BBC Hands ITV Schedulers a Massive Ratings Bonus

17 March 2005

Britain's viewer-funded broadcast and internet behemoth, the BBC, is set to hand its commercial rivals an unparalleled gift - a full week of TV, radio and online programming dedicated to African life and culture.

Beyond reproach though this initiative may be, it could prove a mega-turnoff for UK audiences whose taste is better attuned to unreal 'reality' shows, makeover programmes, soaps and sitcoms.

All of which will prove manna from heaven to advertisers, agencies and rival terrestrial broadcasters such as ITV, Five and Channel Four. To say nothing of Clan Murdoch's UK satellite platform BSkyB.

It is no coincidence that the chosen week for the BBC's African jamboree will coincide with the G8 Summit, the annual gathering of the globe's eight richest economies (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and the USA), hosted this year by prime minister Tony Blair at Gleneagles, Scotland, July 6-8.

Appropriately, the main topics on the politicos' agenda will be climate change - and Africa.

Meantime, although saddled with what some observers see as a tradeoff with the Blair administration, the BBC's schedulers have not entirely renounced their ratings-chasing inclinations.

Among the programming delights in store for Britons are Geldof on Africa in which the singer and campaigner Bob Geldof takes "a personal journey through Africa to explore what makes the continent what it is, through the lives of ordinary people".

Gardening makeover show Ground Force is piloting a project called Garden for Africa, and there'll be rehashes of current formats such as Rolf [Harris] on African Art and Strictly African Dancing.

There is also a special edition of the political format Question Time, broadcast from South Africa, while BBC Breakfast will be presented live daily from studios in London and South Africa.

According to Lorraine Heggessey, shortly to step down as controller of BBC One: "2005 is a year in which Africa will dominate headlines, thoughts and conversations as never before.

"It is with this in mind that we have put together a wide range of programmes to give the viewer a 360-degree portrayal of African life and culture through special editions of favourite shows, as well as new commissions."

The reaction of Nigel Pickard, ITV's director of programmes is not known - although it is rumoured that yells of 'yippee!' are emanating from within the broadcaster's executive washroom.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff