Nelson’s Column

I love television. Love it. In fact I love television so much I hardly watch it at all. I know that sounds contradictory but as much as I love trifle I don’t want three courses of it at every meal. What I mean is I am so amazed by what television is capable of that I wade  through the vast rivers of tripe that pour out of it plucking out the TV gold nuggets as I ford on.

The advent of systems SkyPlus and BT Vision have gifted a sweet little filing system for we goggle geeks. I like to get a cup of coffee then sit with my remote control scrolling through the TV guide setting reminders and record instructions as I go. I actually get a little excited when I come across a gem I didn’t know was coming. Then again why would I not know given that I regularly trawl the internet looking at the websites of TV companies worldwide to see what they are putting out there then clicking onto TV fan blogs to find out when this stuff will be coming to the UK or DVD? I will even admit to the odd sneaky download of programming that is not available on any UK cable network or retailed format.

I mean I really love television. This is why I am crest fallen that there is even a hint that the mind blowing BBC Four is under the threat of the axe. I absolutely adore BBC Four because I am an elitist snob who sits in his ivory tower watching arty-farty intellectual stuff with subtitles . . . no, hold on that s not it. That’s just what some people think. I like it because it provides the best in original and imported drama, very intelligent and hilarious comedy, all genres of documentary and spellbinding live music performances. Some seem to think that the channel is exclusive to clever-clever types. I would argue that archive footage of The Old Grey Whistle Test and films about the creation of Coronation Street and Mills & Boon are pretty accessible to just about anybody.  Everyone is welcome.

If television was a house, BBC One would be the living room on a week night. Low lamplight, family portraits, pleasing décor and a proper dinner. BBC Two is your bookish sibling’s bedroom – a place designed to indulge in one’s own personal private interests without feeling the need to run with the crowd. BBC Three would be the bairn’s bedroom, full of colourful and noisy but educational toys. ITV is the living room at the weekend – the big light on, drunk dad and a fish supper in glossy, greasy newspaper. When Channel Four arrived it was like having an “empty.” Your mum and dad were away and you had the place to yourself. You could go a bit mental for a while with some anarchic fun, but then the drugs came out and it all became boring and self indulgen, resulting in a bad hang-over and a desire for the return of your parents and a steady hand. Channel Five is like your poor cousin’s house where everything is second hand, a bit grubby and nothing really works properly, all held together by glue, bits missing and needing the occasional dunt to get them going. Whereas Sky One is your wealthy cousin’s, house where all his toys are new and shiny despite being vastly overpriced, poor quality and not quite as fun as expected.

But BBC Four is your den! It’s that special fantasy room which you’ve never had, the one you wrote about in that “If I had My Own Room” essay in secondary school English class. It could be a study, a home cinema, perhaps a game room or a chill out space with walk in dressing room. An Aladdin’s cave, it’s walls lined with paintings, sculpture and other works of art, shelves of rare and hard to find DVD’s, high stacks of every kind of book and even a games consul packed with gigabytes of your favourite platformers.

I see my BBC Four as a library, like the ones I grew up with in Glasgow – vast structures in red sandstone fronted by Doric columns with listed interiors of elaborate cornicing and huge skylight windows to let you read by floods of natural light their infinite eclectic collections.

If this channel goes it will be in the face of the BBC’s own remit to “inform, educate and entertain” which BBC Four often does within one single programme. We need it. It’s what we pay for.

My good friend, the singer-songwriter Helen Reeves, put it best in this simple statement, “The BBC can get rid of BBC Four as long as they replace most of BBC One and Two’s current programming with actual quality television. Until then, Save BBC Four.”

Sandy Nelson


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