A V I E W
2 0 1 0
(click here for the ration book rules)
(red text = new items; + = new points to existing items)
(pale text = repeated items unseen; murky text = taped items)
2010 - OCTOBER-DECEMBER
Hello, all; sorry for the messy way in which this project has come to an end. Let's make up for it through some nice graphs...
Figure 4.1 - TV, Radio and Film, week by week
Overall TV Radio Film
Radio is a consistent wall through the middle of this graph (with the exception of Christmas). Film and television are reasonably closely matched in their flow, particularly the pre-Christmas lull. TV's best moment was Christmas itself, perhaps unsurprisingly. A couple of South Parks online helped TV to its other reasonable spike in November.
Figure 4.2 - Broadcast TV versus On-Line TV
Broadcast TV Broadcast TV (excluding Film) On-Line TV
An analysis of the Ultra Magnus graph shows that throughout this run my on-line viewing has been roughly as profitable in points as my broadcast TV viewing.
Figure 4.3 - Broadcast Radio versus On-Line Radio
Total Radio Broadcast Radio On-Line Radio
For any given week, about four points come from my downloads (Kermode & Mayo and In Our Time) and five points from Drive, plus any other sundry points I pick up off the wireless along the way. Such sundries appear to have dried up come November, which coincided with changes in my daily schedule. Christmas week, when most of the programmes are off-air and the rest are pre-recorded novelties, sees a slump in the scoring.
Figure 4.4 - Network by network, week by week
BBC TV ITV TV 4TV 5TV BBC Radio
Another piss-poor showing by 5TV, owing what measly presence it mustered through films. ITV is not much better. 4TV muddles through, but the vast amount of points fall into the lap of the BBC. Even BBC TV had a dreadfully poor early December, though I was not in much of a television mood at that point, I must confess.
Figure 4.5 - Digital vs Analogue, week by week
Digital Digital excl. Film4 Analogue
Film4 no-longer holds the power it once had. More importantly, the old analogue stations consistently performed better than (or in one case as well as) the digital whippersnappers.
Figure 4.6 - Digital TV vs Analogue TV (excluding film), week by week
Digital On-Line TV Analogue
Removing film from the equation lends digital a bit of success in October, thanks to Boys From the Blackstuff. Adding on-line viewing to the mix thickens the plot, and save the beginning and end of the run it is on-line that does the best of all three media. The tailing off of on-line points along with everything else in early December rather suggests that this lull was partially if not entirely the result of my lack of time to view rather than broadcasters' lack or will to broadcast.
Figure 4.7 - Analogue channels week by week
BBC1 BBC2 ITV1 Channel 4 five
I call this graph "Television is Dead to Me". BBC1 has Christmas and Formula One to thank for its points. BBC2 had a more comfortable time, but even it couldn't overcome my two weeks of seeming disinterest in early December. The ITV's points come courtesy of X-Factor, while a Boxing Day showing of Carrie helped C4 to a solitary point. C5 scored nothing, and barring film so did C4.
As ever, 4TV gave us the most films, with Film4 taking the highest honours. BBC2 got the most non-film points, followed closely by the iPlayer. BBC4 was the BBC's filmiest channel.I4, C4, F4, Fiver and UKTV Dave were all solely reliant on film for their points.
Figure 4.10 - Average performance of each weekday
Overall TV Radio Film
Television's strongest days are the weekend and Monday (the latter being the reserve of University Challenge if nothing else). Radio has its usual two behemoths on Thursday and Friday. Film's best day is Saturday; its worst is Thursday. Surprisingly there is a dead heat average of 51pts for Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays overall, with Tuesday being the lowest scoring day (or the day when I'm down the pub).
The frailties of the system fully uncovered, it's time to tot up the scores:
Radio 5 remains firmly on top, and half the points from the second-place entry might be said to be rightly its too. B2 reclaims its place as top TV channel, albeit scoring a shadow of its past triumphs. The iPlayer, in 5th place, can only bear so much of that responsibility. BBC4 appears to be making a steady recovery after its dreadful performance earlier this year.
Time, then, for an analysis of the whole year:
2010 - FULL YEAR ANALYSIS
Our first graph considers each month's performance:
Figure 5.1 - TV, Radio and Film, month by month
Overall TV Radio Film
This year the rules changed in favour of radio and to the detriment of film. Radio consequently matched TV pretty squarely throughout the year. In fact both scored the same average score of 50pts/month. TV's best month came in February when I was test-driving the SeeSaw on-line television system. Its worst month was March (when I wasn't). Radio was strongest in April, in part thanks to the leaders' election debates. It had its worst performance in August when Kermode and Bragg were on their holidays. Film was at its strongest in September, partly because I rewatched Shallow Grave, allowing it to score full points.
Overall TV Radio Film
Here we have the same data shown week-by-week rather than month-by-month. It helps us pinpoint the precise week I was on SeeSaw if nothing else. The June peak coincides with me finding The Adventure Game on YouTube. The September spike is more the work of the broadcasters, marking among other things BBC4's Liverpool night.
Figure 5.3 - Network by network, month by month
BBC TV ITV TV 4TV 5TV BBC Radio
5TV have had a dismal year, and failed to score any points at all in February, August and September. They averaged only 1½pts/month. ITV's 7pts/month looks opulent in comparison, though December was a wash-out for them. 4TV managed to clock something for every month, with an average of 10pts. Against BBC TV's 34 points though that's still a little sorry-looking. BBC Radio managed 50pts/month, which is quite impressive really.
No particular surprises to be had here: Film4 leads on film terms, followed by ITV4. BBC2 leads on television programming, followed by the iPlayer (which incorporates programming made for BBC2). YouTube narrowly beats BBC1 in terms of TV programme points. 5TV failed to entice me into watching any of their TV offerings, and all their points came from films. Dollhouse helped ITV to a comfortable victory over 4TV as far as telly goes.
Figure 5.6 - BBC TV, channel by channel, month by month
BBC1 BBC2 BBC3 BBC4
Looking closer at the BBC on a channel-by-channel level, BBC3 was its usual self, relying on Being Human for the bulk of its points and generally being off the radar. BBC4 started the year in a dreadful state, and scored its first ever duck in the spring run. Fortunately, it hit back in September with its Liverpool evening, All Our Working Lives and Boys from the Blackstuff. Its December performance equaled BBC2's and the channel was only let down in the last quarter by a poor November. BBC1's peak came in May when Doctor Who coincides with Eurovision. Its other moment of greatness was Christmas Day. The most consistent BBC TV channel was B2, and even that had something of a slump mid-year.
Figure 5.7 - 4TV, channel by channel, month by month
Channel 4 E4 More4 Film4
There's not a lot of point in looking at the graphs for ITV and 5TV as there wasn't really enough going on. 4TV is a slightly different story: Film4 is the one consistent channel, knocking out an average of 7pts/month. E4's little spike, and C4's similarly located clump are down to Glee. Most of M4's points are from film, with Bremner, Bird & Fortune lending the couple of points for May.
