I have a confession to make. I don’t watch Victoria Derbyshire on BBC2 very often – I’m either working, listening to the radio or at the gym (or doing a combination of at least two of those). But maybe I should. Because the BBC is using this daytime current affairs programme to try to change TV news.
That was the claim made by Richard Burgess, UK News Editor, BBC News, and Louisa Compton, Editor, Victoria Derbyshire, at a fascinating event held by Shout! Communications last night. Along with Paul Royall, Editor, BBC News at 6 and 10, they explained how the BBC is trying to break free from the traditional grid-based news agenda (Prime Minister goes to Brussels, report by the King’s Fund into NHS Funding, 100th anniversary of Women Getting the Vote) to obtain more genuine stories and voices from sources that don’t get space in the media. Burgess said that the Grenfell fire was a kick up the backside for BBC News as this was a disaster waiting to happen on their doorstep (almost literally before they moved from Television Centre to New Broadcasting House) which they didn’t report.
I’ll wait to pass judgement on that. I think the Oxfam and Save The Children scandals may be more of a wake-up call as the BBC (along with a lot of the media) appears to think anything an NGO says has legitimacy, without seeing that many of the larger NGOs have conflicting agendas and use spin as much as business and politicians.
The Victoria Derbyshire experiment is more interesting. The BBC presents it as a radical departure, though I see it in one way as a reaction to Channel 4 News and its ability to run longer items and off agenda investigations, and in another a return to old style current affairs programme such as Weekend World.
What is true is that in three years the programme has established a reputation for pushing stories into prominence – football child abuse is a chilling case in point. Also, Derbyshire is a great interviewer in the gentle assassin mode. The programme allows her time to set up an interviewee and then mow him or her down – the Noel Edmonds item from earlier this week is a good example.
However, putting the programme on at 9am on BBC2 is almost guaranteeing it will not secure a large audience. The BBC is arguing people will start watching programmes on demand rather than “appointment to view”. However, with current affairs it tends to be “might grab my attention as I’ve left the telly on after Masterchef”.
It seems like the BBC is trialling a format on the quiet – and with a Bafta a numerous Royal Television Society awards it appears to be working. Time to move Queen Victoria to somewhere she can reign.