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'Dumbing down'?

Kevin Marsh Kevin Marsh | 12:12 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2007

I'm intrigued by Richard Alleyne's report in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph - "BBC should dumb down, says own report".

I haven't seen the report - it's a long way from being finished. But I'd be prepared to wager a few bob that the words "BBC should dumb down" do not - and will not - appear in it. And I'm not the only one who hasn't seen it - Mr Alleyne hasn't either, depending instead on a report of what an unnamed insider is said to have said.

Another un-named insider is quoted as saying: "There is a feeling we may be serving the professional classes well, but not reaching the C2s and D1s." While the same, or perhaps another, insider opines: "The corporation has lost all perspective. It is defeatist to constantly chase the populist market. Sometimes you have to give people what they need and not just what they want."

It's all fascinating stuff. Fascinating... but nothing whatever to do with the current debate/debates over audiences.

And for the BBC, that starts with the licence fee. The proposition is a simple one; everyone pays, everyone - the BBC hopes, certainly intends - gets. Gets something it values. In a simpler world, the only thing that could really mean was mass audiences (BBC One, Radio 1) - big numbers sitting round the TV set, all together, that evening. It hasn't meant that for a long time and won't ever again. One American communications scholar, Jay Rosen, calls listeners, readers and viewers "the people formerly known as the audience" - partly because the whole idea of "the audience" as a big blob of big numbers just ain't so any more.

But it's only if you do cling on to the anachronistic idea of "the audience" as a big, amorphous, internally indistinct blob that phrases like "dumbing down" or "the populist market" have any meaning - based as it is around the idea that "the audience" watches "the schedule". And, because Blue Planet is good for you and When will I be Famous isn't, that for every half-dozen WWIBFs in "the schedule", "the audience" needs one BP.

drwho_203.jpgNow - increasingly so in the future - the people formerly known as the audience who watch, listen to and read BBC content do so on their own terms; when they want, where they want and how they want. They watch news reports on their PCs, Dr Who on replay and listen to 1Xtra through their TVs, and Mark Kermode through a podcast. Each individual member of the audience can build his or her own schedule - many do. On Wednesday evening you could settle down to Britten, Victoria and Tippett on R3, skip across to the Lent talk on R4, grab a bite to eat then catch the documentary on King Leopold II of Belgium over on BBC Four. Or, of course, you could go for the more upmarket stuff. You're the scheduler.

Nor is it any longer a simple equation; more quizzes = less costume drama; more reality TV = less politics (the two, of course, being mutually exclusive). Expensive dramas last longer - so do cheap ones, actually. The so-called 'long tail' means that tens of millions can watch a production and find value in it over a period of time and on a variety of outlets and platforms; it's not down to one shot on one night any more. It's both/and not either/or.

And it's against this shifting picture that the BBC has to make its calculation - is everyone who pays £131.50 (a bit less than the cost of taking, say, the Daily Mail every day) getting £131.50 worth of value?

It's possible that some audiences are less easily able than others to find BBC content that's valuable to them. It's possible, too, that some audiences feel there's not enough programming that's relevant to them - I simply don't know. If either is true, there's a strong case for putting it right - but that's nothing to do with giving people "what they want" rather than "what they need" or with "dumbing down". It is, though, a lot to do with giving licence fee-payers what they've paid for.


  • 1.
  • At 01:16 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • David wrote:

131.50 GBP is a small price to pay for the excellent output provided by the BBC, and most certinally better spent than to buy a copy of the Daily Mail every day. These are exciting times for the media as the lines between television, radio and internet become increasingly blurred and the BBC is very much at the cutting edge of developing and making these new technologies availible for the 'audience'.

Keep up the good work.

  • 2.
  • At 01:30 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

The BBC might only cost the same amount as the Daily Mail each day, but the difference is that I'm not forced to buy the Mail if I want to read the Times.

The BBC can't do dumbing down. Look at the disaster that is Fame Academy. Look at Castaway. You can't get the dumb stuff right, and you're consistently following the lead of other broadcasters.

