Is TV drama too metropolitan and middle class?


Gareth McLean, writing in (on?) The Guardian’s TV blog asks whether TV drama is too metropolitan and middle class?. Snip:

In farming out drama money to the nations and regions, is the BBC, under misguided pressure from Ofcom, doing anything more than ticking boxes to fulfil regional quotas?
Just as the BBC is (or at least appears to be) investing in the regions more, ITV is retreating from them. A dumber strategy I can't imagine, since ITV is the regions; its strength is in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Glasgow …

It’s an interesting question which ultimately comes down to that key relationship between institutions and audiences. Are drama producers to be in the business of giving the public what is good for them; or giving the public what they want? And which public? Are they interested in sink housing estate dwellers who (a) lack disposable income to spend on advertised goods and/or (b) possibly avoid paying or don’t support paying the TV licence fee, possibly because they (c) pay a Sky subscription and don’t watch that middle class crap on the BBC anyway?

Does Shameless show a contempt for its audience, or does it show a contempt for “people like that”? Should broadcasters be representing (i.e. showing) the whole nation and its regions, including the working class; or should they be focussing on their core audience, which may indeed be predominantly middle class, middle income, middle England?

It’s grim up North, is the impression you get if you watched Red Riding, or (in the 90s) Our Friends in the North, or Shameless. Do people who live in Hampshire, Sussex etc. want Aga Sagas, or do they want Lewis, or Foyle’s War? And should broadcasters give them what they want, or expose them to something out of their experience?

It’s a tough one, and there’s no easy answer. ITV are trying to avoid going down the drain, so they need to chase audiences they can sell to advertisers. The BBC are desperately afraid of losing the licence fee, so they’ll bend over backwards and do everything Ofcom tells them to do, and they’ll pander to the 16–34 demographic with sweary “edgy” comedies, but will they ever convince the Download Generation that the licence fee is a good idea?