Why 'The Great British Bake Off' Was Always Destined To Leave The BBC

13/09/2016 15:20
Love Productions

First we voted to leave, then Trump managed to stay in the running, and now, worst of all, 'Bake Off' is indeed leaving the BBC. There is the trifecta, the final proof we needed that our world has turned properly topsy-turvy, or at least those little things in it we thought we could rely on.

Of course, the 'nation' is up in arms at the thought of... errr... watching an hour-long TV programme with ad breaks in it? Having its favourite vicarious baking experience punctuated by the sponsorship logo of some lucky breadmaker? Something intangible but nonetheless strongly felt about the experience of watching aunty-like telly on Auntie's premier channel?

Such channel-hopping isn't unprecedented in our TV history. Birds of a Feather has made a similar jump from the BBC to ITV, while Men Behaving Badly only found an audience when it travelled in the opposite direction. Big Brother has enjoyed fresh controversy in its new Channel 5 home, and let's not forget Bake Off itself enjoyed an upgrade from its BBC Two nesting place only two years ago.

Of course, the production company have been accused of dastardly deal-breaking behaviour, chasing a fast buck, not honouring its audience and, most culpably of all, failing to reward the "loyalty" shown to it by the BBC.

Meanwhile, out in the real world and away from the indignation of social media, nobody's behaviour has actually been found wanting. The BBC has today revealed it was £10million short in its offer to renew the Bake Off contract which, to me, is actually quite comforting. It means the people in charge of the purse strings knew where their ceiling was, and didn't render themselves hostage to one bright jewel of star - and ratings - power. We've seen where that's led to before, and instead, those 69,000 licence fees can instead be spent on something else, while we still get to watch the show.

What of Love Productions' apparent greed? Well, an independent business, with salaries to pay, overheads to cover, other creative ideas to support, can surely be forgiven for wanting to make hay while the sun shines. And it could easily have gone the other way for them. What if, after six hardworking years, the BBC had said, "Thanks, but no thanks to any more", or "Thanks - now could you possibly do the same again, but for a bit less cash this time around?" If you had a product as cracking as this one, wouldn't you go to the highest bidder for your services?

What will be interesting is what happens next on either side of the Rubicon. Channel 4 has scooped up the safest ratings-deliverer in the entire British TV schedule, but it will have to walk a tightrope between preserving what makes it so good, and seeking to put its own unique stamp on proceedings. Baking Bodies, anyone?

Meanwhile, those at the BBC - once they've picked their jaws up off the floor and started painting over the Mary Berry room - can surely take this as an enormous compliment, that their content is nothing like as undesired as its critics claim, but clearly coveted by its network rivals. Then they go back to doing what they've always done best, thinking up new ideas, championing new faces, and spending a newly spare £10million on shows that we can enjoy as much as we ever have Mary's soon-to-be-missed meringues.