However, as far as I'm concerned the license fee is worth the money. I applaud your factual output, especially your unparalelled news and political coverage. I dread to think what would happen if this was shunned in favour of commercial quick-wins.

  • 3.
  • At 01:41 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • PeeVeeAh wrote:

Yep! 'Too many global variables' - is how I would summarise your broadcasters' content/scheduling dilemma!

Shame! :-/

I think (as I've blogged before? - ) that as the diversity of sources increases, your role is more that of digest-ing the diversity of media in your on-the-hour events and that your editors will be less and less concerned with managing what's happening at the 'sharp end' and more and more concerned with vetting the array of 'single agenda' derived sources as they break?

Very risky - and with all the technical and competence reasons why the overall quality of the articles might be compromised (many years since 'three-and-fourpence' made any 'advance's, perhaps!)

It could be a corporate opportunity! Your editors' prowess(!) being applied to the rationalising of snippets and blogs to form a bigger, coherent picture, maybe?

Frankly, if you can't find *anything* you like on any of the BBC's national or local TV or radio stations, online services or films, then you're an idiot and your licence fee needs to be taken from you to stop you wasting it on something stupid.

  • 5.
  • At 03:19 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

Dumbing down is failure to make the intelligent programs that I want because no one (but obviously me) watches them. They are all choosing their own schedule and it doesn't include them.

  • 6.
  • At 03:26 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • John, Devon wrote:

While I agree that the BBC is fantastic value for money (the website alone is worth many times more than the Daily Mail or even the Times/ Telegraph / Guardian) I do agreee with the other comments so far.

And when I rented a flat in London with no TV, I really resented the bullying, threatening tone of the regular letters I got from the TV licensing police. Can the BBC not do something about the approach of these people, who are effectively working on your behalf?

  • 7.
  • At 03:30 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Steven wrote:

I Love Mark Kermode

  • 8.
  • At 04:17 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

This week I have watched BBC 1 (the main BBC channel) twice, thanks to "Life on Mars" and "Doctor Who".

In the average week I watch "Five US" for more hours in a single night (thanks to drama such as CSI) then I will BBC 1 in a week. I do not feel I am getting good value for money.

The only BBC service that I use daily is this web site - which ironically is open to everyone regardless of if they have a licence or not.

Personally, given the choice I would prefer NOT to pay the licence fee and instead use the money to buy "Life on Mars" and "Doctor Who" on DVD. Especially, as I usually buy the DVDs anyway (and so end up paying twice).

  • 9.
  • At 04:49 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • John Cole wrote:

I live in the USA, and refuse to pay for cable TV, it is generally expensive and obnoxious.

However, I would WILLINGLY pay the licence fee every year if I could download the BBC shows that I want to watch

  • 10.
  • At 05:17 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • KOAS wrote:

I think the hole is in the teenage market - teenage current affairs shows for people between Newsround and BBC News 24 (which is worth the fee all by itself!).

But I don't want more trashy reality TV shows, or shows that want to be trendy or that misjudge their target audience ('Skins'). Keep up the BBC values, but make them appeal to a younger audience who isn't quite ready for the news at 10pm every night.

  • 11.
  • At 05:20 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

Please! Essentially what is being said here is that the BBC has decided that DE's etc ARENT getting served so lets dumb down. Lets have Chav TV The news now is at or about the level of Newsround of 15 years ago and lets be sure it will get worse. Panorama should be either renamed Tabloid! or The Idiots Guide to...

The BBC should come out and be openly elitist, producing quality intelligent television and radio, and frankly if there are people who are too stupid or vacuous to understand it then tough. Call them morons when they complain. Easy. Sorted. They can watch Most Haunted or Celebrity Fear factor and moan about the licence fee and if they don't pay the fee they can just go to jail. Best place for the Chavs.

The BBC should aim at being proud and independent like the Waitrose of broadcasting instead of looking like a ratty Morrisons or Asda that have seen better days

  • 12.
  • At 05:32 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Don wrote:

Why don't you give people the option of not paying £131 a year for your superb value services?

As the audiance has changed perhaps the BBC funding model should change as well.