Figure 5.8 - Digital vs Analogue, week by week
Here we see that the five analogue channels consistently score higher than all the rest of the channels on Freeview. What happens if we take film and radio out of the equation?
Figure 5.9 - Digital vs Analogue (excluding film and radio), week by week
Digital On-Line TV Analogue
Now the fight's a little straighter: the digital channels even get the upper hand now and again. Still, analogue manages an average of 4pts/week to digital's 3. Thrown into the mix here is on-line TV which manages an average of 5pts/week and feels pretty cocky for it.
Figure 5.10 - Analogue channels month by month
BBC1 BBC2 ITV1 Channel 4 five
Not a particularly revelatory graph, really. It reminds us that C5 managed to score some points, albeit only for films, and that C4 performed little better than it. Of more interest might be the on-line TV graph:
Figure 5.11 - Analogue channels month by month
Broadcast TV Broadcast TV (excluding film) on-line TV
Although all this really tells us is when I watched TV on the net. I watched TV on the net quite a lot, except in May and September when I seem to have got to the TV instead. Naturally, in a world where the iPlayer exists, troughs in on-line viewing correspond to peaks in broadcast viewing and vice-versa.
Figure 5.12 - Average performance of each weekday over the year
Overall TV Radio Film
Weekends are the best for TV, followed closely by Mondays. the rest of the week is a bit crap in comparison. Meanwhile, In Our Time and Kermode & Mayo give the end of the week to radio. Tuesday is the day to go to the pub.
Let's leave the graphs for now and look at some naked statistics.
95 TV programmes scored points this year (66 less than last year), with 596 points awarded overall (72 less than last year, continuing a downward trend). Here's a list of the best new TV (i.e. not repeats) of the year (average score in brackets; only programmes of 1.5pts or above are listed):
Eurovision Song Contest (3pts)
The Royle Family (3pts)
Boys from the Blackstuff (2.75)
Renaissance Revolution (2.67)
Wonders of the Solar System (2.4)
Alan Partridge's Mid-Morning Matters (2)
All Our Working Lives Revisited (2)
The Normans (2)
The Joy of Stats (2)
Gods & Monsters: Homer's Odyssey (2)
Who Wants to be a Millionaire - India Special (2)
Newsnight at 30 (2)
The Secret Life of Chaos (2)
The Genius of Omar Khayyam (2)
Election 2010 (2)
Arcade Fire at Reading (2)
Doctor Who (1.9)
University Challenge (1.75)
Shooting Stars (1.67)
Being Human (1.6)
South Park (1.6)
The Sarah Jane Adventures (1.6)
Formula 1 / F1 Forum (1.5)
Grandma's House (1.5)
Election Debates (1.5)
A History of Horror (1.5)
46 radio programmes scored (11 more than last year, albeit with a more liberal qualification system), with a total of 614 points awarded (240 points more than last year (199 of them courtesy of Drive)). The Beckett Double Bill managed 3pts. Archive on 4, Election Special and World on 3 got 2pts. Kermode & Mayo and In Our Time averaged 1.95 and 1.9 points respectively.
The rules for films changed this year, with the tolerance threshold significantly reduced. Consequently only 72 films scored (222 down on last year). 39 scored 1pt (one up on the same threshold last year), 20 scored 2pts (three up), and seven scored 3pts (five down on last year): namely: A Clockwork Orange (again), Black Narcissus (again), Farewell My Lovely (again), Jackie Brown (again), Psycho (again), Pulp Fiction and Shallow Grave. 111pts were awarded in total (435 less than last year). The most shown scoring films were:
Table time again:
All About Eve (6 showings)
A Matter of Life and Death (6 showings)
The Full Monty (6 showings - down one on last year)
Falling off the chart were R5L Sports Extra, ITV2, Yesterday, BBC Parliament, CBBC, CBeebies and CITV. Sports Extra was replaced by R4 LW which was allowed to score this year and which was almost always responsible for SE's points in previous years. ITV2 suffered from the new threshold by which films were admitted. If BBC Parliament had an archive election this year, I'm afraid I missed it. Yesterday, CBeebies and CITV failed to attract my attention, and CBBC lost out to the iPlayer on any points it could theoretically have achieved.
Radios 4 and 5 reaped newly available points to claim the top two spots in this post-rationing world where anything could score. BBC2 lost a massive 267 points, not all of them to the iPlayer; though last year it did score a ridiculously high tally (its final quarter haul was equal to the whole of 2010). Radio 4's drop in points can be blamed on the iPlayer, or rather on downloads.
Television as a whole has taken something of a hit. While the BBC channels suffer largely at the hands of the iPlayer, the commercial channels owe their falls to the film restrictions implemented this year: 3-2-1 points rather than 5-4-3-2-1 for any unwatched films (with the bottom two strata failing to qualify in such circumstances). TV lost 804 points overall, but we've already seen that film accounted for only 435 of those. That said, ignoring the drop at BBC2, and incorporating the iPlayer and 4oD points gives us a nice fat 0. Balance is restored.
There will be no Ration Book for 2011, though it may return again at some point in the future. Instead there's going to be a new project (slightly less arduous to conduct) entitled Racing News. To mark the formal end of rationing, lets have a final round of graphs exploring the last six years as a whole.
Figure 6.1 - TV, Radio and Film: mean points-per-week for each quarter
Television Radio Film Total
We start with a look at the three scoring classifications over the course of rationing. Television is usually on top, though Film gives it a run for its money, and seems particularly likely to come top in the third quarter (that is to say, in the summer), when TV traditionally takes a holiday. The rule changes for 2010 have seen Film and Radio swap places. If this graph is to be trusted, the last quarter of 2008 was the best quarter of the Ration Book. An Arts TV season, Gergiev Conducts and Ian McKellen does Shakespeare coincided, helped along by a slew of great films. By contrast, the December 2005 spike was simply the result of three strong weeks for film. The TV spike in June 2005 coincides with the revival of Doctor Who and ITV3's repeat run of Hammer House of Horror. With the exception of 2005, the peaks in TV points tend to fall on the final run of the year (that is to say, the Christmas schedules). Here's the same graph at a lower resolution:
Figure 6.2 - TV, Radio and Film: mean points-per-week for each year
Television Radio Film Total
The steady rise of radio reflects a steady loosening of the qualification rules. In 2005 no perennial programming was permitted. In 2006, non-current-affairs perennial programming was admitted. In 2008-9, the only exemption was news programming, and this restriction was lifted for 2010. The changes in Film scoring are also visible and are explored further a little later on.
