In an era where television is getting cheaper and increasingly bland or driving by single blockbuster dramas, it is important to preserve quality content for those of us who want it. I rejoiced when BBC4 was launched, as it is basically what BBC2 used to be like about a decade ago, ie, rather good.
Just to be clear about one issue – I don’t dislike the BBC1 stuff, I just like to have a choice of programming that challenges or educates me in addition to the “feet on sofa” stuff I can relax to.
The travails of the broadcasting industry are well known, with an ever fragmenting audience and hence declining advertising per viewer per channel – which in turn forces the channels to lower their budgets to cope. However, are the broadcasters themselves responsible for some of that?
Do we really need the profusion of +1 channels which just repeat the same content an hour later? I even sawÂ a +1.5 channel lurking on the Sky menu once.
Yes, they are convenient, but an increasing number of homes have digital recorders now, and they can record TV shows and watch them whenever they want – so the cost burden of the +1 channel has effectively switched from the broadcaster to the home owner who invests in these “black boxes”.
According to a blog posting from a very well informed writer, who sadly no longer writes in public, the cost to Channel 4 of running Ch4+1 and E4+1 on the Freeview platform is a staggering Â£25 million a year. I am unable to find out at a glance what the cost of running those channels is on the satellite platforms, but it wont be insignificant.
Now, I am unsure if it is worth running a lunchtime news program on Channel 4, and as much as I like More4 News when I watch it (which not that often frankly), the viewer numbers are anaemic.
However, to piss Â£25 million a year down the drain simply so a tiny number of people can watch Dispatches at 9pm instead of 8pm is just asinine.
Channel 4 needs to save money – fine, cut the number of +1 channels and save it there. Consumers who absolutely have to watch TV at a different time to when it is broadcast can already use the internet, or their digital TV recorder.
At the moment, the rest of us are effectively subsidising a tiny minority – and risking the loss of quality programming as a consequence.