A new daytime schedule?

Posted on July 7, 2010

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The BBC Trust wants the BBC to up its daytime game. Here’s the top line from their response to the Strategy Review:

Further action is needed to improve the quality and originality 
of the daytime schedules.

Obviously, what follows is rather dependent on whether you buy into that view. BBC Daytime Controller Liam Keelan doesn’t. And I can understand why.

But just suppose you were Daytime Controller. What would you schedule week in week out?

Here’s few a hurried ideas, possibly based on a spectacular lack of understanding of the audience at that time of day:

Cut formulaic shows like Bargain Hunt and Cash In The Attic. We’re sick of them. And even if we’re not actually at home to watch, the very idea of these kind of programmes makes our skin crawl. We know it does. We just haven’t had the balls to say it before now. So lets just strike them off the list.

Reserve one half-hour over to an alternative Countdown-esque format. Yes, there are those who are slumped in front of the TV all day because they can’t do anything else or because they want to, but lets not serve up the lowest common denominator. Give them a window of entertainment with education simmering away somewhere close underneath.

Drama once a week. Treat a daytime schedule like a week’s school timetable. No-one wants to do English Lit all week and schedule PE or games in its place is just lazy scheduling.

So, present one new drama every week. Give that drama a unique selling point – maybe feature only new writers or student writers. Make each week topic focussed. Or why no make a virtue of having a swift production time of two weeks or less (and in the process start using those studios in Television Centre which apparently can’t be rented out).

Damn it all, why not go the whole hog? Produce it on a shoestring. Film it live. Broadcast it live?

Continuing Drama. Cut down Doctors to once or twice a week. If viewers need more soaps they should get into EastEnders or embrace the other channels output – those channels who can afford to make soaps. Lets not pedal wallpaper all the time.

Lectures. It may be a dry label. It may need repackaging. But what happened to the good old-fashioned lecture? Man stands up and delivers a piece to camera. What about a half hour given over to a point of view. A talking point. A discussion point. It could be a lecture in front of an audience. A live broadcast of a presentation. Anything. Just give over a half hour to some serious stuff every day. Lord Reith would have been delighted with that.

How To. Here’s our chance to pump out some true public service broadcasting. Strip out the flummery. Avoid lifestyle photography. Make a series of how-tos on any given subject, like the self-help books of the same name. Make them in the same studios I’m proposing making the live drama. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Think Tomorrow’s World set (when Maggie Philbin was presenting it).

One on One interviews & Culture. Sky Arts have it right. The In Confidence series is brilliant and The Book Show is getting there. Pump out the same studio based cultural stuff during the day and prove that daytime needn’t be a backwater.

Closedown. It’s not my idea. It’s someone else’s on Twitter. But, if we’ve not got anything decent to put on why put on any old rubbish? As I recall, Ceefax was pumped out because the BBC need to occupy the frequency during the day in order it kept it. Why not return to the Testcard? I bet you no-one would miss it.

What would you do?

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Posted in: TV