Figure 6.3 - Principal Networks: mean points-per-week for each quarter
BBC TV ITV 4TV 5TV BBC Radio
5TV has never had much to say for itself: there's a spike of Poker in 2005, and then the comfortable consistency of the House era. With the combined efforts of Sky TV and our change in film scoring, 5TV has barely existed this last year. ITV is an altogether wigglier affair. It's best quarter (March 2008) was mainly down to a good run of films under the most lucrative period of film scoring. Films and Formula One have generally been the most important point-generating programming for the network. Radio and 4TV clearly swapped over this year, purely as a consequence of rule changes. Radio's improvement in 2008 was likewise down to a tweak in the rules more than by any great improvement in programming. 4TV's sudden improvement in 2006 is entirely the work of new arrival Film4. We'll look a little closer into the rest of that network later.
And then there is BBC TV. Two big spikes stand out. They're both in the December run and coincide with the Christmas schedules, though the latter owes more to BBC4's Arts TV season at the start of that quarter, and the former is in part the result of the final episodes of Arrested Development and our first introduction to something called Family Guy. Still, whatever may go into it, the last run of the year is usually the best for the Beeb.
Here's the same graph given an annual rather than quarterly sample, and a normalized version (minus radio) which compares each average as a fraction of the total score for TV and Film.
Films were scored out of 3pts for 2005 and 2006. Films were scored out of 5pts for 2007-9, with an elaborate system of freeze-outs in place in 2008 and 2009 for repeated films. Films were scored out of 3pts in 2010, using a tougher qualifying threshold. For example, David Lean's Oliver Twist was worth 1pt in 2005-6, 2pts in 2007-9, had a four-month exemption of qualification for repeat showings in 2008-9, and was worth 0pts in 2010. This change in scoring is clearly visible in the graphs. Owing to the way the statistics were recorded in the earlier years of this project, it is impossible to properly divorce the Film points from the study. But variations in scoring trends for TV programming can be ironed out by applying the normalization process mentioned above. The normalized graph shows that although BBC TV's overall score went down this year to its lowest level, as a proportion of all points awarded it had its strongest run. Applying the normalization to the quarterly graph gives us:
Figure 6.6 - Principal Networks: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each quarter
BBC TV ITV 4TV 5TV
Very nice. Doesn't tell us a lot new, though. Except that the BBC had very little competition in the first quarter of this year.
Figure 6.7 - Analogue TV v Digital TV: mean points-per-week for each quarter
Analogue TV Digital TV
Here's a straight fight between analogue and digital (incorporating TV and Film points but disregarding Radio). The arrival of Film4 is clear to see in September 2006, but from the start of that year digital had been in the lead, albeit due to a dropping off of analogue programming rather than to its own efforts. Analogue recovered by mid 2007, only for digital to fight back with the Channel 4 Anniversary on More4. Jonathan Meades' Magnetic North and repeats of Steptoe & Son on B4 led digital to its highest quarter in March 2008. But by December, analogue showed it could do just as well, bringing out some big films and putting on a reasonable Christmas spread. Analogue made no effort in the next quarter, but led for the rest of 2009. Things were more matched in 2010, with digital tending to do slightly better. Removing film from the equation appears (from the last two years' data) to give analogue the upper hand, albeit narrowly. Here's the same graph at a lower res:
Figure 6.8 - Analogue TV v Digital TV: mean points-per-week for each year
Analogue TV Digital TV
That's nice too. Let's consider analogue TV a little more closely:
Figure 6.9 - Analogue channels: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each quarter
BBC One BBC Two ITV 1 Channel 4 Five
Here's the old five channels put against each other. Snaking closest to the floor is ITV. C4 began the rationing period well, peaking in December 2005 with the likes of Popworld, and a still novel Derren Brown alongside the now ailing Grand Designs and Peep Show. Alas, Simon and Miquita left Popworld in 2006, and Derren Brown ran out of tricks. This led to a nasty slump come June 2006, and though things recovered slightly, the channel mainly held its steady form with recourse to film programming. A similar tale of woe pertains to C5: its wavy line relates in the most part to House; once its House was taken away it was left with only film for company.
Figure 6.10 - Analogue channels: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each year
BBC One BBC Two ITV 1 Channel 4 Five
The healthiest channels by far are those of the BBC, with only C4 ever managing to split the two way back in 2005. BBC1 hovers narrowly above the rest of the field, with BBC2 flying up in the higher levels of the atmosphere. Let's explore the BBC a little more closely:
Figure 6.11 - BBC TV channels: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each quarter
BBC One BBC Two BBC Three BBC Four
The ribbons of BBCs 1&2 are joined here by their bastard spawn: 3&4. Of them all, B3 fares least well. Its first real bid for attention, in 2006, was largely down to a couple of showings of Pulp Fiction, before Family Guy appeared on the scene. Alas, by 2009, Family Guy had proven to be a one-trick dog, and B3 fell into a bit of a doldrum. Only Being Human has managed lift it out. At the other end of the table sits BBC4: It begins as a giant: a repeat run of Yes Prime Minister, and Jonathan Meades' Abroad Again in Britain, combining with a season of Italian Cinema. Things lightly tailed off in 2005 only to recover again after a summer containing Heimat, Arrested Development, Travels with Pevsner, and a week of Werner Herzog. The end of 2005 proved curiously disappointing with only Sherlock Holmes for company. Still, in the new year we had a massive recovery: a Poliakof Season supporting Our Friends in the North, Mark Steel, Ripping Yarns, and the arrival to our screens of TV critic Charlie Brooker. Another lull followed, along with another slight recovery (ie more repeats), then another lull. The last big peak came in June 2008, with Washes Whiter, Inside the Medieval Mind, archive raids in the direction of Doctor Who and Dennis Potter, at least one decent play, and some rare B-movies. Since then, things have progressed in a generally downward direction, reaching a nadir this Spring with the first nul-points. A recovery at the end of this year, born of some decent repeats (chiefly Boys from the Blackstuff), is most welcome and hopefully indicates a return to past form.
BBC1 is a kinky old thing. Look at it zigzagging away. Peaks coincide with Doctor Who and Christmas. This year had a particularly big peak during Doctor Who season, though now the BBC has Formula One too, and that had quite a lot to do with it. And then there's BBC2... but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Figure 6.12 - BBC TV channels: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each year
BBC One BBC Two BBC Three BBC Four
Here's the seasonal fluctuations ironed out to give us a clearer idea of performance across the whole year. BBC1 is wonderfully stable, and BBC3 knows its place. BBC2 does some swinging about but it too is pretty clear about where it should be. The one channel that doesn't seem to know where it should be in the hierarchy is BBC4: save its aberration in 2007 it's been a steady decline.
