Beyond iPlayer: Why you need the BBC

Anna Bradley 21 November 2015

Do you wake up to the dulcet northern tones of Nick Grimshaw on Radio 1 before your 9am lecture? Do you religiously watch University Challenge in your college TV room to track the (hopefully successful) performance of Cambridge colleges? Is your guilty pleasure streaming Don’t Tell the Bride after a night out, eating a hangover-preventing chicken souvlaki? Whether any of these apply to you, it is clear that the BBC’s reach goes much further than the remit of ‘public service broadcaster’.  

Amidst current government discussions to scrap the license fee and reduce the scope of the BBC, its future is shrouded in a Green Paper mist that could significantly transform the it from a commercial competitor to an information delivery service. But how relevant is the BBC for students today? Do BBC documentaries contribute to your studies? Or has it become an outlet for (much needed) study-break procrastination?


Image credit: joguldi

As I nostalgically recall BBC Bitesize and entertaining, educational programmes such as Horrible Histories and Newsround, I begin to wonder how the BBC approaches university students as a target audience. Scrolling through the BBC website, it appears that programmes specifically targeted at our age group mainly belong to BBC Three, which is defined as “a mixed genre channel for young audiences” covering comedy, drama and documentaries that are designed to “stimulate strong emotions and provoke reactions” for example a hybrid factual-comedy-provocateur programme The Revolution Will Be Televised which uncovered corruption, namely corporate tax evasion. No wonder there have been calls to make BBC3 an online-only channel: the revolution may not be televised, but it will certainly be streamed. Interestingly, such programming targeted at our undergraduate age-group is tantamount to a call to arms. BBC Radio 4 and BBC2 documentaries such as Simon Schama’s “Face of Britain” may be more useful for your studies or wider learning, but it seems the BBC is more interested in motivating students to action under the label of entertainment.

Undoubtedly, the BBC is an unrivalled source of information and entertainment that is relevant for students in so far as no other broadcaster covers such a wide range of fields that relate to all university subjects. However, it does appear that there is a gap in the market on the BBC for more university student focused programming. Nevertheless, I can’t envisage a world with a more reduced BBC, and I certainly don’t want to imagine one without Innuendo Bingo.