Watching Inspector Lewis, there was a scene where an Oxford professor was an archaeologist that was on TV. The Sergeant said “Yes, I’ve seen you on BBC4.” Is that a joke, as in “BBC1” is for the goood stuff and BBC4 is lame? Are the BBC channels numbered for quality or something? If not, what’s the distinction?
BBC1 = the most popular stuff is on here, the talent shows, Doctor Who, the really big dramas
BBC2 = originally was set up to be an alternative to BBC1 (by David Attenborough), but nowadays does less mainstream “mainstream” stuff. Some of the great documentary series started here, as did Monty Python. It also introduced televised snooker (in black and white ), so it was always a bit eclectic. It’s lost it’s identity a bit over the years I think.
BBC3 = youth-oriented, and also spends a fair bit taking chances with new comedy writers. A mixed bag, to say the least
BBC4 = like I said highbrow, or higher brow. Coincidentally, tonight there’s a documentary about an archaeologist called Flinders Petrie.
Yeah, hundreds. The ones that broadcast free to air on analogue were BBC1 (1936), BBC2 (1964) , ITV (1955) , Channel 4 (1982) and Channel 5 (1997). The first four here were nationwide (although not from their start dates!), but I don’t think Channel 5 achieved anything like 100% OTA before digital. But of course with satellite and cable over the past 30(?) years the number has exploded. I think it’s roughly 100 channels over free to air now that the digital switch over is almost complete, with many times that available on subscription services, via cable or satellite.
I’ve a feeling that satellite is a bit more common here than the US - cable never became widely available outside main population centres as far as I can tell. Nowadays though it’s probably a moot point, the internet is good enough outside the sticks to just stream stuff that way.
ITV actually started as a system of regional private companies, rather than being truly national, with a national board supposedly co-ordinating them. Even in the nineties I remember Getting different programmes on Central than Yorkshire, both being available round these parts. One showed Cell Block H, the other showed SeaQuest DSV. Crazy times.
I must admit, I’ve never really grasped the difference between BBC1 and BBC2 in terms of “identity”; they’re both very mainstream. Perhaps it’s just that I started watching them in the mid-90s.
I knew I wasn’t the target audience for BBC3 the day I learned that The Wrong Door was being cancelled and Coming of Age (which made me nauseous to watch) was renewed. But they show Family Guy and Being Human so it’s not all bad, despite the occasional risk of seeing Russell Howard.
BBC4 also has possibly the most highbrow television gameshow ever, Only Connect. Really obscure trivia combined with some serious lateral thinking.
And Victoria Coren, who is both the thinking man’s crumpet and the sort of woman who would destroy you utterly for referring to her as “the thinking man’s crumpet”. I think she’s got a black belt in Withering Scorn.
Back in the 1970s, BBC 2 was where the highbrow stuff that’s now consigned to BBC 4 got shown, and its viewers were considered sophisticated enough to be offered a bit of tasteful nudity now and again. One of the guys at my school used to call it “the culture and porn channel”.
This division was based on the same logic that dictated the educated classes could be relied upon to read erotic literature responsibly, but that the lower orders would be irredeemably corrupted by it.