Oh God … It’s Don’s “there’s too many repeats on telly” rant again

In what has become a tradition almost as eagerly anticipated as the Queen’s Speech, Lib Dem shadow culture secretary Don Foster has unleashed his annual broadside against telly bosses for broadcasting too many repeats. The Telegraph dusts off the same-old, same-old:

Nearly 600 hours of repeats will be shown on Britain’s four main television channels over the festive period according to schedules released by broadcasters. It is thought to be the highest ever number of Christmas repeats to be shown during the two week holiday period. … Over the four main terrestrial channels some 580 hours will consist of repeated programmes such as Keeping Up Appearances, starring Patricia Routledge as social climber Hyacinth Bucket. On the BBC’s two main channels, there will be approximately 270 hours of repeats over the holiday period.

The majority of BBC Two’s Christmas schedule consists of repeats. On Christmas Eve, the channel is showing only four programmes that have not been seen before, including the traditional carol concert from King’s College, Cambridge. The channel’s Christmas Day roster includes repeats of Blackadder, Top Gear and Dad’s Army.

And Our Don is there with his trite-and-tested auto-pilot quote:

As channels dish out yet more of the same old Christmas fare, it’s not surprising that viewers are turned off by Christmas TV. With fewer new children’s programmes being made, surely the broadcasters could have made a special effort for them at Christmas.”

Quite simply, I find it impossible to give a toss. I’m partial to a bit of telly over the festive season, but are we really saying that the only way to get the most out of Christmas is (i) for the telly schedules to be really good, and (ii) that the schedules will be of far greater quality if the broadcasters don’t show some of the best programmes produced over decades? I mean, Christmas is about a bit more than that, isn’t it?

Of course there has to be room for original programmes on telly. But I wouldn’t want to watch only films released, or plays performed, in the last year – so why on earth would I want my telly viewing restricted in this way?

And, besides, it’s perfectly obvious why the commercial broadcasters show more repeats (310 hours in all, if I’ve done the math right): businesses are spending their advertising budgets in the lead-up to Christmas, rather than over the holiday season itself, and ITV and Channel 4 are understandably responding to that market pull. What does Don expect them to do?

There are many problems in the world that deserve our politicians’ attention. The volume of telly repeats shouldn’t just be at the bottom of the list. It should be struck off altogether. Please, Don, let’s not have another repeat in 2010.

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  • Andrew Suffield 3rd Dec '09 - 9:00pm

    If you go from 5 channels to over a hundred channels, you’ll have to accept that most of what they show is not going to be original content.

    Personally, I can’t wait until this mess is finally declared obsolete, and we just use video-on-demand over the internet for everything. The technology is already here (iplayer and friends complete the set); all we need now is to scrap the broadcast-oriented licensing nonsense that means programmes are only available for 14 days, and migrate everybody over. This argument can then die along with the concept of television scheduling.

  • cynicalHighlander 3rd Dec '09 - 9:12pm

    This is one program that should be repeated if only to show how corrupt Westminster really is in lying to its citizens.


  • Back when I still paid my TV license it used to annoy me that the BBC saves all its decent repeats for UK Gold or DVD releases and only repeats stuff on its now channels if it doesn’t think it can make any money from them.

    Now that I don’t pay a TV license I couldn’t give a hoot.

  • Colour TV production started in earnest in the 1970s, right? So that is about 35 years of programming that could be shown nowadays without telling viewers not to adjust their sets. Surely, by the balance of probabilities, the majority of quality Christmas TV will have been produced in years that are not 2009 – unless we believe our culture has inexorably risen in quality over the last few decades. Add in classic films and it is far from clear that new programming should get a huge innings.

  • Why does Don put out this rubbish? Once would be bad enough…
    So many of his press releases seem determined to make us look daft.

  • Hopefully we can have a BBC-supported TV download service which uses standard formats and work with free software; get_iplayer is a bit clunky and unsupported, but works on platforms and in situations where the official iPlayer does not.

  • Different Kevin 4th Dec '09 - 10:17am

    Better British repeats than American imports (and repeated Americam imports)

  • What does Don have against Wallace and Gromit? It takes years to make a new one – the repeats are all that keep us going at Christmas!

    And if Don wants to be Scrooge over cherished repeats, nobody’s making him watch the television at Christmas, anyway…

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