Bland, Boring, Criminal - TV Is in a Sorry State; the BBC Holds a Special Responsibility for the Decline of British Television, Argues Nick Radlo
Byline: Nick Radlo
This was network television showing people from Birmingham with something approaching respect. When's the last time you saw that?
Last weekend BBC Radio 4 held a debate on whether television is good for you. As the participants pointed out, television can be good for you, but increasingly there's a feeling that it is letting us down.
Increasingly it is giving us a diet of crime drama, makeover programmes and reality TV where ordinary people are made to look stupid. Everywhere you look in the schedules there is trivia of all kinds and a tendency to go for the downmarket, ratings-grabbing option.
There's an excuse for commercial TV - it needs the ratings to draw in advertisers - but what's the excuse for the BBC?
It's the world's best funded public service broadcaster to the tune of pounds 2.4 billion a year. It's supposed to inform, educate and entertain, but all it does now is entertain. Is that all the licence fee is for - another version of ITV?
There's a debate raging about what direction the BBC should take. The Government is about to announce whether it can launch a bouquet of digital channels.That decision is only a fortnight away - and the Government is expected to give the BBC what it wants.
The third of the nation who have invested in digital subscription TV will benefit. They will have two extra children's channels, another youth channel and an arts channel. The remaining two-thirds of Britain who appear to be quite content with analogue TV - just Channels 1 to 5 - might begin to wonder just what they might lose when the BBC expands into its extra channels.
The Radio 4 debate took place at the annual Edinburgh Television Festival, where there was a widespread feeling the BBC has pulled back from offering the kaleidoscope of TV programming it once did. There used to be serious and important documentary programmes interspersed amongst the entertainment and drama. They've almost disappeared - even the serious programmes are entertainment-led now.
The subject matter covered by drama and documentary gets ever narrower. Crime is the dominant theme, with ever more crime drama series and crime documentaries.
Last night the BBC launched two new documentary series - Mind of a Murderer on BBC2 and Brighton Bill on BBC1. The latter is an observational series following a police rapid response unit in Brighton. How many programmes like that have we seen before?
Mind of a Murderer sets out to discover what lies behind the urge to kill and focuses on the psychotic and the psychopathic.
The programme features one example of each - a man in Texas who killed his mother when he was 17, and a serial killer in Canada who killed several children 35 years ago.
The programme was an opportunity to watch them in close-up while they talked about their crimes. …