BBC bosses think BBC Four's days are numbered



This could be BBC Four's last year on air, as the BBC refocuses budgets.

Intense speculation over the future of the channel continues with The Daily Telegraph reporting that the BBC executives have "privately conceded" that this will be the last year for BBC Four after nearly two decades on air, while presenters including Lucy Worsley are speaking out for the retention of the channel.

The Covid crisis has blown a £125million hole in BBC budgets, with the BBC stepping in to continue to pay for all over 75s TV licences until August out of its own pockets, after Government funding ends this month. It's also had to delay cuts to BBC News while the crisis is ongoing and income from its commercial arm BBC Studios has been impacted by the virus-induced collapse in sales. Last month, BBC Director General Tony Hall warned staff that savings have to be made.

In contrast, BBC Four's budget has been in the region of £40million a year in recent times.

Rumblings over the future of the channel have been increasing since the channel editor Cassian Harrison was seconded to BBC Studios, leaving the channel in the control of BBC Two controller Patrick Holland.

Under the proposals and as a result of the BBC reviewing where it spends its money, some of BBC Four's budget could be reallocated to BBC Three, to help support the BBC in reaching younger audiences.

Older audiences are seen as being super-served by BBC One, Two and Four, as average ages hover around 60 or more. There was severe criticism ahead of BBC Three's linear closure that the BBC was axing the only BBC linear channel that was attracting younger and less affluent viewers.

Following budget cuts, there is little new content on BBC Four, but as previously reported, it's expected that remaining BBC Four programmes would move over to BBC Two, reversing a decision made nearly 20 years ago to move high brow arts and culture to the then new digital channel.

While rumours over the fate of BBC Four have so far only been covered by niche and trade publications, the report in The Daily Telegraph - reaching the type of person that matches the average BBC Four demographic - will provide an early signal of any resistance that the BBC will have to contend with if it does pursue the closure plans.