The BBC should cull its output by ditching daytime dramas and “tired” Saturday night entertainment shows, a former executive has said.
Roger Mosey said the BBC should meet the Government’s licence fee freeze by delivering on director-general Tim Davie’s “fewer, bigger, better” mantra and cutting the “filler”.
He criticised BBC One’s Saturday night line-up, which consists of four back-to-back game shows: a revival of The Weakest Link, celebrity version of Pointless and The Wall, and Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel.
And he singled out Father Brown, the popular daytime detective series about a crime-solving Catholic priest, as an unnecessary expense.
Mr Mosey, 64, is a former editorial director of the BBC, head of BBC television news and editor of Radio 4’s Today programme.
“The best course of action for BBC bosses is to do what they’ve talked about for decades and to focus on ‘fewer, bigger, better’: stop making the lower-grade stuff that’s schedule filler and concentrate on programmes that viewers can describe as ‘worth the licence fee alone’,” he said.
Mr Mosey identified those shows as Strictly Come Dancing, any natural history series presented by Sir David Attenborough, Peaky Blinders, Line of Duty and Wimbledon coverage, plus “some of the gems that we find, usually on the radio networks, that only the BBC could create”
“What might be jettisoned would be all new programmes in daytime TV – it could be farewell to Father Brown – and it may be that it’s finally time to merge BBC Two and BBC Four to make a single, better-resourced channel,” he said.
“It’s understandable that programme controllers want to defend the traditional services. Netflix would kill to be able to launch a drama to millions of people simultaneously at 9pm on a Sunday night.
“But the controllers have cluttered up the schedules with tired formats. A typical Saturday night has featured The Weakest Link, The Wall, Pointless Celebrities and The Wheel, one after another, before what seems like the 1000th series of Casualty. It would be better to focus on the kind of content that you wouldn’t find on all the other non-BBC channels. I May Destroy You is a brilliant model.”
‘An odd move’
I May Destroy You, a critically acclaimed drama created by and starring Michaela Coel, attracted less than a million viewers for its launch episode on BBC One in 2020. However, by the year’s end it had been streamed on iPlayer more than 16 million times.
Latest BBC audience ratings
Mr Mosey said the television schedules are becoming less important in the streaming age. The revival of BBC Three as a television channel at this stage is an “odd move”, he added.
“Holding on to younger audiences is crucial, but they are the people least likely to be influenced by a traditional schedule. On demand is what matters.”
Mr Mosey may be content to see the back of Father Brown but the series has more than two million viewers and has been Britain’s top-rated daytime drama of the past five years.
It has been sold to 235 territories, showing in a prime-time slot in the US and Australia, and is popular in the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Finland and Estonia.
Mr Mosey suggested that viewers who lose their favourite programmes in the forthcoming cuts should blame the Government rather than the BBC.
“If the cuts mean holes in the schedules, it will be the price we all have to pay for the Government’s freeze. If Father Brown faces an untimely end we should look for the culprit in Whitehall, not Broadcasting House,” he said.