It’s a bit late in the day I know, but I thought I’d add my own eggs to the mix regarding the debate surrounding Britain’s best loved cookery programme, The Great British Bake Off #GBBO. I have to confess to feeling pretty gutted that #GBBO is moving channels. Not so much that it is shifting channels, so much as the fact that it will never be the same.
I’m not against Channel 4. For years the only programmes of note were Brookside and Countdown, (although I didn’t watch either), but more recently Channel 4 has morphed. It’s not as bad anymore, and lately its programming has improved no end, with some interesting dramas and documentaries. Their news coverage and investigative journalism, to my mind, is the best available.
So why the furore over Great British Bake Off switching channels then? I might not have minded so much if everyone and everything – including the kitchen sink – had switched from the BBC to Channel 4. But they haven’t. Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins were the first to jump ship, swiftly announcing: “We are not going with the dough,” followed later, very graciously, by Mary Berry.There are drawbacks to Channel 4. For starters, an hour’s worth of entertainment on the Beeb, is approximately 42 minutes on a channel with commercials (less if it’s the X Factor) so you do get short-changed because there’s less cake to give you your fix. But I guess an ad break allows you to restock your snacks. (Uh-oh, I hadn’t thought of that. We’re all going to get fatter. Great British Bake Off makes me hungry! Now I’ll be able to tear myself away and find new supplies of cake – or chocolate – during the ads!)
It’s interesting that so many of us feel betrayed by the idea that Great British Bake Off is moving to Channel 4. Is Channel 4 any less British than the BBC? Do we associate ‘Britishness’ with the BBC? Is the BBC all about Union Jacks and tea parties? Is the BBC the only home of Churchill and Pride and Prejudice, as well as those wonderful ‘British’ values we all fear we’re losing?
I don’t have the answers.
It may simply be that so many of us love this simple show, with its amusing innuendo and gentle wisecracks, and we all adore cakes. And bunting. And Mary Berry.
Love Productions, the creators of Great British Bake Off, have reportedly signed a deal with Channel 4 worth £25M per year. That’s a lot of croissants. Love Productions are no stranger to controversy anyway, previously threatening to sue the BBC, alleging they had copied the Great British Bake Off format with their programme Hair (which aired in 2014 and was supposed to find the best amateur hair stylist). They were also the creators of the horribly exploitative Benefits Street. They went on to try and film a series called Immigration Street, but after being confronted by protesters during filming, made only one show. Richard McKerrow, the founder of Love Productions, told the Guardian at the time: “I don’t want to say I am actively looking to be controversial because I’m not but I slightly think if you are not doing something that gets attention, then why do it?”
BSkyB has a 70% stake in Love Productions too.
It’s not cheap to bring something like Great British Bake Off to the screen of course. It is reported that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are reportedly paid £600,000 each, and of course, Love Productions are a business. Like any business they want to make money.
But the whole situation does leave a nasty (after) taste in the mouth, with many viewers already saying they won’t watch Channel 4 and it’s the end of #GBBO. Will Channel 4’s victory actually mean soggy bottoms all round? After all, many firms don’t survive a takeover. On the day that BHS is relaunched online by yet more new owners, it is easy to make comparisons.
It’s been just over a month since the final BHS store closed, and now the Al Mana Group, which bought the international and online operation, and which retained UK staff and suppliers will go online selling lighting, bedroom and bathroom furnishings, with an aim to expand the range soon enough. We wish them every success, and better fortune than under the previous two owners.
When BHS collapsed in April 2016 it affected 11,000 jobs, 22,000 pensions, and led to a parliamentary inquiry. Sir Philip Green, retail billionaire and lord of the realm, stripped the business of its assets, taking more than £400m in dividends, before selling it to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1 in 2015, leaving a £571m pension deficit, an act described by Labour MP Frank Field, as “evil”.
So, we may live to (cheese) rue the day that Love Productions became so greedy. The BBC has to use the independent production sector these days to make programmes, as so few are produced in house, as they used to be. And yet while the BBC can take a risk on a concept, they may create a monster. Love Productions are an independent production sector company that is mainly owned by a huge multinational company, and it can sell its programme to the highest bidder, even though it has been nurtured by the publicly funded BBC for years. That’s a shame. In business, you can have your cake and eat it, for sure, but if you clog your arteries you’ll suffer an early demise.
Over to you
Are you a Great British Bake Off fan? Or doesn’t it give you a rise? Will it succeed or fail over on Channel 4? What’s your favourite cake? Who’s the best baker the show has produced? All this and more – comment below or come to our Facebook page and bring a cuppa 🙂