Image: Wikimedia Commons / Deskana

The BBC News channel: redundant?

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The BBC News channel must be one of the most unwatched channels in existence. At a time when increasing BBC cuts are being discussed, surely it could be sacrificed without too much bother?

Ian McKellen has been among the many celebrities advocating for the BBC in the face of its current budget cuts. Image: Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Ian McKellen has been among the many celebrities advocating for the BBC in the face of its current budget cuts. Image: Flickr / Gage Skidmore

In a pragmatic world, that would be the case – but an unbelievable amount of nostalgia and pride surrounding the BBC has led to prominent figures, such as Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench, to defend the organisation against budget cuts. Making any changes will clearly be faced with opposition. The BBC has so often been praised for continually transforming the way we receive our news. It started out with the radio, and then in 1997 the 24-hour News Channel was created.

This was an undeniable achievement, and something which was groundbreaking at the time. That’s exactly the problem, though: the News Channel is stuck in 1997, irrelevant at a time when most of us get our news online. Rather than scrapping the channel completely, there have been suggestions that it just needs a revamp.

To combat the endless repetitions of rolling news stories (which we can see anytime we want, anyway – all it takes is a quick scroll through the BBC News app), there are apparently going to be some changes to how the channel works. From the end of February, for example, Newsnight, BBC2’s current affairs programme which airs at 10.30pm, will be broadcast again on the News Channel at 11.15pm. This is hoped to boost viewing among a younger audience.

While any change is for the better, I can’t help but feel that this is still a bit pointless. Nowadays, if you miss something you want to watch, you don’t have to wait for it to be repeated: all you have to do is head over to iPlayer.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen changes happen to BBC broadcasting.

The recent online move of BBC Three could be the best template for its news channel to follow. Image: Wikimedia Commons / Gr1st

The recent online move of BBC Three could be the best template for its news channel to follow. Image: Wikimedia Commons / Gr1st

BBC3 is currently being made into an online-only channel. As always, when anything changes, there is bound to be an uproar – and this was no exception. Many high-profile people complained that losing the channel would be a disaster, as BBC3 was famous for giving programmes like Gavin and Stacey their big break.

While these shows were incredibly popular when first broadcast, it seems that BBC3 is mostly just a channel that shows repeats, so it’s not like we’re losing much! And don’t worry, BBC3’s long-form programmes (such as the amazing Don’t Tell the Bride) will continue to be broadcast on BBC1 and BBC2, so all is not lost.

BBC3 is also a channel targeted at younger viewers, so I don’t think the main target audience will have much of a problem in accessing their favourite shows through iPlayer. There is also a rumour that the new online channel will focus on producing shows that are more social-media orientated, through the use of blog-style content.

Now the channel isn’t constrained by linear TV, it really can do whatever it likes, and be more innovative with its output. I think a similar move would be the only way to prevent the end of the BBC News Channel for good. I personally feel that, in this day and age, the BBC News Channel really isn’t that relevant. With the increasing threat of BBC cuts, it would be one of the best things to go.

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Comments (4)

  • Catherine Kobasiuk

    Bbc world new is essential all around the world.

  • Bit of a shame this article isn’t just poorly written but also lacking so much research.

    Just a couple of the many holes – BBC Three has seen an 80% cut in its budget, so it can’t “do whatever it likes”. BBC News 24 wasn’t “revolutionary”. Sky was running news channel since the 80s, as was CNN. The channel launched in ’97 is very different to what it is now. You also have to remember older people who aren’t glued to apps aren’t dead yet either….

  • Oh, and why do poor viewing figures mean it doesn’t have value? That’s exactly the point of public service broadcasting. Providing services that aren’t commercially viable, like BBC Parliament.

  • My comments seemed to disappear. This piece is poorly written and researched. A few points:

    The point of public broadcasting is providing services that aren’t commercially viable. Viewing figures are irrelevant. Take BBC Parliament as a good example.

    BBC Three can’t “do whatever it likes”. This isn’t just moving content online – it’s had an 80% budget cut.

    BBC News 24 wasn’t revolutionary – Sky was running a news channel since the 80s. The channel is also quite different to how it launched in ’97.

    Perhaps do some research before just writing willy-nilly.

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