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Why The BBC Should Welcome Sky Atlantic's Spending Power

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Another day, another press release announcing a new series heading to Sky Atlantic.

Last month the channel announced they were taking cult favourite Nurse Jackie off BBC Four's hands.

It's the latest in a longish list of acquisitions from other channels, Sky's wallet proving too big for the rest of the UK terrestrial broadcasters to compete with.

Sky Atlantic popped up earlier this year promising glossy new HBO drama such as Treme, Boardwalk Empire, Game Of Thrones and most recently, Kate Winslet vehicle Mildred Pierce.

Old favourites The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire and Six Feet Under are also shown on the Sky-only platform.

Their buying up of existing favourites from other channels is more interesting - much of the channel's output comprises series that either wouldn't have been shown in the UK had it not been for Sky's spending power, or have already been shown on terrestrial channels and gone on to become giants of the DVD boxset world.

When it finally returns for its fifth series, Mad Men will be following Nurse Jackie over to Atlantic, while E4 have also had Glee snatched from under them, although this time by Sky1.

And I say let Sky have them.

Yes, some viewers may not have the package needed to receive Sky Atlantic, and for fans of the respective programmes, that's a shame.

Really, though, the BBC shouldn't be spending exorbitant amounts of its precious budget on US imports, and as for Glee, it's a show that peaked some time ago (in my view during the closing credits of the fourth 'Kurt does the Single Ladies dance' episode of the first series).

E4 are well shot of it.

One of the BBC's more recent acquisitions was Heroes. Made by NBC in the States, it cost BBC Two around £400,000 an episode to show in the UK. That's right, £400,000 an episode so we could see the development of a story arc so convoluted not even the cast and writers cared what happened when it eventually limped out after four series.

Think what that money could have been spent on? The resurrection of Play For Today? More of established winners like Doctor Who? The arrival of the next Being Human? Quality comedy like Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle?

The BBC should thank its lucky stars Sky Atlantic is around. They should let the satellite channel provide all the big-budget drama viewers can shake a stick at, and then get on with the business of making quality homegrown programmes for themselves.

In recent memory we've had the magnificent Road To Coronation Street, The Crimson Petal And The White, Eric & Ernie, Sherlock, The Shadow Line, this week's The Hour, the return of Luther and Doctor Who, while The Fades and a spectacular remake of The Borrowers are on their way between now and Christmas.

If the Beeb are to really make Sky Atlantic's existence work for them, they must take a leaf out of Channel 4's book. When Big Brother finally finished last year, they announced they would use that budget on making independent series.

First out of the block was This Is England '86, which brought acclaimed film director Shane Meadows to the small screen, and earned a Bafta for Vicky McClure, and a further nomination for Johnny Harris.

Given a choice between a house full of fame-hungry vacuums and a mini-series written by Shane Meadows, I think I know which I'd opt for and the same can be said when it comes to a toss-up between a series I would much rather watch at my leisure on DVD and say, four new episodes of Sherlock.

The BBC have to use this opportunity to save a fortune on the imports Sky Atlantic are now paying for and invest in idiosyncratic, innovate new programmes penned by bright young things.

Let imaginations run wild, use money more wisely and everyone will benefit.