Figure 6.13 - ITV channels: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each quarter
ITV 1 ITV 2 ITV 3 ITV 4
Descending to the level of the ITV, the easiest channel to comment upon is ITV2: it doesn't pick up points until we started to get properly vigilant on film-scoring in September 2005, and is entirely reliant upon film for every point it's ever scored. They're not the best films in the world, as demonstrated by the big fat duck this year. ITV 3 was always the classier corner of the ITV yogurt, with its repeats of Granada gold. Of particular interest to us was Hammer House of Horror, Rumpole of the Bailey, and Tales of the Unexpected (the latter responsible for that great steeple in 2006). Alas, since then it's been less enticing and is mainly ITV Agatha Christie. Our interest has moved to Men & Motors replacement ITV4 which opened in style with a Spaghetti Westerns season. Throughout, most of its points have been from films, generally of a better class than the ones on ITV2 (the World Rally Championship also helped out). Then it acquired Dollhouse, and the rest is the second immense spire on this graph. And all along, ITV1 fidgets away in the background...
Figure 6.14 - ITV channels: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each year
ITV 1 ITV 2 ITV 3 ITV 4
Here's the yearly graph, and as with B3, I2 knows its place. I3's trajectory is somewhat more reminiscent of B4, though the baton of decency seems to have been passed on: first to I1 (with its last year of Formula One (Hamilton's season)) and then to I4 (like an anti-I3).
Figure 6.15 - 4TV channels: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each quarter
Channel 4 E4 Film 4 More 4
Here's Channel 4 and its children. We've already explored the changes of fortune experienced by C4 so let's peer a little closer at the rest of the family: First to register was More4, its earliest points gathered predominantly through through films. It's first big spike came in the form of the Channel 4 Anniversary in December 2007, with repeats of Countdown, Treasure Hunt and the likes. This was followed in September 2008 by the amazingly completist Kubrick season. Ian McKellen does Shakespeare at Christmas '08 seemed to suggest that the channel was beginning to blossom into something interesting, but it hasn't. It remains, by and large, a lot of repeats of Grand Designs peppered with the odd decent film. E4 is much the same, but with less decent films and with Friends rather than Grand Designs. It also has Glee now, which is proving to be a mixed bag, but a mixed bag with a decent amount of those fish-shaped boiled sweets and white-chocolate mice thrown in amongst the autotune and sickly sherbet.
Figure 6.16 - 4TV channels: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each year
Channel 4 E4 Film 4 More 4
Looking on a yearly basis we see that as a consequence of Glee, E4 has now overtaken not only M4 but also C4 (albeit narrowly). Admittedly, that was there to see earlier, in the annual chart, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded of the matter. In the case of all of the 4TV channels, the vast majority of points come from film, and this has resulted in significant dips for all the channels bar Glee-saved E4.
Figure 6.17 - BBC2, BBC4, and Film4: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each quarter
BBC 2 BBC 4 Film 4
Over the course of the ration-book, three TV channels have established themselves as contenders for the ultimate title of best TV channel. And here they are, in a messy plait of zig-zags. The year-by-year view is slightly less chaotic:
Figure 6.18 - BBC2, BBC4, and Film4: fraction of total TV/Film mean points-per-week for each year
BBC 2 BBC 4 Film 4
For the first year and three quarters, the BBC pair had things largely their own way, with BBC4 winning most of the quarters and taking the honours in 2005 and 2006. In the latter year, upstart Film4 arrived on Freeview and scored an immediate quarter victory only for the BBC to fight back effectively. Still, BBC4's win in '06 was largely down to its massive achievements in the first quarter, which included a Poliakof season, Our Friends in the North and Dekalog. B4's performance in 2007 was a little less illustrious, leading to it crashing to third place in this comparison. BBC2, however, held firm and Film4 plateaued out at an annual average taking of c.15% of the total TV/Film points to B2's c.18%. B4 managed to sneak narrowly ahead of F4 in 2008, thanks to Washes Whiter, the Medieval season and an old Doctor Who, but it would prove to be a last stab at glory before fixing upon a steady downward trajectory. Meanwhile, B2 went insanely good, claiming over a quarter of all the points in its category in 2009, thanks mainly to the ridiculously scheduled marathon run of The Wire. It has since returned to its previous level, which is still ahead of its rivals.
I suppose, really, we should consider putting all of this together in one massive table of tables to find out which channels offered what I believed to be the best output over the course of the entire six-year run of this ration-book. Come on then:
Having seen all the graphs, the top of this chart shouldn't really come as any surprise. BBCs 2 & 4 both averaged 4pts/week when put into integers. Film4's average accounts for its late arrival (as do all other such channels) but while it is only 0.2pts/week behind BBC4, it misses the 4pts threshold and would have to settle for 3pts in any practical application of the mean. Radio 4 is top radio channel and sits alongside B1 and C4 in the 2pt stratum. We might have suspected, from the earlier graphs, that the consistent B1 would come higher than C4, but such was the quality of C4's start that it lifted the otherwise inferior channel over the hurdle. R5 marks the best of the rest and would've been higher (as would R4) had the 2010 rules been in operation throughout (on-line channels were not included in this chart as they were only involved in one of the six years). The conjunction of BBC 3 and ITV 4 seems particularly right.
Well, that being done, there remains merely that final traditional flick through the channels of the digi-box in the form of the end-of-year report, or in this case the end of rationing report. We start at the beginning:
The sixth best channel of the last six years began rationing in a far from impressive state, awash with failing Saturday-evening quiz-shows, and insubstantial comp-gen documentaries. But then, from a garage in Wales, came a police box filled to bursting with points: the revival of Doctor Who. Other stand-out programming has included the works of David Attenborough, the curiously adequate Strictly Come Dancing, the ludicrous high-camp perfection of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? (not to be confused with the largely inferior sequels), and the batty Hole in the Wall (though that peaked in its first episode, and found sharks in its pool as soon as the second series). In 2009 it also acquired Formula One, just in time for the biggest rules shake-up in decades and a British driver in car number 1. Since the ration-book began we've had three Doctors Who (nearly a whole surgery's worth). Strictly... is constantly being interfered with, and Saturday nights have passed their point of revival, with the pleasantly daft Robin Hood replaced by the inferior box-ticker that is Merlin. Was Five-killer Jay Hunt to blame for any of this? Probably not; she had her hands full with media witch-hunts like Sachsgate and the Golliwog Affair before she was poached by C4 (all we can really pin on her is the axing of Last of the Summer Wine, dealt a cruel but timely blow; and perhaps the odd crime against old women). No; it's more likely a case of dissipating steam coupled with a lack of invention (Maria should've been an end to it, but was constantly revisited; perfectly functioning Strictly has been tinkered to breaking point). But for a channel pitched fundamentally at cats' eyes, sixth place is, to be fair, pretty good going.