  • 13.
  • At 05:50 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Rvvm wrote:

Have you seen Horizon lately?

  • 14.
  • At 06:23 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Rob Hatcher wrote:

"The proposition is a simple one; everyone pays, ..."

Err, not quite. As ever, the BBC and their agents assume that "everyone" has a stupifying goggle-box.

I guess that accuracy in journalism ain't what it used to be.

  • 15.
  • At 07:43 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Len wrote:

Surely the big story today is Mr. Browns pension robbery and it is not being carried by the BBC. Is the BBC being mugged?

  • 16.
  • At 07:50 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Victoria Stiles wrote:

Not everyone pays, you know.
I have little interest in BBC TV at the moment but the content on this site is excellent and Radio 4 is still good despite a definite decline. It would appear that I'm getting my 131.50 pounds' worth for free and completely legally.
Obviously I'm not complaining but I can see why so many people are.

  • 17.
  • At 08:43 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • John Nolan wrote:

Judging by The News the other night, the "dumbers" are already winning. Fiona Bruce's headline summary about the Home Office splitting in two included an illuminating graphic... a photograph of the Home Office literally splitting in two. Wow. I'd never have understood the story without it.

PS May I add my fervent support to those complaining about the astonishing letters sent on the BBC's behalf to those without a TV? I recently saw one - appalling, crass bullying of which the Corporation should be thoroughly ashamed. I would write to Nicky Campbell on Watchdog, but...!!

  • 18.
  • At 11:34 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

The BBC should dumb down...again?

  • 19.
  • At 11:43 PM on 03 Apr 2007,
  • Leither wrote:

Whilst much of the BBC output is worthy of the fee, I do worry when previously excellent programmes like Castaway are brought back and cheapened by trying to be like Big Brother. No wonder people turned off in droves.

And I've been off work through illnees these last few days and I have to say the daytime diet of 'rake your house to find stuff to sell at a car boot sale' followed by 'rake your house to find stuff to sell at auction' is awful. Dumbed-down trash of the highest order.

More serious journalism, more documentary strands, more great comedy like you used to lead the way with, and more of the brilliant new Dr Who which is now a real weekly family TV 'event'.

  • 20.
  • At 05:26 AM on 04 Apr 2007,
  • Andrew Cullum wrote:

I agree with Madeup and John: I have never possessed a television set since I left the parental home 19 years ago but I have been subjected to the impudent letters assuming that I am crooked when I have made it clear that I do nopt never have and do not intend to own a television set. Over the last year I have started to receive intrusive visits from "inspectors" who threaten me with court orders if they do not have access to every room in my flat.

On the other hand I do rather enjoy having my access to Radios 3 and 4 subsidised by those who watch television...

Andrew Cullum


Over the last two years I have started to feel that the BBC is not serving my needs. I've never felt this way before.

It started with BBC1. There was night after night of soap, followed by reality TV show, followed by 'drama', followed by Celebrity Ironing, followed by another drama.

Then the same thing happened to BBC2. Now BBC3 - a haven for me for its new comedy - is running Castaway almost constantly! New comedy is shunted to 10:30pm on a weeknight, which for someone like me, who gets up before 6am every day, isn't a feasible viewing choice.

There is no BBC Channel that I can now sit down in front of to watch on a weekday. There really isn't. There might be one programme on every two or three days which I want to watch. And for a broadcaster of the BBC's stature that's pathetic.

The BBC is dumbing down. You only have to watch Attenborough's exquisite 'Life on Earth' and then view the BBC/Discovery Channel 'Planet Earth' to see it. Life on Earth - informative, fascinating, detailed. Planet Earth - pretty pictures, expensive music.

The BBC's close association with lowbrow US channels is directly influencing the quality of its programming. Horizon is a classic example. Twenty years ago it was incisive and gripping. Now it's co-produced with the Discovery Channel it's just crap.

Where's the intellectual stimulation? Where's the challenge? Where's the rigour?

The BBC is losing the plot. When ardent BBC-o-philes like me, who have defended Auntie against all comers for years, start to become disenfranchised, then mistakes are being made.

