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BBC Thinking of Canceling Sky At Night 171

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-stars-in-the-sky dept.
Smivs writes "A year after veteran presenter Sir Patrick Moore died, the BBC are discussing pulling this iconic program. This has unleashed a torrent of criticism from fans of the monthly science-based astronomy show. There is an on-line petition for those who want to have their say."
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BBC Thinking of Canceling Sky At Night

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  • Nooo!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Michael Casavant (2876793) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @06:33AM (#44957821)
    What a terrible loss that would be. The Sky at Night is a very unique show that is a geared to the amateur astronomer. Seriously BBC, what does it actually cost to have a program like this on late at night, once a month?
    • Re:Nooo!!! (Score:5, Informative)

      by nojayuk (567177) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @07:12AM (#44958005)

      It costs very little to produce Sky at Night. I worked on the show doing computer graphics over a decade ago; there's an old joke about the official BBC tartan being "small checks" and I can attest to that. The schedule was one 15-minute show a month involving a two-man talking-heads format in a tiny cubbyhole studio plus an annual "spectacular" with Sir Patrick making a visit to, say, Meteor Crater or a famous observatory like Siding Springs. Each studio program took a day to record, maybe three days production, scripting etc. There wasn't much else the BBC produced that cost as little per show.

      • by firex726 (1188453)

        As with much of TV, question is could they make more money repurposing that time for other programing?
        The show might be cheap and making a return, but could they swap it out for something that could make an even better return?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AlecC (512609)

          Since the BBC makes its money from the license fee, not from advertising, it has no concept of "return" for a particular program. And, while viewer figures are not totally ignored, it is regarded as having some mandate to put on programs for minority groups not well catered for by commercial TV - such as, for example, amateur astronomers. On the other hand, TFA gives no idea what viewer figures actually are. If everybody has stopped watching after Moore died, it makes sense to drop the program. If viewer fi

          • by ackthpt (218170)

            Since the BBC makes its money from the license fee, not from advertising, it has no concept of "return" for a particular program. And, while viewer figures are not totally ignored, it is regarded as having some mandate to put on programs for minority groups not well catered for by commercial TV - such as, for example, amateur astronomers. On the other hand, TFA gives no idea what viewer figures actually are. If everybody has stopped watching after Moore died, it makes sense to drop the program. If viewer figures are holding up, it makes no more sense to drop it now than at any time over the past decades.

            Sky at Night also has a magazine [skyatnightmagazine.com], which is very popular with excellent content.

          • Top Gear disagrees with you on the "no concept of return for a particular program".

          • by Pax681 (1002592)

            Since the BBC makes its money from the license fee, not from advertising, it has no concept of "return" for a particular program. And, while viewer figures are not totally ignored, it is regarded as having some mandate to put on programs for minority groups not well catered for by commercial TV - such as, for example, amateur astronomers. .

            The BBC also makes ASSLOADS of money from commercial ventures and selling their programming and licensing overseas. They actually do have a mandate under their public service obligation to produce certain types of programming.

          • by petes_PoV (912422)

            it has no concept of "return" for a particular program

            Actually the BBC is extremely conscious of the "return" that a programme produces. The reason is that it is funded from a compulsory (unless you don't have a TV set) fee, backed by prosecution if you refuse or avoid paying - a tax in every respect except name. The BBC is very sensitive to charges of "elitism": i.e. making programmes that are inaccessible (or too difficult) for the average, soap-watching, reality-loving, tabloid-reading viewer.

            Oddly, the other end of the spectrum: people with high IQs tend

    • Re:Nooo!!! (Score:5, Funny)

      by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak@@@eircom...net> on Thursday September 26, 2013 @07:31AM (#44958115) Homepage Journal

      Seriously BBC, what does it actually cost to have a program like this on late at night, once a month?

      The fragile self esteem of network executives intimidated by science.

      • Seriously BBC, what does it actually cost to have a program like this on late at night, once a month?

        The fragile self esteem of network executives intimidated by science.

        Got to be careful with that science stuff. It sets off the politicians.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Actually, it sets off loud ignorant people with nothing better to do then scream about how 'everyone' hates what science finds.
          The politician reflect that.

