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Thursday, March 06, 2014

People like me don't watch BBC Three - which is why they should keep it

The easiest things for the BBC to cut are the things the chattering classes don't rush to defend. This looks as if it's going to be BBC Three.

I would guess Tony Hall and his people have been weighing up whether tis better to take something away from their middle-aged, middle class core audience, which they already super serve, or to quietly withdraw something from younger consumers of broader entertainment, who don't pay the licence fee themselves and are less brand loyal than previous generations.

It's a hell of a choice and it's one that newspapers have responded to by putting up the prices of their products - thereby penalising the people who care about them - in order to give them away free to other people who aren't that bothered. The difference with the BBC is that the licence fee model means the cost to the user remains the same, no matter how much or how little they may use the service.

And the real problem they are storing up for the future is that the people they have to worry about most - the young people of today, who should be the licence fee payers of the future - use them less and less. Radio listening among young people is declining (so there ought to be less need to pay Radio One presenters so much money that they need to lose some of it in the motor trade) and their TV habits are completely different from yours or mine. The BBC's not a good thing because it provides lots of things you like. It's a good thing because it also provides lots of things that you don't like - one of those things may be BBC Three.

I don't buy the idea the BBC is at death's door. They're the only media organisation on earth that has a clue what its revenue is going to be next year and the year after that. I often feel that the people who are in the greatest hurry to "defend" the organisation put forward the least rational arguments for it. The real crisis for the BBC will be in ten years time when the generation who've grown up with You Tube have the licence fee explained to them. That's going to be a tough sell. Without BBC Three it may be just that bit tougher.