  • 22.
  • At 08:34 AM on 04 Apr 2007,
  • Fiona wrote:

What a way to get more people to view; by telling them their income in someway relates to their intelligence, ergo they cannot understand Panorama! Classic manipulation.

Personally, I don't like propaganda, I don't like being told what to think, which is why many of your 'factual' programmes are not watched by me. One case in point is the 15 sailors in Iran. BBC emotive buzzwords: 'siezed', 'captured',
'paraded', 'crisis','hostages' all tell me that the 'unbiased news service' you claim to provide is anything but.

You insult your subscribers with 'news', then insult them again by telling them they aren't intelligent enough to watch it, and would rather see Dr. Who instead....Charming, and as transparent as the Emperor's clothes. Dumbing down? Don't make me laugh, you are missing an audience to manipulate more like!

  • 23.
  • At 09:14 AM on 04 Apr 2007,
  • Ian Kemmish wrote:

The challenge, presumably is to make "worthy" programmes that the man in the Clapham traffic jam actually wants to watch. And surely it's one that Lord Reith would also have recognised?

Making only programmes with high production values regardless of audience, or making only programmes that appeal to the man in the Clapham traffic jam regardless of content, are both cop-outs in that sense. The problem with most bad content is not that it's "dumbed down" (Horizon made its name dumbing tough topics down to the point where those outside a particular field could understand them) - the problem is that it's cheap and lazy....

  • 24.
  • At 09:31 AM on 04 Apr 2007,
  • John O'Donnell wrote:

Like some other respondents I watch few BBC programs, far fewer than I did a few years ago. I am also irritated by its extreme political correctness.

I pay the licence fee only because I have no choice, hopefully that will not continue indefinitely.

  • 25.
  • At 09:48 AM on 04 Apr 2007,
  • Richard Morris wrote:

Not reaching the C2s/D1s? Have you not watched Breakfast recently?

The fee is worth the cost alone if only for the web site. Unlike the Daily Mail there are no adverts, and the news is unbiased. Strength in numbers, if everyone didn’t pay for the BBC then it wouldn’t be able to provide content for most people, and most is all it can aim for, you can’t keep everyone happy, because some people just don’t want to be!

Mark E misses the point, Five are buying in cheap US filler, the BBC are making original UK content.

There would be no Life on Mars or Doctor Who to buy on DVD if it wasn't for the LF because no other broadcaster would make such original shows.

LoM was hiked around every broadcaster before the BBC finally gave it the go-ahead.

  • 28.
  • At 01:10 PM on 04 Apr 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

"The fee is worth the cost alone if only for the web site. Unlike the Daily Mail there are no adverts, and the news is unbiased. Strength in numbers, if everyone didn’t pay for the BBC then it wouldn’t be able to provide content for most people, and most is all it can aim for, you can’t keep everyone happy, because some people just don’t want to be!"

Sorry, do we watch the same BBC? There might not be adverts for other commercial products but the BBC has adverts for other BBC channels and services, and the BBC is far from unbiased. The BBC leans to the left and has done for quite a while. At least when you pay for the Daily Mail (if you decide to buy it) then you have a choice in the matter.

I also disagree with your closing statement. If someone doesn't feel they are getting value for money from the BBC (I don't) then why shouldn't they opt-out of paying for the service? If I stopped watching my TV I could still listen to BBC radio and browse this site - ALL I would lose out on over the last week from the BBC would be two hours of (admittedly great) TV. However, the money I saved by not paying for the licence could buy the shows on DVD.

The BBC web site is a great resource, however I would not pay £130 a year to use it, as there is little here that I can not get elsewhere on the web for free.

  • 29.
  • At 02:07 PM on 04 Apr 2007,
  • Fenny wrote:

It seems I'm not alone in not finding much worth watching BBC TV these days. All I can say is thank $deity for the radio and website. I wake up to Radio 4, listen to Radio 2 while I'm driving and fall asleep listening to either BBC7 or the cricket commentary. Any single one of them worth infinitely more than being forced to read the Daily Maul.

