arts programming

arts programming
   Coverage of the arts on television is part of the remit of both the BBC and the commercial stations. Those involved in ‘the culture industry’, complain that the arts are not taken seriously and general commentators talk of a dumbing down, and in 1997 the Independent Televison Commission (ITC) criticized ITV for its low provision of arts shows. However, compared with television in other countries, the arts are given considerable prominence in Britain. Dance, opera and orchestral music are all shown in prime time and serious attempts are made to cover culture which forms part of the fabric of British life. For example, during the Edinburgh Festival there is a nightly roundup on BBC2 called Edinburgh Nights and the annual Promenade Concerts from the Albert Hall, London, are broadcast every year.
   Though the highest profile arts programme is ITV’s The South Bank Show, hosted by Melvyn Bragg, the station with the strongest claim to broadcasting high culture is BBC2. While programmes like The Late Show and Late Review may cater to ‘minority’ interests, they are flagships for the BBC and indicate their commitment to quality programming.
   Channel 4 has a reputation for showing the most innovative and specialized arts programmes, including contemporary dance. It has been re sponsible for screening much innovative drama. In his later years, Channel 4 was the preferred outlet for his plays by Dennis Potter (for example, Cold Lazarus). It was also the proving ground for Alan Bleasdale, who went on to promote new playwriting talent through his series of screenplays by new writers. Channel 4’s reputation for supporting the arts declined slightly before the head of Channel 4, Michael Grade, announced he was leaving the industry in 1997. He was widely held responsible for the station’s losing its creative edge in arts broadcasting.
   Many commentators are fearful that the continual demand for high audience ratings figures will adversely affect broadcasting of the arts on television. They suggest that competition to terrestrial stations from cable and satellite television, which are now available in 25 percent of British homes, tends to jeopardize quality. However, there are many exceptions. For example, even the ‘traditional’ BBC is still very innovative. It is behind a risky project to produce Comedy Nation, a cross between BBC2’s Video Nation and a traditional sketch show which is shot on hand-held cameras, and airs at midnight on Fridays. The rub may be that it costs £29,000 per episode to produce, compared with more than £200,000 per episode for shows like The Fast Show.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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