    • Re:Nooo!!! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @08:12AM (#44958315) Homepage

      Yep. The BBC isn't supposed to be chasing ratings, it was created to inform/educate* the public so this is exactly the sort of program the they're supposed to be producing. The low on budget, high on imagination approach has brought some truly great TV to the world. It also attracts people like Patrick Moore and David Attenborough who are in it for the passion, not the paycheck.

      [*] Yes, those are the exact words used in the BBC charter: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/about/how_we_govern/charter.pdf [bbc.co.uk]

      (nb. For the Americans: there's no adverts on the BBC so audience figures don't translate into profits).

  • Great idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @06:34AM (#44957829)

    Yeah, great idea. Let's clear the schedule for some more fucking reality TV.

    Fucking morons.

  • Why can't he just regenerate?

    (It works for Dr Who)

  • Bad Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @06:46AM (#44957883)

    Why not give the show to Prof. Brian Cox? He'd be brilliant and has a huge following and the admiration of young people. It would foster an interest in astronomy in a new audience for many years.

    • Oh dear god no, I think he makes a lousy presenter.

      I'm not sure if I fall into the "young people" segment as understood here, being in my mid-20's, but there are so many other science presenters that are better.

      I really don't get why people like Brian Cox so much, but then, apart from the odd fanboy/girl, I don't know anyone who actually likes him. Maybe it is just the case for teenagers?

      • by Xest (935314)

        Because unlike most presenters he actually seems passionate about the subjects he presents on?

        I see other presenters like Ben Fogle, but he comes across as a presenter presenting whatever he's been told to present on even if he's not interested in it, but with Cox you see a clear passion for the subject which is what IMO makes him great at putting across the ideas and concepts in his shows.

        About the only other presenters for science based shows I can think of that have this level of passion and gives them t

        • Because unlike most presenters he actually seems passionate about the subjects he presents on?

          Bingo. If you're going to show popular science programmes, you have to start with a presenter who can actually engage popular interest. Stuffy old academics are not the ideal population to search for such presenters, even if they might be world class authorities on the latest research in their field.

          Cox has a long way to go before he's up there with the likes of David Attenborough, but then again he's only half the latter's age, with a presenting career that has so far collected only a tiny fraction of Atte

          • Plus Attenborough is more than just a presenter, for a while he had various jobs running bits of the BBC culminating in "Director of Programmes", making him responsible for the output of both BBC channels. He was offered the top job but decided to return to the other side of the camera.
      • I think he's a brilliant science presenter as his enthusiasm really shines through. Also, he does have a very good way of explaining complex ideas in very simple terms - his explanation of the retrograde movement of mars by drawing a couple of circles in the sand was superb.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        I'm far, far from being a teen, and likely over twice you age.*
        Like his shows, and I think he's a good presenter in that he makes t seem anyone can go into the sciences. Which is true, but often sidelined by social perceptions.

        *I point that out so show I"m not a teen, or young. Not to make it seem like my age, in and of itself, should lend any weight to my argument

    • by Xest (935314)

      I guess it's a question as to whether he'd want to do such late night show bearing in mind he's a lecturer at Manchester Uni.

      It could be quite a problem staying up that late only to have to give a lecture the next morning.

      • by jeremyp (130771)

        If only there were some way to record the show in advance on so sort of storage device and then play it back at transmission time.

        It isn't a live show, you know.

        • by Xest (935314)

          I didn't realise that as I haven't been able to watch it in many years because I go to bed for work well before it's on.

          Didn't it used to be live? I always thought that was part of the charm of it.

          Perhaps when I was a teen and did stay up that late the episodes I watched did just happen to be live (because I know at least some were), hence why I assumed they all were.

          • Didn't it used to be live?

            Nah. I've seen it on Saturday afternoon a few times when it's light outside.

    • by OldBus (596183)
      I like Brian Cox, but he's got loads of other shows and series on the go. There are other decent science presenters around - I like the current Sky at Night team for a start and would be happy if they continued.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @06:51AM (#44957907)

    Elements of the BBC has been trying to finish the Sky at Night program for many years. Back in the Year of Astronomy 2009, I was with a film crew interviewing him at his home, where he talked about the fight he has had keeping it going.

    Now he's gone, the knives are out. The program does not fit well within the BBC's output - it is a fact based program without stupid gimics or pointless 'celebrities'. Those celebs that do appear are (very) keen astronomers. It is a program format that works well for it's target audience - and it's an audience that is quite big. Every year the BBC (to their credit) organise a public astronomy event. This has proved very popular with families and individuals. My local astronomy society has seen an increase in members and enquiries whenever this event is on.