As for the C2/D1 groups not getting enough to keep them happy - how many hours a week of Eastenders do they need and how many more ways are there of raising money by selling off old tat? I used to be a fan of Casualty and Holby City, but gave up both due to the tedious storylines.

There is no "family viewing" on during the week, it seems to have been cut down to Doctor Who/Robin Hood and Strictly Come Dancing or some race to become the next West End star on a Saturday night. Where we used to get top quality sitcoms, we now get an endless loop of inept parents with smart-mouthed children. Is it any wonder our young people grow up to think that adults are stupid and should be avoided or abused? All drama has been pushed back to after 9pm on weekdays, making iby default not suitable for children.

What do I watch on the BBC these days? Life on Mars and Doctor Who, with a side order of Have I got News For You. I enjoyed The State Within, despite it being so convoluted. But I've given up on all the 2 hour dramas over 2 nights, again for tediousness. How come US dramas can tell their stories in 42 minutes each week? As for the rest of my viewing, that's mostly Bremner, Bird & Fortune or repeats of The West Wing and ER on More4.

I know there are all kinds of jolly nice nature programmes on - Leopard Week and At Home with the Meercats, or whatever we're watching this week. These are good programmes, but don't appeal to me personally and I'm not in to watch them at 7pm every night anyway.

So, to summarise:

Daily Telegraph: the lower orders only want tat so the BBC must either be arrogantly elitist or dumbing down. Hah! Gotcha, BBC!

Kevin Marsh: Erm, it's not quite that simple...

Blog commenters: Yes, it is! Stop dumbing down, arrogant elitist BBC!

  • 31.
  • At 05:38 PM on 04 Apr 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

"Mark E misses the point, Five are buying in cheap US filler, the BBC are making original UK content.

There would be no Life on Mars or Doctor Who to buy on DVD if it wasn't for the LF because no other broadcaster would make such original shows.

While Martin you have a point that Five are buying in US shows rather then making their own that doesn't change the fact that Five are providing, in my opinion, more hours of quality entertainment then the BBC. I would rather a channel spend their money importing quality US entertainment then making shows which I have no interest in (gardening shows, Come Dancing, reality shows). Ideally, the BBC would actually make better shows in-house but that isn't likely to happen. I can't remember the last time that BBC1 showed a funny sit-com that was not a repeat.

True, LoM might not have been made if it wasn't for the BBC - however I doubt that it made even a tiny dent in the budget of the BBC. However, commercial TV can and does provide quality entertainment - after all where do all the American dramas that Five imports come from? There is no licence fee in the US to pay for them. I don't think you can count Doctor Who as a gamble (not on it's return anyway) - it is a popular show with a core following. It would have been a gamble when first made but not on it's release.

Most of the BBC's output is bland and has no appeal. Ironically, when the BBC do import something decent they end up losing the rights to it (like 24). Although, the same can be said for sporting events (like the FA Cup).

  • 32.
  • At 12:38 AM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

Absolutely agree with John Nolan above - stop treating us all like idiots with your over-the-top graphics on news bulletins.

Just stop it. It's all so.... ITV!

Yes I know they started it... but then they seem to have spent the best part of the last 15 or 20 years repositioning themselves towards imbecile viewers who only grasp a story when the presenter speaks in tabloidese using dramatic anguished delivery to tell them how to feel.

It's desperately sad to see you stooping to their level.

Yes of course I accept there's a need for on-screen graphics, bar graphs, percentage comparisons, etc. And yes, some subtle animations and transitions can help smooth out the presentation.

But do we *really* need our percentages projected onto everything and anything that the reporter can stand gormlessly by the side of? Do we really need cabinet splits illustrated with a black and white photograph ripping in two (complete with ripping sound)?

What's next? A report on the flu virus, with the reporter periodically blowing his nose to release a series of statistics? A report on murder rates, with each bar of the graph bursting up through a dead body?

Sound daft? You're not as far from it as you think.

  • 33.
  • At 09:36 AM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

i rarely watch TV but i listen to the radio a lot. I have a license fee becuase my bro does watch television so i pay half.

