TV column: BBC3, Happy Valley

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his views on some of the recent events on television.

BBC3 – or as it’s rebranded in trendy teen-speak ‘II!’ – has departed terrestrial TV world and now survives only in an online form. It’s now got an electronic life all of its own, like a TV AI.

The channel that targets the youth/young adult audience, like a stepping-stone between CBeebies and BBC1, can no longer be called television in the strictest sense. It has no schedule, no continuity announcers, and no close-down. It is both always, and never, on.

Should we be worried? After all, most of us never watched BBC3. And it’s been a long time since anyone really worried about a lost generation of teenagers hiding themselves away in their bedrooms, zombied out in a nether world between this life and cyberspace. The 1999 sci-fi cult hit, The Matrix, no longer seems quite so fictional.

Worried? Yes, you should be. The teen-telly of now will become all our television of the future – and most experts agree this future will be with us within ten years.

But isn’t this a good thing, you may ask. All that choice at your mousepad. No more having to sit through The One Show whilst waiting for Eastenders, no more endless repeats of Murder She Wrote filling up the daytime schedules – no more of anything you don’t like.

Entertainment only becomes culture when it’s shared and the future online fracturing of terrestrial television will change forever the nature of our most important shared culture.

Already there are families where parents will no longer discuss the TV their children are watching – and BBC3 has some intelligent, hard-hitting content that should be discussed by parents and children. Current content includes features on death row, the dark side of online gaming, sexuality, and male violence. Perhaps you used to know what was on BBC3 by glancing at through the Radio Times – do you know what’s on II! ? Do you really want your children making sense of all this on their own, plugged into a tablet and headphone-oblivious to anything outside?

This week it’s BBC3, but expect the same online roll-out for BBC4, BBC News 24, then regional broadcasting, BBC2 – anything and everything that doesn’t pay its way and pull in a guaranteed 10 million viewers.

BBC3 is the thin end of the wedge and though most of the population never watched it, they may well regret not standing up for it in the long run.

Rant over.

You can tell a programme is having a few problems when it gets more coverage in the news section than it does in the culture pages. This week, this accolade goes to Happy Valley (BBC1).

Happy Valley appears to have used the same sound editing team who brought us the mumble version of Jamaica Inn a couple of years ago, losing 300,000 viewers in the process.

Initially the Beeb resorted to the ‘accent’ defence, suggesting that it was all down to the authenticity of the Huddersfield accents and problems in understanding people from ‘up North’.

Really? Don’t seem to have any problems with Emmerdale, or Ant and Dec, or whiney Vera – and they’re all from ‘ooop North’.

The real problem BBC, if you’re reading this, is that yourmph nooggth mmmrmthh arr grthh ggrummpp urrgh troomtphhm. Hope that’s clear enough for you.