There was never much chance of B2 repeating the ludicrously high score of last year, but such efforts have helped the channel become the best performing of the rationing period. It began with a hodge-podge of OU-affiliated documentaries, the relaunched Top Gear and the great University Challenge, delicately sprinkled with comedy: QI, Extras and Absolute Power joined by Family Guy, American Dad!, and, most importantly, the fantastic Arrested Development. In 2006, Never Mind the Buzzcocks acquired Popworld's Simon Amstell and became very good as a consequence. Documentary improved dramatically in 2007: Adam Curtis's The Trap, Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain and Jonathan Meades: Abroad Again. Last year we had a huge crate of points courtesy of The Wire. This year it was the turn of documentary once again: Matt Collings' Renaissance Revolution leading the gallery alongside Wonders of the Solar System and The Normans. B4 ought to have bled B2 of all that made it any good, but, thankfully for B2 and analogue viewers, it hasn't. Its average overall score of 4pts/wk represents either 4 ok programmes, one good programme and two ok programmes, two good programmes, or one excellent programme and one ok programme. This year it averaged only half this score (2pts/wk) but it still took a fifth of all TV/film points, as it has done pretty consistently throughout the study.
My eighth favourite channel! It's never been all that good; when we started it had Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Creature Comforts but not an awful lot else. Still; better than nothing. And with the combined efforts of Ant & Dec and Scuderia Simon Cowell, Saturday nights have been pretty solidly catered for. Harry Hill's TV Burp offered some welcome light relief too. But ITV no longer has a licence to print money. It has a new boss every few months, and seems constantly to be struggling for the next big thing by ripping off other successful formats (a strategy doomed to failure). Phone-in competitions looked like a possible future, until someone found some rawl-plugs in their handbag. Local TV, once the defining feature of the ITV, is now a millstone constantly being chipped at, and Bragg's Sounth Bank Show has been cast to the Sky. Two big anniversaries occurred at the ITV during the rationing: ITV's 50th birthday, celebrated with a handful of sub-standard docs and a flawed Gameshow Marathon; and Coronation Street's 50th, rather dismally marked with an Emmerdale-style disaster. There seems to be a lack of self-belief at the ITV, but more a lack of money. This year the channel put its last few groats on a roulette wheel called Downton Abbey. It seems to have worked out, which is probably a good thing. But there's still an awful lot of crap on the channel, and whilever the likes of You've Been Framed exists, it's hard to take it seriously.
Once upon a time, C4 was the independent balance to B2. Its position here as fourth TV channel overall must be contrasted with its position this year (the ninth TV channel); the average illustrates the fact that at the start of this study C4 was a good channel, with three strong cards: The Ashes, Matthew Collings, and Popworld. They would ultimately lose all three. They also dropped South Park to buy a past-its-best Simpsons, and wasted good money on the wrong American imports (Lost instead of The Wire). Meanwhile, the once appealing Grand Designs outstayed its welcome but just kept rolling on and on and on. In current affairs, C4 still has teeth: Bremner, Bird and Fortune, Channel 4 News, the alas hideously mis-scheduled Iraq Commission. And its comedy output is by no means completely without merit; Peep Show may have got tired but it still occasionally amuses. Now the channel has a Big Brother shaped hole in it, one wonders if they will find a new cash-cow to milk. Perhaps there's a slight identity crisis going on: C4 likes to feel young and a bit crazy, but all too often the stuff it comes up with is just a bit annoying. Even admirable PSB content like Embarrassing Bodies is clearly not pitched at a hairy old man like me. There is, it seems, a bit of a tabloid/broadsheet line wriggling through the C4 schedules. The problem is that the broadsheet stuff seems increasingly limited to C4N. Now C4 have a new boss. Her name is Jay Hunt.
The best C5 should hope for is 5th place. It has averaged seventh place for TV (tenth place this year). This looks a bit rubbish, though in 2010 it's only a place behind C4, so it can take some warmth from that perhaps. C5 was a channel that showed a lot of promise when we first started with this study. It was reorganizing its programming in 2005, moving steadily up-market with prime-time arts programming headed by Tim Marlow, PSB nugget The Christmas Lectures acquired from the BBC, and a higher quality of US import epitomized by the amusing lupus-baiting medical drama-series House. On top of all this was poured an endless stream of Poker to keep us amused in the small hours. The Poker may soon have got tiresome, but the rest was going strong, augmented by Gavin Stamp's Orient Express and related architectural tours, when Jay Hunt showed up from BBC Daytime. She was there for only six months in 2007/8, during which time she re-introduced the annoying DOG watermark in the top corner, poached Natasha Kaplinsky for desk-perching duties, and, more importantly, axed the arts programming. She then went over to BBC1 to slaughter some old people, leaving Five drifting aimlessly back to being a shapeless, undistinguished blob fighting an unwinnable battle with the ITV. Last year Sky poached House, and so now Five is left with nothing of interest save the odd film.
ITV1 is not particularly for me. ITV2 is especially not for me. I am not its audience. Time was that it would scrape a presence in these charts for putting on some films (usually Total Recall) but now the threshold has been moves for which films can qualify, and ITV2 is left pointless. It is indicative of just how much of a white elephant this whole rationbook thing is, that ITV2 is the most popular digital-only TV channel in this country.
B3 has never really been absolutely clear on what it's supposed to do, other than that it's supposed to do it at 25-34-year-olds (which means that it mostly pitches at 12-year-olds because programme commissioners are bad at maths). When the rationbook began, B3 was an impenetrable soup of repeats sprinkled with some experimental comedy. In 2005 that comedy was chiefly in the form of Smoking Room and Twisted Tales. That year the channel also tried its hand at comedy drama, giving us Doctor Who test-run Casanova and sinister BT-ad Funland. In 2006 it doubled its score, thanks in part to the arrival of Family Guy (in the days when its one joke was still funny). We also met Torchwood and felt slightly ill. By 2007, things were starting to go a bit wrong, and it was all feeling a bit Channel 4. A rebranding exercise followed in 2008, with a cull of the number of episodes of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and a temporary flirtation with in-vision continuity. There was also a short series of pilots, the second of which: Being Human, is now the best thing on the channel. Being Human is by no means amazing, and it owes much to Buffy (which itself owes a little something to Interview with a Vampire). But it's moderately inventive and, in a Buffy-less world, it fills a little hole. B3 is not, let's be fair, really aimed at me, because I am not 12 and into "issues". I have no desire to see George Lamb investigate child labour, or Britain's best disabled butcher try his brass hand on the catwalk. But now and then something half decent sneaks out; not nearly as much as it once did, when B3 was a real testing ground for new comedy, but there's the odd glittering morsel in there should one dare to look. I tend not to be so daring.
