BBC4 documentaries like Wellington Bomber, Spitfire Women and The Secret Life of the National Grid are to be a thing of the past as the channel is stripped of its history budget.
History and business commissioner Martin Davidson will cease ordering shows for Richard Klein’s channel from 2013/14 onwards, under Delivering Quality First proposals that have been put to the Trust.
The BBC initially told Broadcast that BBC4 would continue to schedule history programmes. However, it later conceded that this would be largely through documentaries “with an element of history”, commissioned through other genre’s budgets, such as arts.
The proposals will also mean a significant reduction in science programming on the channel. BBC2 will start commissioning more from both genres, but it is unclear whether the additional budget will offset what has been lost from BBC4.
A BBC spokeswoman told Broadcast: “The DQF proposals include reinvestment of up to £10m for specialist factual on BBC2, which will become the prominent home of history. If the proposals go ahead, it means there will be no history funding on BBC4 from 2013/14.
“This will increase the distinctiveness between BBC2 and BBC4, with the latter remaining a multi-genre channel but focusing more on music, arts and culture, as well as being the main channel on which we showcase our archive.”
She declined to comment on how much of the history budget was previously spent on BBC4, or how many history hours it ordered.
The relationship between BBC2 and BBC4 has been a cause for concern for some time. At the start of 2010, the precursor to DQF – Putting Quality First – sought to differentiate them by bolstering BBC4’s factual and drama while cutting back on comedy and entertainment, and vice versa for BBC2.
BBC4 will now keep comedy – one of the corporation’s editorial priorities – while BBC2 is to lose some fact ent and comedy ent.