Another week…another round of speculation about BBC U-turns.
Monday sees the official launch of the new BBC News channel.
It remains to be seen just how much UK News will be included but it sounds like there will be more than originally envisaged.
The principal bespoke UK content will be the main BBC One bulletins, Breakfast, Newsnight and – at some point soon – Nicky Campbell’s 5 Live show.
This week’s edition of Newswatch addressed some of the concerns.
It also emerged that dedicated UK content will be shown here while the international stream is showing ad breaks.
It will take a few weeks to be able to get a sense of just how the running orders are working in practice.
Naturally there will be days when major international stories rightly dominate. There is also the UK news of international interest.
The big test is the coverage of stories which are important within the UK but of little international concern.
Bad weather? Strikes? Court cases? Stories from the nations and regions?
The death of Paul O’Grady last week was a textbook example of the kind of dilemma which will arise.
What will be the threshold for the UK stream breaking away?
Let’s take a few weeks to judge the new channel and not let sadness at changes to the presentation rota and the departure of some staff skew our judgement.
If the new channel works out, we may come to wonder what the fuss was about – however hard it was for individuals and you can never overstate what it is like for anyone whose job is under threat.
If the channel seems like a bland offering focused on the international audience and divorced from licence payers, this could become a corporate catastrophe.
The decision though to simulcast Newsnight on the new channel should be welcomed – even if there is still regret at the loss of the paper review.
In recent years, Newsnight has sometimes felt adrift despite some excellent content. On the news channel it may reach more of its natural audience.
There was a previous attempt a few years ago to show Newsnight on the news channel, delayed by a few minutes from the BBC Two screening. It didn’t last long.
It is noted that it gets a bigger audience than the revived BBC Three, at a lower cost.
For many of us, there is a logic about turning a channel which is increasingly like a curated selection from the archives into a streaming service.
If linear TV is to survive it has to focus on live output and big events – the sense that there is a reason for watching Happy Valley or Great Expectations at 9pm on Sundays as part of a collective, shared experience. That sense of major channels like BBC One or Two being special places.
But some older people simply prefer linear TV for its own sake. How much money would shutting a linear stream save? And would it do more harm than good?
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