Monday, August 25, 2008

It's about The Audience, stupid

This seems to be a recurring theme in my recent posts. I guess it's weighing heavy on my mind at the moment. I read some of Armando Iannuci's Alternative McTaggert Lecture at the Edinburgh TV festival. Iannuci is responsible for some of the best comedy shows on TV including Alan Partridge and The Thick Of It, so whatever he says is worth taking account of.

He advocates the BBC creating a HBO pay per view type channel.
I had to think hard about that. My first reaction is that there is no way in hell the BBC should be involved in pay per view. Not while the licence is in force.

Ostensibly his argument is that given the budget restraints he's found lately and restrictions on what he'd like to do, the BBC should be maximising foreign sales in order to plough more into content that will sell world wide and therefore generate income, and when this happens there has to be a sales vehicle to capitalise on it.

There appears to be two different arguments here. By having a dedicated pay per view channel that doesn't go through the usual commissioning process of one size fits all they have more chance of the break out hit that will sell world wide. And secondly the current commissioners on the main BBC channels are a bunch of tossers and BBC Worldwide don't know their arse from their elbow.

Okay, it's actually the same argument but I gave the political spin and the actual meaning.

Iannucci is a writer/producer, so I can see where he is coming from. Look at The Office. A huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic and sold to loads of other 'territories' [as the sales people have it]

It must be doubly frustrating for a writer/producer/writer to see genius fucked up rather than just the one hyphenate writer/writer.

But let's not get carried away here. Do we really want a two tier BBC? One that produces crap and one that makes money? Not while I'm spending how ever many squids on a licence fee.

If they can't make good TV with the billions they get then you have to look at who's in charge. Simple as that. At the same festival/jolly boy's outing, esteemed Director Of Vision Jana Bennet defended the accusation that digital channels BBC3 and 4 were denuding BBC 2 of it's status by saying 'that is an old argument and I don't buy it'

Well, old doesn't mean wrong, especially as the age of the argument probably dates to the time when the entire BBC2 drama budget was shifted to BBC3 and ....who the fuck are you Jana?

The AUDIENCE don't care about channel loyalty. The AUDIENCE care about entertainment. Mindless entertainment has it's place. Hey I love it on occasion. But like too much scrumpy, it's a yoofs drink that makes you regret it in the morning. The eternal dichotomy between entertainment, money and audience is that there has to be a tri-partite contract between them.

But the most important element in the trifecta is Audience. We are not stupid. I say that as the audience because that's how I watch TV.


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