In May last year, the BBC announced it planned to stop airing CBBC and BBC Four as traditional broadcast channels, due to cost-cutting measures and a seemingly admirable desire to “constantly innovate”.
Going online-only might work for those lucky enough to have constant access to a broadband connection, a device to stream on, and an affordable electricity bill – but what about the 80,000 homes (Ofcom, September 2022) that can’t receive a decent service?
During lockdown, Citizens Advice found more than one in six people struggled to afford their broadband during lockdown. Now we’re through the pandemic, we’re faced with a Cost-of-Living Crisis, putting even more pressure on all families, especially the poorest.
The BBC says it plans to stop broadcasting CBBC as a terrestrial TV channel in 2025. By then, the country may look very different. We may have a different Prime Minister, a different monarch, and even a different minority for the Daily Mail to pin all our problems on.
But as sure as sleazy politicians are to become embroiled in corruption scandals, poverty and economic inequality will remain a serious issue for many people.
Even for those fortunate enough to not have to worry about the cost of streaming their telly, one thing the BBC excels at is curating educational content for young people. Ask any 18-25-year-old where they learned most of their history knowledge and they’ll probably tell you ‘Horrible Histories’. Ask them where they first began to pay attention to the news, and they might tell you ‘Newsround’. Ask them who their first crush was, and they could even tell you ‘Tracy Beaker’, ‘Charles II’, or ‘Hacker T Dog’.
The point is (I promise there is one), streaming offers more variety than ever before. Every day, those with all 9,000 total streaming services can browse billions of movies and TV shows – binging whatever takes their fancy. However, in a world of overwhelming choice, isn’t there something reassuringly traditional about watching what has been carefully written and selected to educate, inform, and entertain? After all, those are the values the BBC was founded on.
Over the next few months, the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport will oversee the Mid-Term Review of the BBC’s Royal Charter, effectively deciding on the future of the BBC. When asked how moving CBBC online could adversely affect poorer children, Culture Minister Sir John Whittingdale declined to comment.