She’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I’m cheered by news of Anne Robinson’s return to BBC One’s Watchdog. When she last presented it the show had a ballsier feel and the underlying journalism seemed stronger than currently seems to be the case.
Even better news, according to some reports, is that the show is be increased in length to an hour and given a better slot in the schedules.
Watchdog is an example of what the BBC is for, strong pubic interest broadcasting which can make a real difference to the lives of the people who fund the BBC. The same was true of That’s Life which marked up some important victories in their campaigns to get safety and consumer laws overhauled.
Is the decision to extend the show part of the BBC’s cost cutting measures? Possibly, but even if that’s the case this is a clear win for the licence fee payer and a long overdue step towards taking the BBC back to it’s purpose of filling the gaps commercial broadcasters can’t reach.
As much as they try, commercial channels have never been able to replicate Watchdog’s success in going after the big brands, mostly I’ve always suspected because they don’t want to offend the advertisers (and now days would-be programme sponsors) they’re reliant on for funding.
The result is an endless procession of ‘Britain’s worst landscape gardeners’ style shows which masquerade as consumer programming on the commercial channels. The targets of these shows largely have the benefit of being too small to ever consider buying TV ad space.
The eternal optimist in me likes to think this commonsense decision might also point towards the stubborn BBC eventually dusting off Tomorrow’s World as a proper, standalone TV programme.
Technology plays a bigger part in daily lives than has ever previously been the case yet the BBC has no high profile shows examining modern science and its real world applications.
Tomorrow’s World had a reputation which brought in a diverse audience all connected by the desire to learn something and a style which made often complex discoveries and technologies simple to understand without patronising the viewer.
The advent of netbooks, mobile broadband, smartphones, digital TV recorders and electronic music and film downloads have all been pretty much ignored by BBC One yet they play a huge part in the lives of many of its funders.
The underlying irony is here is that BBC executives talk endlessly about engaging the younger elements in their audience, spend millions on the iPlayer and mobile TV technologies yet the corporation persists in ignoring the obvious passion that exists for technology.
Just imagine the positive impact Tomorrow’s World could have had in helping people understand digital switchover.
A BBC One schedule which boasted both no-nonsense consumer affairs programming and high calibre, well researched, no gimmick science and technology programming would be lapped up by viewers and envied by competitors.
And we know that because it’s how things used to be before the BBC got hooked on a no-effort diet of reality TV and talent shows. You remember, back when a mix of high quality original UK drama and strong factual programming made British TV the envy of the world.