December 4, 2023 - 6:00pm

On Saturday evening the BBC screened the second of three Doctor Who specials to be aired this year. After last week’s grating, clunky trans propaganda, it was time for some historically implausible colour-blind casting, with Isaac Newton portrayed by the British-Indian actor Nathaniel Curtis. Both episodes have sparked a good deal of understandable eye-rolling and irritation, with critics noting that New Who shed about three million viewers during Jodie Whittaker’s tenure, when a series already tending towards smugness became insufferably self-righteous.

There is little left to be said about the suffocating Leftish conformity that afflicts British television. A more important and interesting question is what the future holds. For now, the BBC and Channel 4 coddle many creatives who would struggle in a genuine marketplace. But that is probably coming to an end. In 2027, the BBC will face its Charter renewal and just this week Rishi Sunak warned the organisation to “be realistic” about what families could afford.

It may be that a Labour government with a comfortable majority chooses to extend the lifespan of the licence fee in its current form. There is even the faint possibility that BBC chiefs decide to course-correct on their own initiative, ending the progressive agitprop in drama and children’s programming, and make a genuine effort to build bridges with conservative-minded people.

My own suspicion is that both these outcomes are unlikely. The BBC’s bias problem is institutional, not least because the sections of society from which the BBC recruits are overwhelmingly to the Left and incapable of understanding or practising impartiality in the old sense. And even if a Prime Minister Starmer wanted to continue the licence fee, the cultural and technological trends point towards it having come to the end of its life.

For good or ill, many people of my generation and below barely watch scheduled television, and are now very used to the subscription model. I do rather regret this in some ways: although I am a strong critic of the contemporary BBC, I retain a certain sentimental attachment to the organisation as it was, and to the old mass culture of which it was an important part, which persisted until the early years of this century but is now fading quickly. The vanishing of event television and the fragmentation of audiences is a significant barrier to the renewal of a cohesive national culture.

Sadly, mainstream channels’ factual programming is now at a nadir, with stringent political imperatives and strictly-policed taboos crippling their ability to make rigorous documentaries. The lowering of technological barriers to market entry mean that supposed amateurs, often with limited resources, are making informative, well-researched programmes with high production values that are much more enlightening and thoughtful than anything on the legacy channels.

It’s very hard to know what the visual entertainment landscape will look like in a decade or two’s time. But one thing is pretty certain: those who prefer their drama unencumbered by political lectures will almost certainly be able to avoid funding such lectures if they so wish. Unfortunately, that could mark the beginning of the end for the BBC.

Niall Gooch is a public sector worker and occasional writer who lives in Kent.