BBC may axe a channel to save money: which one?

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Toddler / Child watching TV with teddy bear and dummy

It has emerged that within the next month the BBC is expected to axe an entire channel in a bid to save cash. Apparently the Director General Tony Hall has indicated that in an effort to avoid lowering the quality across the board, it could sacrifice an entire channel.

But which one will go? And which would you like to see closed?



The story emerged today, in the wake of a speech given by Hall at the Oxford Media Convention. He ruled out 'salami slicing' in order to make another £100 million of savings, and he said he was prepared to make 'hard decisions'.

A number of reports have concluded that this means that instead of compromising on quality to ensure quantity - it's going to cut a channel and invest in those that remain. The Daily Mail quoted insiders as saying there would be announcement about this in the next month.

What will go?

BBC3 and BBC4 have emerged as the most likely candidates for a cut. The Guardian reported that at the convention Hall was asked what further cuts would mean for services like BBC4, and he said: "I am working on that at the moment. I am not going to say anymore on that."

In November, former BBC News head Roger Mosey, suggested axing both BBC 3 and BBC 4 - although he didn't mention them by name, he just suggested focusing on two channels rather than four.

And that same month, Jonathan Dimbleby suggested merging BBC2 and BBC4, and dropping some of the lighter programmes in favour of more high-brow, serious programming. This is something that former BBC chairman Lord Grade has favoured in the past too.

Ladbrokes is said to be taking bets as to which channel will be axed. BBC3 is the favourite to go at 4-11, followed by BBC4 at 2-1.

Twitter users are overwhelmingly in support of axing BBC3 and keeping BBC4. Tim Montgomerie, opinion editor of The Times said: "I hope Auntie isn't about to close BBC4. It's exactly what public service broadcasting should be." Meanwhile Times cartoonist Tony Baker said: "If the BBC axe BBC4 there really will be no reason to pay my TV licence." And marketing CEO Jonathan Simnett added: "Pity, BBC4 actually worth watching. Plenty of junk to cut elsewhere."

Will it really go?


The viewing figures would certainly indicate that a huge number of people wouldn't notice if either channel disappeared. For the most recent week we have figures for - a fortnight ago - the most watched programme on BBC 4 was a Belgian thriller called Salamander, which at its peak had 1.16 million viewers. The most watched on BBC 3 was the 1998 film Enemy of the State with 0.88 million viewers.

By comparison the top 30 shows on BBC 1 had more than 4.72 million viewers each (and Call the Midwife pulled in 10.15 million). And the top 30 on BBC 2 had at least 1.52 million (with Top Gear garnering 6.87 million viewers).

However, there are those who argue that a channel like BBC 4 isn't about the number of viewers, it's about providing a quality, intelligent service that isn't available anywhere else.

Hall cannot cut the channel arbitrarily, it would have to be agreed by the BBC Trust, and this is not a foregone conclusion. In 2010 the BBC decided to axe 6 Music, and after a public backlash, the Trust forced the BBC to keep it.

But will there be a backlash if either channel disappeared? Does anyone care enough to fight for them?

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