Ah... BBC4... The reason I acquired a digibox in the first place was for BBC4. There was no other reason to get one. And I was rewarded for my decision, with Threads, The Year of the Sex Olympics, Cathy Come Home, and numerous other gems. In the first Christmas of rationing we got an amazing Dennis Potter season. A year later I was already starting to worry about my favourite, despite having had such wonders as TV on Trial, Civilisation, Heimat and The Avengers. In 2006 I was still fretting, even though we had a Poliakof season, Our Friends in the North, I Claudius and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to keep TDK in business. In 2007 I was really getting concerned, despite Smiley's People, Krapp's Last Tape and Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, mainly because there was also the underwhelming Children's TV on Trial (nothing like as good as the adult version), the increasingly desperate Britannia strand, and a weekend devoted to Stephen Fry. Meanwhile, BBC2 had Jonathan Meades, C5 had Tim Marlow, and More4 was enjoying a C4 retrospective. In 2008 a repeat of Washes Whiter, some old Doctor Whos, Gergiev Conducts, Steptoe & Son, Jonathan Meades' Magnetic North, and a Medieval season helped me feel a bit happier about the way the channel was going, although More4 provided a superior Christmas season with Ian McKellen doing Shakespeare. Alas, with a new controller at the helm, by June 2009 B4 was repeating old episodes of the fly-on-the-wall shitothon Airport, and finished the quarter in 12th place, behind two ITV channels, C5 and Virgin 1. I spent the rest of the year wringing my hands and generally despairing. That said, we had an RKO season, Nuts in May, a Pinter night (albeit a rather sorry looking one) and an Alan Bennett season (in association with B2). In March 2010, B4 came joint-14th: behind BBC3. And then, in June 2010, it came joint-17th: on a par with channels 4 & 5, and below M4, E4, and ITV1. Its average points-per-week that quarter was zero. BBC4 had died. Now, admittedly, some of the blame for this must fall upon me; I have been a busy little wasp this year, not seeing nearly as much telly as I might once have done, and missing some stuff I would've been interested in seeing. Also, the iPlayer was scoring in its own right for 2010, to the detriment of originator channels. But this effected all channels (all BBC channels in the latter case) equally. B4's nul points was down to more than just my hectic year. Fortunately, at the end of the third quarter there was some improvement, mainly the result of a Liverpool night, ushering in a repeat run of Boys from the Blackstuff and the documentary series All Our Working Lives. The Christmas Lectures also found their way to BBC4 this year. So in the last six months there's been an improvement. But it's an improvement from 0pts to 2pts for a channel that in the first three years of rationing averaged twice that score. It's a step in the right direction, but after seven steps in the wrong direction.
12th place in the combined chart: 10th best TV channel and third best ITV channel. ITV3 is still very much Granada Plus. When we started this book, we were treated to Hammer House of Horrors, Rumpole, and Robin Hood. The 50th anniversary of the ITV leant hope of some exciting archive raiding, but in the end BBC4 showed a deeper sample of ITV's 50 year history in its TV on Trial strand. Still, we did get Tales of the Unexpected in 2006. However, once ITV4 had bedded in, it began to steal the more interesting programming from ITV3 which has become increasingly chintzy as a consequence: Agatha Christie and Rosemary & Thyme. I do think they're missing a trick: surely there's appetite out there for more than just Channel Heartbeat; the vast collected archive of Granada and chums going mouldy in some vault.
When we first began the ration book, this was a place called Sky Travel. It had repeats of Keith Floyd and Rough Guide and was actually surprisingly ok for something called Sky Travel. It then rebranded as Sky 3 but was still showing Floyd and Airline, albeit with a few import dramas chucked in for good measure. Futurama tended to be the only thing on the channel that might hold your interest when flicking through, and that was never much cop. Sky 3 threatened to become more "female orientated" in 2008, though nothing really seems to have changed. It's still just another one of those digital channels, parading crap that even C5 would be embarrassed to air. Unsurprising, then, that it didn't make the final chart.
Known as UK History when we first started, it failed to gain a place on our overall chart, but is probably one of the better channels not to be there. Six years ago it was a collection of second-hand history docs, and its biggest problem (a problem true also of Dave) is that if a programme didn't capture attention when it was on BBC2, it's unlikely to grab you now. That said, if you were bored and happened to stumble upon a Local Heroes or World at War marathon, you could easily get sucked in. As time has gone on, the channel has become increasingly keen upon such marathons. Since rebranding, it's branched out from documentaries and now also has drama. Consequently we've seen A Very British Coup (which has now been broadcast on four channels and three different networks), Sharpe, Porterhouse Blue, Pride and Prejudice and Lipstick on Your Collar. The latter, alas, did not make it to Freeview as it was on during a period when Yesterday time-shared with a different channel and so could not be received in the evenings. That arrangement has since changed, but they butchered Lipstick anyway, as they butcher most programmes, in order to get them to fit an hourly schedule. They're not the only channel to do this; it seems to be habitual as well as stupid. But with all these costume dramas, Yesterday is increasingly encroaching upon ITV3 territory. One wonders if they'll have a fight...
Timeshift: a brilliant innovation or a waste of bandwidth? Ivan's Dictum states that the amount of quality broadcasting (Q) on a channel reduces in line with the number of channels offered such that Q remains constant across the whole. Therefore I've nothing against timeshift, though its usefulness in a post-Tivo world (and a 4oD world) is increasingly open to question. The hardest thing remains remembering it exists.
Here's a channel aimed at those people who like Grand Designs so much that they cannot bare to be without it. In spite of this it is the thirteenth best channel in our overall list. It's pre-launch publicity described M4 as an "adult entertainment" channel, which confused a lot of people when all they got was a string of acclaimed American documentaries and A Place in the Sun. The Daily Show proved that American satire is about 40 years behind our own, but was still worth a laugh or two. Much-touted M4 exclusives like Death of a President and that David Blunkett drama whose name eludes me at the mo generally proved to be over-hyped and under-whelming. But the channel dug out GBH for a welcome repeat run in 2006, and in 2007 had a thoroughly good archive raid in the name of C4's 25th birthday, scoring the highest programming average for that year. 2008 had two highlights: a Kubrick season and Ian McKellen does Shakespeare. 2009 was less whelming, with only True Stories and repeats of Father Ted shining out in the schedules. Aside from Rory Bremner at election time, and the slightly crap Todd Margaret in November, 2010's points came entirely from films. At least the incessant Grand Designs is beginning to give way to Come Dine with Me. This probably demonstrates the impact of the recession more graphically than anything else I can think of right now (though I'm deliberately not trying).
After exploding onto Freeview in the second half of 2006, Film4 has taken a handful of quarterly victories, though it never carried the momentum through to take a whole year. Still, it's the third best channel in our big totalizer, so good for it. The biggest flaw, and one that never really comes out in the ration book despite our numerous tweaks of the rules, is that the channel only really has a quite limited pool of films. How many times have we seen Green for Danger, All About Eve, or A Matter of Life and Death? All good films, but the reels must be worn out by now, surely! And there's a convenience issue in that the best stuff is either on too late at night, or first thing in the afternoon (one of the biggest problems with the endless stream of Bergmans). It would be a whole lot less hassle to get a subscription to LoveFilm. Still, now and again the airing of something might just fall right, and then F4 comes into its own.
