BBC America

dalek.jpgThe remaking of Doctor Who by the BBC a while ago was a nostalgic moment for many. Certainly for me, who had grown up with it, it was. Although I have not yet seen an episode of the new version.

The BBC -- radio and TV -- has been a companion from early on. And now, the BBC website is a principal source of news and updates. A day punctuated by BBC news and current affairs is one of the things we most miss about living in the UK.

The BBC has had a more than usually complicated few years. Writing about a recent review of the BBC Charter, Howard Davies, Director of The London School of Economics, notes that "the BBC is so broad and deep that no manageable report can hope to do full justice to all its activities." [pdf]

The range is indeed great and one is exposed only to a part of it. Take a specific example: see the depth of coverage of Glastonbury 2005. More generally consider the range of radio available on the web. Or the imaginative approaches they are taking to releasing content on the web.

So, my question is this: what is the story with BBC America? What is it for?

Yes, it is great to be able to see The Office, and some other drama and comedy. But the heavy presence of genteel lifestyle and makeover programs, the dated comedy, the routine game shows, and the absence of political or cultural programming, do not project a rounded sense of British life and living.

This is definitely not The World Service for TV. It does not seem to be a channel produced by the same people who can give one of their radio stations the tagline Intelligent speech. Or whose vision is "to be the most creative, trusted organisation in the world".

Given the BBC brand, one expects some public purpose. I could not quickly find a discussion of the rationale or mission of the channel on its website. I did note that it is funded from advertizing, rather than from the license fee that funds UK programming (this is effectively a national tax on TV viewers).

If this is primarily a revenue-making exercise, then it seems a shame to put it out under a BBC label.

A library note: One of the staples of the intelligent speech station, Radio 4, is the long running soap opera The Archers. This features a rural community centred on a country village. A community, you would expect, that would be heavy library users, that might, even, enjoy the services of a mobile library. However, in all the years I listened to it, I never heard of one mention of the library. A definite marketing opportunity there!

Comments: 4

Sep 02, 2005
herbert van de sompel

It can not be a coincidence that, just this morning, we were voicing the same frustration with BBC America in our commuter car. As phenomenal as the BBC in all its facets is (TV, radio, website, ...) as totally meaningless BBC America is. At home, we used to subscribe to the extensive cable package only because BBC America was in the upper channels. It took us only 1 month to figure the money was totally wasted; there's just nothing there. So, we cancelled and are now down to the basic 40 or so channels. Not that anything is going on down there, but at least there is the BBC World News on PBS.

Sep 17, 2005
grtbrit

I am so dissapointed with BBC America. it was fun when I first started watching. I am so tired of all the re-runs and the trashey sit coms that are on, I see no need to pay extra to watch some of those shows.

Sep 25, 2005
islandgirl

Unfortunately, I think the BBC has had to "dumb down" content for the vast majority of Americans. I watch BBC America about once every six months when I dog-sit for friends, and that is enough. It is definitely not worth paying for - just like most of the rest of what is on television...

Oct 02, 2005
Allen Levy

BBC America is too full of commercials for even an American's taste---the network even schedules commercials in the middle of scenes, for God's sake.

There was a short-lived comedy show on starring a woman named Cates, that was funny and smart---even poignant at times. What happend to it?

Please respond to my e-mail: levy@chapman.edu