No radio station gives me what i want. Jeremy vines show on radio 2 at lunchtimes is pretty good i like the phone ins and political discussion but its ruined by all the rubbish 1980's music that i have no interest in. So the only station that is non music i can listen to is radio 4 which is basically made for old people. I find it hard to see how even old people like it though. Radio 4 is like background noise boring drivel, the 'comedy' is a joke for the wrong reasons and the subjects covered in 'debates' are usually old people focused shows.

So given all that the only thing left for me is the news. Which i do follow but its very biased.

So why should i be forced to pay? If i want biased news i can look at lots of other free commercial sources.

In short BBC its time for you to shape up. You need to sack at least 50% of the people that work for BBC news for being biased and replace them with more balanced more able reporters.

Or if you are so confident in yourselves go commercial so i am no longer forced to pay for you.

Of course i am wasted my breath you won't listen to me or anyone else for that matter, all we can do is lobby our MP's and hope one day the BBC is forced to shape up or close down.

  • 34.
  • At 01:15 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Andrew Briggs wrote:

Pretty damming comments on the whole wouldn't you say ? But will the Beeb listen ? Do they care ? What for - they'll get paid anyway. And as for dumbing down - they don't aim for the intellectual level of the audience - they're pitching it at their own level which unfortunately is lower than the rest of the population. What's the cure - a director and a management team with self respect and integrity.

  • 35.
  • At 08:43 PM on 05 Apr 2007,
  • Chad H wrote:

For Anyone who hates the License Fee, I have three words, Move to Australia.

Go, and you'll see the wasteland that is TV without the License fee, A Public Broadcaster so starved of funds its forced to completely eliminate its Drama Department, and three commerical broadcasters showing constant US imports, that are only halted for the occasional sporting match, or other programme mandated by law (And then they dont exactly try very hard... Just spend the minimum they need.)

Oh, I guess I forgot Neighbours and Home and away, but they'd probably be replaced with some American import if the Brittish channels stopped buying em.

Cherish the BBC. Seriously, even if it is slightly left of centre... And dont knock it until you've lived the alternative.

  • 36.
  • At 01:08 AM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • andy wrote:

Yes you are dumbing down, encouraging people to believe the official 9/11 Bush investigation, by useing strawmen arguments and lazy research and attributing theories which arent even widespread within the 9/11 truth movement, and not fully representing them.

  • 37.
  • At 05:35 PM on 06 Apr 2007,
  • Bob H wrote:

If you want to serve the BBC well, please get on with your day job and train the next generation of journalists. Forget the likes of Richard Alleye: his report is tedious and does not need a long-winded rebuttal.

  • 38.
  • At 03:08 AM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • Orville Eastland wrote:

I live in the USA and don't get to see as much BBC stuff as I'd like to. I am a major Doctor Who fan (Its ethos alone puts it far above most TV shows in the USA, to say nothing of the excellent effects, writing and acting), but I also try and watch BBC news on my local public TV station. I consider the BBC's website to be one of my major sources of world news, and I enjoy reading the BBC's news blogs.
I have noticed somewhat of a "dumbing-down" on the BBC's news programs I've seen...but it's still far above most TV news in the US, and it covers stories you don't see anywhere here, from a different, and much-needed perspective.

  • 39.
  • At 08:52 AM on 07 Apr 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

I think it would of been more accurate to say 'the same as the cost of buying the guardian every day', becuase thats the leftist agenda i am forced to pay for.

Its not a matter of what you deem to be value. I want the freedom to choose weather i pay for the BBC or not.

As with all your other articles you don't even attempt to mount a credible reason why i should be forced to pay for this left wing biased organisation.

  • 40.
  • At 12:49 PM on 08 Apr 2007,
  • David Jones wrote:

Saying that all licence payers should get their licence fee's value in programming is absurd - might as well say the NHS is failing to do its job if some people who pay income tax don't visit a hospital.

The ONLY justification for a licence fee isw that the 'public service' broadcaster provides programmes which are a) of value to scoiety and b) would not be provided by commercial broadcasters.