Bless its little cotton socks; still available in sizes 3, 7 and 8. Every now and again QVC is still compelling viewing for the lost soul aimlessly grazing. It acts as a warning sign to idle +ers who may have disregarded Sky3: "Turn back while you still can!"
When we started, this was called The Hits. It was one of two music video channels flaunting semi-naked ladies to wanking teenage boys. This one was the most reliable, but also the most covered in excessive graphics (mainly text-messages of undying love). In 2006 they even introduced a "gimp" at the bottom of the screen who would do texters' bidding. Two years later, The Hits became 4Music. The graphics were toned down, but other programming such as the xday Night Project started to creep into the schedules. This is unfortunate, and I find it hard to believe that anybody welcomes it, but there we go.
BBC2+1year. Since 2007 the sillily named channel has been giving us strings of repeats of Top Gear, QI and Nevermind the Buzzcocks. It's also tried its hand at original programming: an inevitably crap new run of Red Dwarf and the slightly more successful panel show Argumental by way of example. I find it hard to believe that anyone particularly seeks out programming on Dave of an evening; rather they stumble on it accidentally, or use it to hammock to something that's on later. Given that, the obsession with squeezing everything into an hourly schedule seems almost sane, but for the fact that it requires the mostly ex-BBC content to be sometimes rather severely edited. This is a shame, as often it's the best jokes that get the chop. Anyway, Dave narrowly made our big end-of-rationing table, so it ought to feel at least slightly chuffed with itself.
It made our chart-of-charts and came a far-from-dreadful 25th this year, but alas, the confusingly named Channel One went off air on 1st February 2011. When we started it was called FTN, and although it was just another shit digital channel, I had a bit of a soft spot for it: it had some gentle cartoons like Dilbert and some amusing ex-Bravo gameshows like Fort Boyard. With ridiculous shoulder-tapping bullshit Most Haunted, and repeats of Bullseye, it even had an audience. But in 2007 it was bought by Virgin and turned into another Sky 3 populated in the most-part by episodes of Star Trek. There was the odd good film at least. And this year it was able to score proper TV points with its repeats of old episodes of Shooting Stars: still funny even when the best jokes are edited out to make the eps fit 30 minutes. In June the channel was sold to Sky who had to work out a way of carrying it on without using the word "Virgin". Nothing else changed except the will to live, so now it's no more. It's slot's been taken over by Challenge TV, which could be alright. Goodbye, FTN. You were ok.
MTV spin-off TMF was always the video channel of second resort, owing to it also having crap MTV docs like Cribs taking up valuable masturbation time. In 2009 the channel became VIVA, and now has even less music vids and even more MTV docs like The Hills. To its credit it also has some crusty old South Parks and the odd decent film. In this way it straddles two stools, which as any landlord will tell you usually ends in a torn groin.
The slightly less glamourous answer to QVC. I'm surprised it still exists, but there we go. Some people evidently shop on television.
This is still going too; which is quite depressing because it really is tacky. Though it's also mesmerizing watching a struggling young actor or poor old Peter Simon trying to fill time.
In 2005 ITV launched ITV4 with the intention of it replacing the surprisingly decent Men & Motors (M&M ultimately escaped the axe on account of having an audience, but was lost to Freeview when Film4 came along). From the start it had a mix of US-imports and older stuff from the ITV drawer such as Department S. By far the most exciting thing in its first year was spag-western season Once Upon a Time..., introduced by Alex Cox. 2006 showed that I4 had a good collection of films; we were also treated to a repeat of A Very British Coup. Later we got The Prisoner (previously repeated on BBC4) along with various other bits and bobs of decent repetition of the sort that used to top up the likes of B2 and C4 in the '80s and '90s. As time's progressed, the channel's built up its sports profile too, with the World Rally Championship, Darts, and this year The Ashes highlights. But in the last two years, the best thing it's had has been Joss Whedon's wonderful Dollhouse. This has eased the channel to joint-10th place in our overall chart; level with BBC3. I think it can get higher than that.
Dave ja vu
It's a good name.
Of all the channels, why do we have ITV2+1? Because ITV2 is the most popular digital-only channel, remember.
You know E4; it's that channel that's always showing Friends. When it first arrived on Freeview it also had non-stop Big Brother action, which was quite fun in a strange way. For most of the rationing period, E4's scraped its points with a bag of acceptable films which it dips into now and again. This year we also had Glee. Glee is an odd fish that walks a tightrope between nauseating pap and knowing cheese on the verge of cynicism. It's going to fall off soon; you can feel it. Arch-nemesis PE teacher Sue is getting too much character development to survive as the character she needs to be and that will be a bad thing, because then Glee just becomes High School Musical, only more annoying. But we've not reached that stage yet, and there's still humour to be had from the thing. E4 benefits from this with a joint-16th place: level with the rare BBCi and the more kindred ITV2.
When it launched in 2006 I described Five Life as "a channel that shows no potential for anything interesting. Unless you find Trisha interesting." It may have changed its name since, but Trisha's still there. Home & Away is there too. Film alone allowed the channel to scrape onto the last run of our overall leaderboard.
Originally called Five US, it gained an A in 2009. Originally filled with repeats of House, it is now almost entirely populated by CSI. It gets points for its films, which are generally not bad. It scores on average twice as many points as Fiver.
The Big Deal
I have never seen this interactive quiz channel. It runs at 5-6am when I am safely tucked up in bed.
It was a long time coming but it finally arrived. Lucky us.
Create and Craft
Sister channel to Ideal World. We're really in the thick of it now.
Because the world has enough stupid people.
Another channel from the Sky 3 box of cheap American import bullshit. It launched at the end of 2009 when I said of it "It has TJ Hooker. That's probably all you need to know". It still has TJ Hooker.
Rocks & Co. 1
More opportunities to buy.
We used to have Sky Sports News. Now we have this. God help us all.
I still think there should be more old stuff. I still think that old stuff is just as acceptable to children as new stuff and also gives us all a common ground. It's nice to exchange notes on Trumpton. Still, In the Night Garden is a beautiful thing. The Sarah Jane Adventures are flawed but still quite good. And Horrible Histories is the best sketch-show on TV at the moment.
Tackier than the BBC, relying more on US advert-cartoon imports. It's managed to scrape the odd point with an old Harry Hill series.
No longer with the 24 at the end. It's rolling news. What were you expecting? You're better off listening to Radio 5.
It's easy to get sucked into BBC Parliament if you let it. Select Committees are particularly engrossing, if on a subject of interest. But the best stuff is from the cupboard: we've had an old Question Time, evenings of archive devoted to a particular theme such as the Suez Crisis, and best of all - truly great - we've had the Election Reruns: sit back on a bank holiday and enjoy the thrills and spills of Heath v Wilson or whatever, complete with weather forecasts and the like. The trouble, of course, is that BP's listings are all squashed into a corner of the RT, and it's easy to ignore them. So this year, if there was any such fun and games I failed to notice it (though I was looking at bank holidays and didn't spot any). If there was none, that's a shame.
