Opinion: What the BBC should ditch (and what it can keep)

Photo: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire.

Photo: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The BBC is worried that government plans to shake-up the corporation may lead to 'a much diminished, less popular service'.

A new green paper on the future of the BBC has asked whether the Beeb's TV, radio and online operations 'best serves licence fee payers' and singles out a few shows for criticism, such as The Voice. It may be the first time I've ever agreed with the Tories.

I have a soft spot for the BBC, which was the first news organisation to give me a job, of sorts.

Fresh from university, I was certain that there would be a steady stream of media organisations rapping at my door (as in knocking, not beat-boxing) to offer me a well-paid, exciting job. This, astonishingly, did not turn out to be the case.

The Job Centre found me a place on a very strange media training course where a group of dissolute dole-ites met near Norwich's sewage works and made our own newspaper, literally, out of paper and photographs.


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I held my breath until I was made editor and came top of the class. This won me a placement at BBC Radio Norfolk, where I worked for a year for £10 extra on my unemployment benefit. Little did I realise that this represented the kind of pay I would be given for the rest of my career in the media.

Culture secretary John Whittingdale will soon be questioning whether the BBC should continue to be 'all things to all people' and if there are areas where the BBC can make cutbacks without affecting quality. The answer to that question, in my experience, is rarely yes.

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Diane Coyle, a former deputy chairwoman of the BBC Trust, has warned the government: 'people do care about programmes. If Whittingdale is going to have a narrowly focused BBC, is it no to EastEnders and soaps but The Village is OK? Who will choose?'

If the government axes EastEnders, it will be like Orwell's 1984. In fact, it will be like the real 1984, because EastEnders wasn't on telly then. Either way, it will be bad.

In order to be helpful, I have come up with a list of things the BBC should keep and what they can get rid of to save money. We're all in this together.

What the BBC should keep:

Poldark: Gorgeous, rugged, windswept, mysterious, full of pasties – Aidan Turner, who plays Ross Poldark in the reboot of the classic series is all of these things (and Cornwall isn't bad either). Poldark might be improved if it involves more scenes of Ross doing bare-chested scything or swimming in the sea in the altogether.

EastEnders: I know who shot Phil, who shot Ian, who shot Jane and who kidnapped Dawn. I know all about Peggy's cancer, Carol's cancer, Stan's cancer, Ethel's cancer, Tanya's cancer, Patrick's stroke, Joe's schizophrenia, Ben's sociopathic tendencies, Mad May the baby-snatching doctor, Nasty Nick, Cruella Stella, Mary the Punk, Cindy the psychopath and Wham! loving Heather.

I know intimate secrets about the Beales, the Brannings, the Carters, the Cokers, the Cottons, the Fowlers, the Foxes, the Jacksons, the Masoods, the Mitchells, the Moons, the Slaters, the Watts and the market traders. I remember Little Mo clobbering Trevor with an iron, Pauline clobbering Arthur with a frying pan, two Branning marriages imploding thanks to one dodgy DVD, no one's wedding ever going to plan, Janine killing Barry, Chrissie, Sam and Zoe killing Den, Stacey killing Archie, Steve killing Saskia and Nick Berry killing music when he released Every Loser Wins. If the government gets rid of EastEnders, I can't account for what I'll do.

A news service free from commercial pressures: This used to be a bit annoying when I didn't have the 'pause' facility on my telly, because I had to chance my arm that I wouldn't miss something interesting if I went to the loo. Hooray for technology.

The shipping forecast: I have only put this in because it is the kind of thing that you'd expect someone from the Golden Triangle to mention and sometimes my more impressive friends reference it. Viking, North Utsire, Humber, German Bight, Lundy, Fastnet, low Finistere – they sound like characters from a Scandinavian crime novel or internet providers. A vital service for insomniacs.

Good BBC comedies/comedy re-runs: Rev, Charlie Brooker, The Mighty Boosh, The Royle Family, Blackadder, The Young Ones, The Office, The League of Gentlemen, Alan Partridge, The Day Today, Porridge, Extras, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python… the list goes on. Not Mrs Brown's Boys. See below.

That bit on the BBC news website that I plunder for column fodder. Genuinely, without it I'm in the doo-dah.

What the BBC can ditch:

Mrs Brown's Boys: One of my colleagues hasn't read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee because the front cover used to say 'Read by 30 million people!' and he was no conformist, man. I feel the same way about Mrs Brown's Boys – just because everyone watches it and it's the most successful programme on BBC1 doesn't make it good. I have seen clips. It is not good. It is the polar opposite of good.

The Voice: We're four series in and I still couldn't name a winner of The Voice if you held a gun to my head. If you're not familiar with the concept, and lucky you if you're not, it involves pre-vetted singers performing a song to the judges whose backs are turned until they are 'moved', literally, to turn round to see who owns The Voice. If they're not moved, no one turns and the singer leaves the process, if one judge turns then they become the singer's mentor in the competition, if more than one judge turns the singer chooses a mentor from the selection box of oddballs. Viewers can pointlessly join the process by downloading some app or other, but you know that if you look away from the screen for even a second to replicate the 'blind audition' element of the show, you'd be distracted by something more interesting, like a hairline crack in the ceiling or some dust.

Michael McIntyre: self-explanatory.

Letting people who don't pay the licence like the rest of us get away with it even though they're watching iPlayer: The only reason this is a good thing is because it's a perfect example of a loophole if you were asked to define a loophole in an exam. Which is unlikely.

South Side Story: BBC3 cancelled In The Flesh, the channel's beloved zombie drama which won Radio Times' Best Show of 2014, claiming that '…we loved the show but have to make hard choices to bring new shows through and create room for emerging talent.' Surely this isn't the emerging talent it referred to. I may be sticking my neck out, but I am quietly confident that South Side Story will not win the Radio Times' Best Show of 2015, although I am hugely confident that it will appear in my TV round-up of the year as the worst show of 2015, if not the worst show of all time.

Jeremy Clarkson: sorted.

Stacia Briggs is away for a fortnight. Apologies in advance to the BBC's news blog for the drop in web traffic.

•The views here are those of Stacia Briggs rather than the EDP or Evening News

•What do you think the BBC could do to save money? You can leave your comments below.

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