There's been a fresh round of rumblings in recently about BBC4 being closed/merged with BBC2. Michael Grade, David Dimbleby and Roger Mosey have all spoken about wielding the axe over 4 in recent months.
I can understand the financial pressures that lead to the Beeb asking whether it needs all its TV channels, but I don't buy the argument used to justify this, that there's no clear distinction between the two.
I'd argue that BBC2 is actually much closer to BBC1 in its programming. Just looking at what's on 2 this evening (4 March) between 6.00 and 10.30 – Revenge of the Egghead, a dogs’ intelligence test as part of Sport Relief, a documentary about planners, a sowing competition, another documentary about emergency medics and Sarah Millican’s chat show – I would say all but one (the programme about planners) would fit comfortably into BBC1's schedules.
By contrast, BBC4 is on the ground that once would have been firmly occupied by BBC2 – Michael Portillo looking at Irish railways, a documentary about crabs, another on the role of bones in evolution, and later documentaries on World War One and Captain Cook. True, it has the movie Billy Elliot on at 9.00, but overall it is aimed at a more distinct audience and fulfils a crucial part of the brief of a public service broadcaster - that bit about informing and educating (and plenty of us do find it entertaining).
I’d argue that the content of 4 is much further from the Freeview commercial channels than that of its BBC siblings. And if you close/merge it with BBC2 the overall effect will contribute to the dumbing down of TV.
So if they have to cut something, why not BBC2? Or shift the BBC4 brief, and all the staff from 4 to 2 and see how much of 2 can be absorbed into 1. That would do more to ensure that the BBC continues to play a role in catering for a minority audience, and carries on meeting its brief for public service broadcasting.
Mark Say is a UK based writer who covers the role of information management and technology in business. See www.marksay.co.uk