Better Free of Three than No More Four


So it’s looking like the BBC can no longer be scraping the pennies together to maintain all of its televisual babies, and whispers are circling that it has swaddled up BBC3 to abandon it in the wilderness to be picked apart by vultures; a move that has enraged many and mobilised few.

Now personally I’m not convinced the Beeb has hit such hard economic times that it really needs to resort such a dramatic sacrifice, but that is a can of worms for another day. When it comes to the issue of ip-dip-doing away with a particular channel however, and the choice is between BBC3 and BBC4, I am liable to get disturbingly vocal.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, BBC3 is essentially the highbrow, ad-free Channel 5. Airing shows such as “My Man Boobs and Me”, “Snog Marry Avoid”, “Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents” and “F*** Off, I’m Fat”, its output might make you feel like a buttock at an armpit museum. I’m not being a snooty Paxman – hell I have watched obscene amounts of BBC3 in my time – god knows what I’d be without a weekly dose of American Dad or Total Wipeout (my application form is in my desk, waiting to be posted). It is touted as a “youth-oriented” channel, and rightly so, given that a huge part of what it farts into our living rooms is consumed by a glorious proportion of the student demographic, myself unapologetically included.

NONETHELESS. I welcome debate here with open arms, and please, please don’t hesitate to correct me if I’m wrong, but we generally KNOW that what suckle from the BBC3 teet is easy-watching dross. It’s the cheapest, perviest, lewdest entertainment BBC can throw at us, which thanks to the corporation’s reputation isn’t really that grim. We watch it after a long hard day of feigning consciousness or reference-wrestling a textbook, to mildly liquefy our brains into the fondue they were always supposed to be. As much as I love BBC3, in the same way I love Embarrassing Bodies, Man vs Food, and Cheaters, it is in the worst possible self-loathing way. Which is why it has to go.


I feel proud of myself after having watched something, anything on BBC4; proud and enlightened and culturally superior, like a kale salad. Watching a BBC4 programme is almost worth putting on your CV, it comes that close to a full education. I can get cosy with it and after a matter hours I am suddenly more intellectual thanks to programmes like Weird Nature, The Sound of Cinema, Storyville, and Horizon. Where else can you unearth the lives of such greats from Dusty Springfield to Lou Reed to Otis Redding in a single sitting? Or laugh despairingly at Michael Portillo’s tragic puns as he embarks on his Great British Railway Journeys? There is no way we can demolish the same channel that first brought us Curb Your Enthusiasm and Parks and Rec, it would be a sin, nay, sacrilege. Charlie Brooker would still be festering in his irritability in a dark room somewhere, but without BBC4, there would be no one broadcasting it.

Call me a sad lunatic but the dystopian vision of a future without World News Today keeps me awake at night. I guess it really is a question of your individual preferences, and to be honest if I were Tony Hall I’d seriously reconsider some of the fawning popularist “items” on One and Two before even laying a finger on Three or Four. Fortunately I’m not, so I can choose the disgruntled culture camp and take a haughty stance on the fate that has befallen the channel with the invitingly magenta Bauhaus logo. I’m faintly sad to see it go, but when it concerns the question of what TV’s ultimate role is, I stick to my guns and say it should be there to nurture our love for music, nature, reason, history, and sharp wit – not to reproduce another generation of “Oi, what’s occurin’?!” knobs.


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