BBC Four is to stop commissioning new shows and become ‘the home’ of archive content.
Stopping just short of shutting down, the channel will continue to broadcast performances such as the BBC Proms, BBC Young Dancer and BBC Young Musician, alongside repeats and archive content.
It is the stand-out move in the annual plan for 2021-22 just published and is driven by cost saving; the BBC has a target of saving £800 million (€936m) annually by March 2022.
The annual plan revealed the BBC had delivered £880 million of annual recurring savings since 2016-17, beating its own target a year ahead of schedule.
While the corporation announced plans last week to double its arts and music spending on BBC Two, the annual plan stated that “this approach will necessitate a shift away from commissioning a high volume of lower-cost programmes on BBC Four, which are less effective at reaching audiences on the channel and on iPlayer”.
The move will require regulatory approval. The broadcaster points out archive already comprises 76 per cent of BBC Four’s broadcast hours and 69 per cent of the channel’s broadcast viewing hours.
This decision, alongside the earlier one to return BBC Three as a linear channel, indicates the BBC’s acknowledgement it got it wrong in 2016 taking a youth channel off while retaining an older skewing, arguably more elitist, channel on air.