Monday 29 March 2021 5:27 pm

BBC to slash BBC Four shows but stops short of axing channel

The BBC today said it will slash original programming on BBC Four as part of a wider effort to cut costs, though it stopped short of axing the channel altogether.

In its annual plan published today, the broadcaster said it would shift away from commissioning a high volume of lower cost shows for the channel.

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Instead, BBC Four will be used to house archive programmes from the corporation’s back catalogue. It will also continue to broadcast performances such as the Proms and BBC Young Dancer.

The move forms part of a cost-cutting programme at the public service broadcaster, which is aiming to save £950m by the end of this financial year.

The BBC said it had already made £880m in savings, putting it 12 months ahead of schedule.

BBC Four, which has an average viewer age of 62, is known for its highbrow programme. It has also previously played host to comedies such as The Thick of It and Detectorists.

While the move effectively marks the end of new BBC Four programmes, the organisation stopped short of scrapping the channel completely — an option that was reportedly being considered last year.

In addition to saving cash, the move reflects the broadcaster’s efforts to appeal to younger audiences, who are increasingly turning to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.

Earlier this month the corporation announced that BBC Three will return as a broadcast TV channel in 2022 after a six-year hiatus.

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The channel was scrapped as part of previous cost-cutting plans, but has since delivered a string of youth hits including Normal People, Fleabag and Killing Eve.

Separately, the BBC has warned it will be forced to slash its programming budget by £400m in order to shore up its finances.