Set up some decent news/politicas programmes; fund the World Service; provide a platform for the OU if they need it (probably not now) and cut the BBC budget to a few million funded from income tax. Who would win ? Everyone paying for the BBC. Who would lose ? BBC bureaucrats; 'celebrities' with multi-million pound contracts (Graham Norton anyone ?) and the Treasury who who would have to accept a couple of million pounds on the nominal tax burden instead of hiding it in the licence fee. Go figure...

  • 41.
  • At 03:36 PM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

This article seems to be a long-winded admission the BBC is dumbing down and will continue to do so.
These days the Beeb (and other mainstream broadcasters to be fair) doesn't seem to be interested in producing any programming that doesn't involve a text vote at the end

  • 42.
  • At 02:24 AM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • R.G.Fellowes wrote:

Dumbing Down Global Warming

When Science and Current Affairs dumb down together, the result is BBC News At Ten.

In tonight's edition we were regaled with a story about how, not only are Polar Bears supposedly threatened with extinction by Global Warming, but the Inuit people's traditional way of life is being extinguished.

The 'news item' focussed on a complaint by an Inuit equivalent of Ali G in which he condemned industrial activity in the developed world for damaging 'his' environment.

Moments earlier he was shown traveling across the pristine ice, not following a sled drawn by Huskies, but on a snowmobile puffing out clouds of noxious fumes.

The Inuit are famed for their resourcefulness but building snowmobiles out of traditional materials, like Walrus tusks and sealskins, must stretch this attribute to the limit. Perhaps the snowmobile was powered by Whale blubber?

Is the BBC blind to such preposterous humbug? Does it recognise hypocrisy when it sees it? Was this merely dumbing down or cleverly inspired satire? Are you taking the mickey?

Whatever it was, I imagine it suceeded in making many dumb people a great deal dumber. Such complex scientific, political and economic issues are beyond the scope of a four minute news clip. Better to avoid such topics and stick to news about the Beckhams or whatever preoccupation is in fashion.

Or is that what the Global Warming orthodoxy is - mental chewing gum for guilt-ridden Hippies?

  • 43.
  • At 06:16 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Michelle C wrote:

The BBC in its various formats is one of few outlets available for intellectually challenging programmes and I hope to God it remains that way. News presentation certainly feels as if it has been dumbed down in the last 20 years ,though personally I believe that this is due to the tedious presentation of news as a series of emotional events. I prefer a reasoned and intellectual approach but am happy to go with the mainstream as long as serious factual analysis is available somewhere. Just don't expect me to watch the 6 O'clock news in its current presentational stance.

  • 44.
  • At 08:53 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • John Smith wrote:

Who was it who recently commented that - "Radio 4 treats the BBC TV news like a retarded cousin, who you don't want to speak to at the family wedding, but have to acknowledge"? Today puts Breakfast to shame. The World At One destroys the 1 o'clock news. PM is unchallenged, and the 6 o'clock news and The World Tonight thrash their TV counterparts into the ground.

Admittedly, the BBC TV's bias to the right is preferable to ITV's bias to the radical right, but that doesn't get away from the fact that it's getting ever more sensationalist and less intelligent. Right now, for every viewer you're winning in social class YZ, you're losing two in ABC. And no, I'm not a middle aged grump, I'm 22. Your future. Make your output worth my while.

  • 45.
  • At 12:51 PM on 12 Apr 2007,
  • Sarah wrote:

If anything I would say that the BBC does is "dumb enough" already. I can't believe some of the rubbish it shows. Some of those "comedies" on BBC3 shouldn't even be shown on channel 5!
The first series of QI was actually, quite intelligent, but now it's a joke. Show more programs like Never Mind the Full Stops!

However, compared to the other channels, you've got to admit, the BBC is pretty good.

Anyway, I have given up watching TV now, and instead READ BOOKS!

