Sir David Attenborough expresses fears for 'quality TV'

David Attenborough fears for quality TV programmingPic: Getty

Sir David Attenborough, former controller of BBC2 and a BBC stalwart for some 60 years, has expressed fears that quality television programming could soon be extinct.

Speaking at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of BBC2, the veteran presenter, Sir David suggested that the rise and rise of satellite TV, digital networks and online services like Netflix would lead to an inevitable decline in viewing figures, and consequently budget cuts that would rule out investment in quality programming.

Having viewed a series of clips highlighting some of BBC2's many cultural programmes over the years, 87-year-old Attenborough said: "I think in another 25 years, or another 50, that kind of stuff you see there... I don't believe people will be producing Shakespeare.

"I really don't think they will, because the television audiences is becoming split and split and split."

The rise of online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime has enabled viewers to pick and choose when and what they watch, and Netflix alone now accounts for more than 50 per cent of the video streamed over the Internet, boasting some 50 million subscribers.

And Sir David, who was responsible for commissioning programmes such as Civilisation, a history of Western art, The Old Grey Whistle Test, Monty Python and One Pair of Eyes during his tenure at BBC2, believes that with viewers defecting to on-demand services, networks simply won't invest in producing quality TV shows.

According to the Daily Mail, he explained: "I saw figures the other day, and Life on Earth got 17 million viewers on the first showing, and has had hundreds of millions since. You could sink money into making a production like that because you know what's going to happen.

"But every time you get another satellite on the air, you are diminishing the audience. You won't get audiences of 17 million again. So eventually you won't get the budget to make those sorts of programmes."

Attenborough said he suspects some will circulate documentaries or arts programmes in another way, but added: "It won't be available, as it is at the moment, and should be at the moment, to the universality that comes from a licence."

What do you think? Will on-demand services and satellite channels prompt the death of quality TV programming? Leave your comments below...