BBC ‘will showcase performances from around the country’

Now there’s a surprise. In his well-leaked plan to increase arts budgets by 20 percent, Tony Hall seemed to be offering more of the same. In the detail this morning, however, he promises to reverse two decades of neglect of live arts performances. It’s good strategy. The BBC has to wake up and combat the blizzard of live screenings and cinema opera. Here’s the full plan.

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  • A lot of music doesn’t need a big budget. We used to have marvellous little piano recitals, or perhaps a string quartet – ideally suited to a late evening on the small screen. Such recitals can be an ideal way to give work to young, up-and-coming artists. It would just be nice to feel that the BBC still cares about our kind of music.

    • Tully, it’s not the BBC you need to care about it, it’s the viewers. If the viewers, or potential viewers, don’t give a damn, then neither will the BBC or Sky or ITV or whoever. Much like newspapers, broadcasters tend to reflect the viewing preferences of their target audiences. If viewers wanted piano recitals, they’d get them. I accept the BBC has some more altruistic cultural remit that others don’t, but that doesn’t change the underlying factor: any programme needs the realistic potential for a decent audience.

  • This just sounds daft. Why can’t they just use BBC4 during the day, and make that a bit more upmarket than yet another channel. Wasn’t all that long ago when they were threating to remove the BBC Asian radio channel! And I wonder if it’s going to be ‘arts’, how much classical music we will get outside of the Proms each year? Even those have taken a back seat. They can’t even bring themselves to show the First and Last Nights live anymore – it’s always half an hour later than the start in the Albert Hall, so presented as a recorded programme. Something on BBC for one Friday in the whole year on the First Night that couldn’t for once be posponed because they need the ratings. Probably golf or football or similar takes precedence over the Last Night as well.

    I can’t say I’m full of enthusiasm over this announcement but let me be proved wrong, for which I’d be delighted and eat my words. They seem to be dragging their feet again. But at least Tony Hall, having been at Covent Garden, has some idea but probably constrained by Chris Patten et al at the beeb.

    Also make BBC televsion available in more countries on subscription, even on an iPlayer basis, than just let the Republic of Ireland who get all the BBC channels free anyhow. Yet vice versa here in Britain, you have to take out a subscription for Radio-Telefis Eireann here if you want them, apart from the radio stations you get on FreeSat.

    • Simply for the record, I would question your last point that Irish viewers enjoy some form of unofficial favouritism: as a Dublin resident I can assure you that I have no access to BBC TV iPlayer, and while the UK channels generally form part of a basic satellite subscription here, I don’t see how this counts as ‘free’. It’s a nice idea, though…

    • Simply for the record, the new channel, BBC One +1, will show BBC One programmes with a one hour delay, the BBC isn’t licensed to operate BBC4 outside its current hours, and the Last Night of the Proms was live on BBC tv this year. And Chris Patten “at the beeb” is hardly notable for constraining, as George Entwistle would be the first to testify.

    • Both France and Germany are streets ahead of the UK in recognising the need to protect and nurture national culture. The BBC has chased after “big boobs” and celebrities and been obsessed with trumping the ratings of commercial channels for far too long, in the misguided view that only by doing so can it justify the licence fee. You don’t heighten cultural awareness by closing all the access points to the masses. We need many more Tony Halls with vision and determination.

        • I was using that phrase metaphorically, hence the quotation marks. Making a splash, and a big one at that, seemingly drives not only some producers of opera these days but also those who run television channels.

    • “Sir Willard White is the devil.”

      I’ve heard some music journalists say the same thing! 🙂

      Kidding. Willard White is pretty wonderful and a great artist, though he can be truculent in interviews.

  • In these times any small amount is a lot, so this seems positively bountiful, and, hopefully, a step (backwards??) to where the BBC always used to be, a show case for all that is good artisically in the UK…..

  • It doesn’t say much in the plan. Where is the 20% increase going to? Stuff like Glastonbury or girls spitting eachother in the face live from Trafalgar Square? Or art that actually need or is worth of some extra support?

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