  • 46.
  • At 04:13 PM on 17 Apr 2007,
  • Alexandra wrote:

I moved away from the UK 3 years ago, so I cannot say if the tv has dumbed down since then. I did always very much enjoy the BBC current events programs and some of the history shows on BBC2, although I already noted some disturbing changes in the news between the mid 90s to the mid 00s. Perhaps not so much "dumbing down", but definitely a narrowing of perspective and more attention paid to toeing the official British government line when it comes to foreign policy. Since leaving the UK, I always relied on your website as my primary news source, but recently my patience has been sorely tested. The views seems far too Anglo-centric, which would be fine if I was looking at BBC Britain, but I had come to expect something more of BBC World, (and like your Prime Minister, you often seem to have trouble remembering whether you are European or American). There are far too many mindless opinion pieces, (why choose someone as obviously Euro-sceptic as Mark Mardell to write your Europe reports?) and the HYS feature drives me crazy since it has become impossible to ignore, as you now seem to incorporate uninformed, irrelevant quotes from Sue Public in Texas into every article. Then there is definitely the "dumbing down". Cute laugh out loud, animal/human interest stories may provoke a smile, but they are hardly international headline news. And Kylie Minogue definitely isn´t either! I rely on the Guardian, Al-Jazeera and various continental European papers for my real news these days, the only reason I still have the BBC set as my homepage is becuase you really do still update it "every minute of every day".

  • 47.
  • At 05:02 AM on 29 Aug 2007,
  • Wan Haiyang wrote:

Re. Horizon dumbed down.

I was brought up in the UK and used to very much enjoy "Horizon". I was out of the UK from 1993-2001 and am now out of it again (so I do not know the present scence).

However I remember very vividly watching a "Horizon" program in around 2002. I could not believe it had descended into such dumbed-down drivel. It was something about super-volcanoes in Yellowstone Park, that might (or might not) explode in the next millenium or tens of millenia (shock horror portrayed by camera cut to flock of pigeons suddenly startled and raising on mass into the air). Various people with views, came on to try to flesh out the idea but everyting lacked substance, and the tenious thread that the programme makers had to string out for 40 or so minutes, was that it could not be definetely proved that the super volcanoes would not explode again and wipe out everything around them some time in the future..."but no one knows!" (another cut to agitated pigeons). The whole "but no one knows!" message was re-worked and re-played together with mumerous other corny metaphorically camera shots until it was time for another programme, and thankfully the programme could be put out of its misery.

I can not believe that a programme I cherished as a 12 year old and thereafter, had been dumbed down to such nonesense. The memory of such loss haunts me still after 5 years.

  • 48.
  • At 10:43 AM on 29 Aug 2007,
  • Bryn wrote:

I am willing to pay the licence fee, no matter how high it is, as long as the BBC (TV, Radio & Online) shows quality programming most of the time which it does. The commercial channels have bowed down to tabloid, sensationalist forces by broadcasting reality tv and that kind of rubbish. I hope the BBC doesn't follow suit.

  • 49.
  • At 10:47 AM on 29 Aug 2007,
  • Bryn wrote:

I am willing to pay the licence fee, no matter how high it is, as long as the BBC (TV, Radio & Online) shows quality programming most of the time which it does. The commercial channels have bowed down to tabloid, sensationalist forces by broadcast ingreality tv and that kind of rubbish. I hope the BBC doesn't follow suit.

  • 50.
  • At 10:01 AM on 31 Aug 2007,
  • GWH wrote:

An article this morning on Breakfast (31 Aug 07) about pets being restricted on council estates sums up the frivolous style so favoured now by BBC. To portray the problem the BBC wheeled out a couple of "experts" with questionable titles and Sue Carrol to provide the wit and cutting edge. The problem was the poor thing seemed a touch confused and was not sure which side of the argument she was there to represent. The balance to the "smokey" Ms Carroll, was an animal psychiatrist and dog behaviouralist there to explain why dogs barking twenty four hours a day is acceptable to those who do not own dogs. (Surely these two occupations rank alongside life trainers and personal shoppers in their utter and contemptable uselessness?) The result was a flippant and tedious exchange between four people which included good ole' Bill Turnbull and one of the pretty things from the BBC bank of lightweight female newsreaders, (bring back Moira!!!) which served only to irritate. On balance I think barking dogs are only slightly less irritating than this type of rubbish. If I had had a brick I would have chucked it at the telly.

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