Sunday, 13 September 2009

BBC License Fleece

 I recently upgraded to Sky+ HD, having had a compatible TV for some months but not the finances to afford it. I was looking forward to watching so many shows in stunning tiny pixelvision, many on the BBC. Oddly, considering the cost of the license fee, the BBC seems to be rather complacent about offering HD content.

After having the HD installation I was disgusted to see that most of the BBC’s daytime output was athletics – I can’t stand to watch that if it’s on a black and white portable, I certainly have no wish to pump 1080p’s worth of it into my eyeballs for hours a day. Recently we were offered The Proms; question – who gives a flying finger of fudge if they can see the texture of the boater on the man ten rows back in pin-sharp detail. I’d be watching for the music if I watched, which I don’t.

If you look to Sky you will find the majority of their evening schedule offered in HD, I’m now particularly looking forward to LOST and 24 just to wallow in the sumptuous detail. Likewise there are HD versions of other channels, such as the really rather good Sci-Fi and FX. Even Channel 4 has an HD version offering much of its main output. It's just as well considering there's currently sod all of note in HD on the BBC. Yes, there's the odd gem such as The Tudors and the superb Yellowstone but there’s still a paucity of mainstream programming. Why, for the love of puppies, is the BBC's most watched show, Eastenders, still only offered in standard definition? Maybe it's so we don't have to suffer the horror that must be Daniella Westbrook's drug addled, disintegrating face in minute detail, and for that I suppose you have to applaud them, but somehow I doubt this is the case.

I’ll admit I’m in no hurry to see Bianca bawling or Mo Slater munching lunch in high definition, but if they’re going to promote this new technology then surely starting with their highest rated production is the obvious choice and the occasional disturbing view of Danielle or Mo is a price we’d pay – they can always put out a warning before each show. What shows are in HD on the BBC are stuck between self satisfied clips of cats or people buying ice-cream in a park, each extolling the virtues of how great HD looks. Yes, very nice, but could you kindly show us some programs, I already know what a queue for an ice-cream van looks like!

Some of you are doubtless now saying, “Ah, but you have to pay a fortune for Sky HD”. True, it’s not cheap and frankly Sky need to reduce the price dramatically, but the BBC takes nearly £140 from every television owning household – regardless of whether we watch their shows or not. Perhaps if they didn’t piddle quite so much of that revenue down the drain, or into the pockets of their ‘on-screen talent’ they could afford to actually offer the service we deserve for the money. I’ve no objection to them spending a king’s ransom making landmark programs, such as the aforementioned Yellowstone as subsequent DVD sales presumably help offset production costs, but instead they pay said ransom into the pockets of people like Jonathan Ross so that he and his friends can ring up pensioners and leave objectionable messages on their answerphones. When the economy dictates that these so-called talents take a pay cut are we supposed to feel sorry for them? The BBC had no right to be handing over such astronomical salaries in the first place! They also waste a fortune running a multitude of regional radio stations which, quite frankly, few would miss given the plethora of independent stations available. National stations they can justify, I suppose, but do we really need a different station for every part of the UK?

If it is for financial reasons that the BBC is so reluctant to offer us the ability to take advantage of our all singing all dancing goggle boxes, it’s time they finally accepted advertising. I’m not advocating abolishing the license fee completely but we only have to look to Sky for a model that apparently works. They have subscriptions and also show advertising. If the BBC put out adverts between shows, or merely had sponsorship for individual shows as many other channels have, it would offset the switch to HD and hopefully help keep the license fee from increasing. I’d have the Queen Vic in HD, the BBC would have better output and maybe a few more quid in the coffers. Everybody wins - just cover your children’s eyes when Danielle comes onscreen.

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