Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Consider the developments in British broadcasting in recent years that have contributed to the industry’s current position.

There are many contributing factors the overall success of British broadcasting in recent years. Since its early development it has been clouded with threat and danger that could have easily ended it, however it has always overcome, and in this essay I shall discover what British broadcasting serves to us today.

The Broadcasting Act in 1990 was the opening window to broadcaster’s recent success. Freeing up on editorial censorship meant more daring and exciting programmes could be made, and the creation of more channels fired up the competition to cater for audience pleasures and desires. As well as this commercial channels were supplied with more funding, and the BBC also had to outsource 25% of its productions. Overall this freed pressure put on institutions as well as provided fresh opportunities to please audiences and reach new levels of financial success.

The emergence of new technologies is something that has impacted all our lives, from the I pod to viewing television on mobile phones, its proliferation has overwhelmed British culture, and broadcasters have used these technologies to their advantage. Interactivity has allowed audiences to interact with their TV’s in many new ways, and it has also enabled new and better quality types of programming such as reality TV- a huge asset to Channel 4’s current commercial position. When Big Brother was released in 1997 is considered the saviour of the medium of British Broadcasting, as well as Channel 4’s existence. It addressed the desires of the audience and changed the society we live in. Now of course other reality shows equally as successful in terms of cultural and financial impact have been made. Britain’s Got Talent, X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and more have solidified success for broadcasters in the noughties, primarily due to the use of phone lines for financial gain. These programmes are adored by the majority of the British public and don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.

John Reith’s ideology of the BBC was “To inform, educate, and entertain” which if you look back on its history it seems to have done. In times of danger programmes such as Eastenders have been groundbreaking and gained popularity and success amongst the nation. The BBC’s License Fee almost serves as a trust between itself and the audience. The fee means there is guaranteed income for the company, and ensures it’s free from commercial pressure. BBC has also had a diverse audience because of this, and accesses many people’s lives through original high quality productions that you may not get from a multi-channel product like Sky. However the multi-channel environment we now live amongst has proved as an asset for the BBC, as they have created their own variety of channels amongst the digital world, such as BBC 2 and 4, both of which exploit the variety the BBC offers.

However even after all this success; I do argue that British Broadcasting is threatened in some form. The Broadcasting Act did indeed unveil new opportunities but experts say this was the “dumbing down” of TV. It is dependent on what we consider to be good programming. Can we really say the BBC offers us quality programming, or in fact any PSB? This in turn questions the purpose of the license fee, and why it should be paid when the digital television world can cater for all audiences both mass and niche. The Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand prank call to Andrew Sachs on BBC Radio 2 in 2008 was one of the most controversial moments in the BBC’s history. Why should we pay for content like this?

As well as this, New Media Technology serves as a major threat. The accessibility of TV now is effortless; Programmes like 24 display 5 minute “Catch-ups” on mobile phones now, and the invention of Sky Plus now means we can pause, rewind and even record our desired programmes, meaning we can form our own schedule for when we want. PSB’s are in serious competition as their broad coverage cannot conform to all audiences, and the availability of free channels once again challenges the relevance of the license fee of the BBC. Digital TV is now in 87% of all UK homes, and with the digital switchover fast approaching; the future for PSB’s is looking especially grim.

Perhaps the biggest of threats to British Broadcasting is the Internet. The Cyber highway now means we can access virtually everything on our computer, including things associated with TV. Statistics state that UK citizens now spend more time on the Internet than they do watching TV, which is very concerning for the institutions of television.

All these threats are hitting television very fast, but it is nothing that it has not overcome before. PSB’s may be at threat, but people will always trust the license fee of the BBC and the quality programming public services offer. The BBC brand itself is a symbol of England and something everyone feels at comfort and respect with. And above all this it is much cheaper than subscribing to a £60 a month deal with Sky or Virgin Media. And although Sky and Digital TV may be becoming more and more popular, it does mean that people still watch television, and that the existence of this iconic medium still serves a purpose. And as well as this TV is keeping up with the rapid technological advancements and now offers exciting new opportunities for audiences to interact with their boxes in an active way. I personally believe the cultural impacts shall truly determine Television’s future. Programmes like Big Brother, Eastenders, and news stories like the 9/11 terrorist attacks bring the nation together, even in the increasingly fragmented society. Culture does reflect our needs and interests, and we do not know what future culture holds for us. All I believe is that the reflection of our society’s values will be displayed through our televisions, which is why it has been successful and will continue to be for years to come.