A big story to watch out for in the coming week, and one which will affect the number of dance programmes seen on television in the UK, is the Culture Secretary's approval for a new BBC TV channel, BBC4. Tessa Jowell will give the go-ahead in a speech on Thursday
BBC4 is to be “unashamedly intellectual”, a television equivalent of Radio 3 and Radio 4 based around arts, music and ideas. It will take the place of the existing digital channel known as BBC Knowledge. It will have a risibly small budget, initially £26 million. For this kind of money the BBC will be broadcasting an awful lot of "radio with pictures" (contrast this with the BBC's plans to spend three times as much on BBC3 - a "yoof" channel). The other point about BBC4 is that very many people will not be able to watch it. It has been described as a “digital dustbin” - and there are real worries that what's left of the BBC's dance coverage will be consigned to it.
The present Controller of BBC2, Jane Root, has turned her back on the channel's responsibility to high culture. While the BBC’s Director of Television, Mark Thompson, says the hours devoted to arts coverage on BBC2 will remain steady, the reality is otherwise. Remember the Dancer of the Year contest? Or the Anthony Dowell documentary? These programmes could only be found on the BBC's digital channels, and to see them you need to have satellite or cable. There is no "Late Show" anymore; the only remnant of it is a supplement to Friday night's Newsnight.
The prospects for dance on the BBC are truly depressing. In contrast, BBC Radio has had excellent dance coverage in recent months - Deborah Bull's documentary on ballerinas, the profile of Paul Taylor, the Christopher Bruce "Work in Progress" for Radio 3. One minor problem - radio doesn't have pictures......