I have previously written here about how the fabric of the country will unravel with the threat of no more cake, because few other places would even consider it. However, this may help me to determine why so many people became worked up this week by the prospect of a television programme simply moving from one channel to another.
The facts of the story, helped by my never having watched it, are that “The Great British Bake Off,” a televised baking contest, will move from BBC One to Channel 4 for its next three series. This is because the company that made it for the BBC, Love Productions, itself seventy per cent owned by Sky, was offered more money by Channel 4 - at £25 million per series, they offered twice what the BBC were willing to commit, and four times its existing rate. With the deal completed without the input of its stars, its presenters will not be moving, and a question mark hangs over the judges, meaning Channel 4 may have bought the most expensive tent on record.
This is a business deal, plain and simple, over the biggest programme on TV, between two companies that rely on both ratings and revenue – Love Productions got first from the BBC, but not enough of the second anymore, so they went elsewhere. It has also happened often enough with imported shows – the fees Channel 5 agreed for “Neighbours” almost pay for the show to be made in the first place.
The clue to the anger among viewers was the widely-reported but poorly-written petition hosted by the site 38dregrees.org, which talks about the show being a British institution, just like the BBC, and an escape from the commercial breaks that will ruin it when it moves to Channel 4. The show also, apparently, recognises diversity, and sets the tone for the country, and anything that meddles with this should be resisted.
Basically, the petition requested the status quo to be upheld. It was not aimed at Channel 4 or Love Productions, for the deal they made, or even at the BBC, for refusing to pay more than they did for “The Voice” before that show moved to ITV. It didn’t ask any of them to reverse any decision they made, and it doesn’t tell them what will happen if their request is ignored. There wasn’t any even any grumblings over art, or culture, having a price in a marketplace, like bread or, well, cake. This petition came across as a button to click that said, “I don’t like it either, but I’ll probably get used to it.”
If anyone really wanted to do something, they should develop a new idea for a TV programme – with sewing and pottery already taken - take it to a company, and see if the BBC wants it as a replacement – “The Great British Bake Off” originally ended up on BBC Two, in 2010, after many other channels rejected it. If it is accepted, and it becomes successful, you can then decide whether to go with the prestige, or the cash.