The writing is almost certainly on the wall for BBC Four. Within the broadcasting industry, few believe it can survive the licence fee freeze.
It may be a sad end to a channel launched 20 years ago as “a place to think”, responsible for some superb output.
But with few new commissions, BBC Four is now basically an archive channel. Indeed some of it is mainstream archive – comedy classics and The Shirley Bassey Show were unlikely to be seen on the channel during its early years.
BBC Four came out of the repositioning of BBC Television, to adapt to the digital multichannel world.
BBC One got extra money for drama and entertainment but some serious programmes were demoted to later slots or moved to BBC Two (this move was soon reversed).
BBC Two however lost many of its edgier programmes to BBC Three while cultural programmes and much of the most challenging output went to BBC Four.
The archive content now found on Four can easily live on the iPlayer.
But would it be any bad thing to see more coverage of, say, The Proms and serious music back on BBC Two? This used to be an important part of the channel.
There has always been the risk of BBC Four being a ghetto.
Its closure would be sad and a particular disappointment to those who are still dependent purely on linear TV. But as long as cultural content on BBC Two is bolstered, it may not necessarily be a bad thing.
TV coverage of The Proms, Cardiff Singer of the World and the Young Musician of the Year back in a high profile place on a major channel? A few more editions of Storyville or international dramas in a place where people will see them by accident?
At its best, BBC Two still offers some of the most intelligent and challenging material on television. Gardening and cookery have always been an important part of the mix too.
But its more focussed identity in recent years took away an important part of its character and in the process left a major part of the BBC’s cultural output in a place where it was only there for those who actively looked for it.
PICTURED: BBC Four ident. COPYRIGHT: BBC.