Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BBC's Failed Makeover; Schedules Still Full of 'Ballast' a Year after Charter Warning

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BBC's Failed Makeover; Schedules Still Full of 'Ballast' a Year after Charter Warning

Article excerpt

Byline: ALEXA BARACAIA

THE BBC is facing mounting pressure to cut its output of makeover and copycat entertainment shows.

One year after the Government warned the "dumbing down" must stop, an Evening Standard analysis reveals there are more property, bargain-hunt and derivative programmes now than in the same period last year.

The Government is expected to publish its White Paper on the future of the BBC and its licence fee within days.

The report will reiterate demands made in the Green Paper last March that the BBC beefs up its commitment to "high quality, challenging, original and engaging" programming.

But the Standard has found that during the past seven days, there have been nearly 34 hours of shows such as Car Booty and Homes Under The Hammer as well as Just The Two Of Us - attacked by critics as a "cheap and cynical" singing version of the successful Strictly Come Dancing.

In the same week last year there were just over 32 hours of similar shows, suggesting BBC director general Mark Thompson has failed to meet his promise last year to ditch low-quality "ballast".

Today leading MPs and viewers' groups weighed into the row. Lord Fowler, chairman of the House of Lords select committee-on the BBC charter review, said: "It is very disappointing that more progress has not been made.

"Some of the best BBC programmes are among the best in the world but it's a pity that some of that enormous reputation-gets spoilt by the, frankly, second-rate stuff.

"The BBC always needs to remember it is a public service broadcaster.

Perhaps this survey can be something of a wakeup call to the BBC, that it cannot sit back and relax."

Tory MP Philip Davies, a member of the culture select committee which has probed the BBC's charter, said: "The BBC has a decision to make. It either wants to be a public service broadcaster and gain all the benefit from a licence fee or decide it's in direct competition with the commercial channels and stand on its own two feet.

"When you look down the TV listings you see the BBC trotting out the same stuff you can find on any other channel.

"It's of great concern that the BBC hasn't taken any notice of what it has been told. …

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