The news being shouted.
The news from an American perspective. The Herald Tribune for television.
RT: Russia Today
As above but Russia. The Cold War lives on.
The Lifeline channel, effectively. It still keeps rumbling on, albeit before I get up.
Al Jazeera English
I've been watching a lot of this in the last week, on account of them having had the best coverage of the Egypt situation. It's rather good. Dunno what it's like when there isn't a revolution taking place, but right now it's pretty impressive stuff, considering.
I don't know what this is, but it's only on between 6-8am.
Smile TV 2 & 3
Blue Kiss TV
Red Hot TV
Soft porn telethons. It's public service broadcasting of a kind...
Effectively dead, having given up all pretense to be a news service and now solely concerned with flogging holidays and the like.
BBCi (teletext element)
Ceefax without the cachet.
Can't say I use it. Because I don't.
BBCi (televisual elements)
Digital TV is going to be brilliant, right, cos it's going to be x, y, z, and i, where i stands for "interactive". And sometimes it was. You could play a quiz while watching Antiques Roadshow, choose between two different lectures on Shakespeare, enjoy a choice of commentaries on sporting events, choose between tables at Snooker or stages at Glastonbury. The film Amores Perros was even broadcast essentially as a DVD, with a director's commentary and various extras to choose from. Mainly, though, it wasn't really very interactive... it was just another couple of channels to play with; particularly handy come the Olympics, but also should we want to watch Final Score all afternoon, of an endless loop of some Radio 2 session. At the very start of the ration book, the BBCi channels would even be used as galleries for art projects. It was all quite fun and exciting. Alas, last year BBCi was reduced to just one channel. No more choice of tables in the snooker; the Winter Olympics were best viewed on-line, and nothing remotely exciting seems to happen on 301 anymore. The on-line point is perhaps the most telling here. As broadcast television eats itself shitter, it becomes easier and easier to do all this crap on the computer. You don't have to worry about only having a handful of channels to play with: you can have as many streams as you like: broadcast from as many sporting venues or as many music stages as you have crews to film them. Television is not yet dead, but it's in a home and doesn't recognise you anymore when you visit. It's getting close to time we pulled the aerial...
BBC Radio 1
Dead to me.
BBC Radio 1Xtra
Not really invited to this party.
BBC Radio 2
Looking increasingly confused. The days of Mark Lamarr's Shake Rattle & Roll, and the odd documentary earn it enough points to be considered the sixth best radio station in this ration book overall.
BBC Radio 3
The fourth best station in our ultimate tally. In 2006, when the station was 60 years old, I wrote: "R3 is very good. I should listen to Kershaw more, I should listen to Mixing It more. I should listen to more of it more. But I don't. Cos I have other things to listen to. But I know it's there, and I wouldn't want it to not be. I'm a little concerned with the new plans that will see less Late Junction, but we shall see." A year later, Kershaw was in jail, Mixing It had been brutally axed and Late Junction had indeed been pared down. To make matters worse, the Proms that year was a little underwhelming too. Still, it struggles on, and most of its points in recent years have come from Drama on 3. In 2011, Kershaw is back, although he's saddled with a slightly naff format that doesn't really give him much freedom. Maybe it's a step in the right direction or maybe I'm just stuck in a past I can never regain.
BBC Radio 4
Three words alone make the licence fee worthwhile: In Our Time. Yet R4 has even more to offer us that Melvyn and his hair. There's the comedy, chiefly. There's the drama which is sometimes rather good. There's the news coverage, not least Today, PM and The World at One. And there is the documentary material. R4 is, let us be quite clear about it, a brilliant brilliant thing, even if it is occasionally all a bit poncy and middle class; all a bit Archers and Desert Island Discs. R4 is a special place. And Long Wave has the Cricket too, although it broadcasts the Shipping Forecast during any important bits. An indication of Radio 4's greatness is that it came 4th in our overall chart (behind B2, B4 and F4) and second in this year's chart (behind...).
BBC Radio 5 Live
R4 may be a special place, just as a village green is a special place. But so is the local pub. And so is Radio 5. Oh, glorious glorious Radio 5. It's the second best radio station in the overall chart and the best of all the channels this year (an indication of how it might've performed had the current rules applied throughout). Two programmes in particular have made R5 great over the last decade: Simon Mayo and Drive. This year Mayo left R5 for R2, because he is a silly billy. But he left us with a new innovation: Kermode & Mayo's Film Review - the BBC's flagship film programme. The combined weight of this and the ever wonderful Drive (wonderful for the brilliant Peter Allen) makes R5 a truly fantastic thing. And the rest of the schedule is ok too.
BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Bundled with R4LW in previous years for rationing purposes, this is a place for sports coverage deemed to insignificant or too big to fit on R5. The odd Formula 1 race used to be on here in the ITV days, but most of the points that have gone to making this the third best radio station overall have come from Test Match Special and other cricket coverage. TMS is brilliant, and that's enough to make R4LW / R5LSE pretty good too (especially as five days at 2pts a throw soon adds up!).
BBC 6 Music
I find this almost indistinguishable from Radio 2, only slightly better. There's good stuff there, I'm sure, but it's on digital so not very practical to get to unless I'm on the computer, in which case I can listen to Spotify. Saved from the axe this year, it's now feeling even more like Radio 2 after acquiring Radcliffe and Marconie.
BBC Radio 7
In the future, BBC7 will have no reason to exist. It will be replaced by the BBC Archive. Until that eventuality it provides an inconvenient glimpse of R4 passed.
BBC Asian Network
Community radio. What bits I've heard have been ok but its days appear numbered.
BBC World Service (English language European service)
Much ignored, but really rather good. The first port of call for breaking news of an international bent. It now properly incorporates the BBC radio text functions and the screensaver, which is an incentive it lacked before.
The Hits Radio
102.2 Smooth Radio
95.8 Capital FM
Premier Christian Radio
The rest is commercial radio, and nobody listens to that anymore, surely. We have Spotify now.
Well... it's taken me a month to cobble all this together, after six years of wasted Saturdays pouring through the Radio Times. I hope that to some extent or other it's been worth it; that you've got at least a smidgeon of entertainment or enlightenment from what has essentially been me saying what I've liked as if it were incontrovertible truth and you putting up with it. This year has been a bit of a struggle, logistically, hence my frequent long pauses. This year circumstances are such that it would likely be even more difficult to carry on and do the ration-book justice, and so rationing has finally come to an end. That doesn't mean an end of reviews or graphs or such-like. But it does mean a break from these things. In its place, RACING NEWS, in which points are given to the provisional running orders of C4N in order to determine news trends. That'll be on-line later in the month. Until then...
Many thanks for sharing in these last six years, and happy viewing to come...