    The problem seems that although the program format works, it is seen to be 'old' - and as we all know, managers want change for change sake. They may talk about viewing numbers, but the program has been aired at different times - often edited to only 20 minutes.

    The BBC want it gone, despite Chris Lintott and Lucie Green doing an excellant job with it recently.

    • by AGMW (594303)
      Oh I do hope they don't try and Top Gearise it, like they did with Gardener's World a year or so back. With GW they reverted to the old format (and quite possibly killed Toby Buckland's TV Gardener career!).

      Hey BBC, do us all a service and just leave it alone!

  • But he's still on Youtube.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2013 @06:56AM (#44957929)

    What the BBC badly need to do, is revert the show to its old format - one main presenter (e.g. Dr Lintott) expounding on Astronomy, plus *relevant* guest experts, and loose the current crop of b-list cabaret circuit comedians and fading celebs, who have infested the show like roaches over the past few years - if I wanted to see that lot, I'd be watching the One Show, sick bag in hand.

    Like a lot of other BBC sourced science programs (e.g. Horizon), Sky at Night has been dumbing down for some time, and, frankly, both the programme and the licence-fee payers deserve better.

  • If you don’t watch or record television programmes as they are being shown on TV, on any device, you don’t need a TV Licence.
    http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check/viewtopiccontent.aspx?id=TOP12 [tvlicensing.co.uk]
    The world got along fine without dross TV shows. Go read a book, play music, paint, exercise, play games, fuck, cook. write. Go to a play. Watch live performace it's in 3D!. Make the world a better place.
    As for the BBC make programmes for X. Do you really need another polar bear program?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Ah, you don't like TV; therefore you assume the thing you so like are better.

      well done.

      • the thing you so like are better.
        You lost me at that bit. I guess "make the world a better place" is a bad thing to want?
        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          I'm not sure watching "Spamalot" on stage is going to make the world a better place any more so than watching Hollyoaks on TV. They're both a load of old tripe; one load of old tripe being performed live while the other is recorded doesn't make it more worthy. Oh, did you mean "watch meaningful and intellectual theatre", rather than just ANYTHING on stage? In that case, can I qualify that you should only watch meaningful and intellectual television as a valid comparison?

          I'm not sure the world would be a bet

  • by ledow (319597) on Thursday September 26, 2013 @07:24AM (#44958071) Homepage

    Doesn't matter. Broadcast TV is dying.

    The BBC has David Attenborough, ffs, and yet still we end up with the program dumbed down, repeating previous "information" on animals, and selling itself on 3D and other crap. And last I heard, it was all moved to the Eden channel which I can't get anyway.

    The BBC have no interest in keeping this kind of stuff going, so forcing them to keep it is counter-productive. They'll just do their best to cripple it so it "dies" naturally. Already comedians appear on any programs that have the slightest bit of intellect to them to appear "entertaining" to people who wouldn't care less about the program anyway (QI, Science Club, Sky at Night, etc.). Some of them add something (Dara O'Brien or whatever his name is, is actually quite intellectual but still it descends into nob gags, and the people they bring on with him haven't a clue and are just there to be laughed at for not knowing the answer, basically).

    Let them kill it off, one of the world's longest running programs on TV, just because they want to. Let them be the idiots. The alternative is a sidelining that will kill it eventually anyway, which is where we've been for the last few years.

    The Internet really needs to have a way for people to find content online that has the same ideals as those programs did early on - to educate and inform, not entertain - and let people discover their own niches free of the BBC's over-paid "talent".

    Schools and exams are dumbed down already. Now TV is dumbed down. Appeal to the lowest common denominator as always, and suck every outlier back to the "average".

    There's little left of merit on the BBC and what there is I cherry-pick out of iPlayer. Let them re-run crap like Doctor-fucking-Who to their heart's content and then wonder why nobody's paying for a TV licence.

  • No doubt they'll replace it with some sort of reality show. Utter garbage. The BBC is synonymous with bad decision making these days.
  • Actually check the iplayer, and watch new epsisodes.

  • Star Gazer is the closest thing to this in the US. http://www.jackstargazer.com/ [jackstargazer.com] I grew up watching this show back in the 80's. IIRC, the little 5 minute segment would air between Sesame Street and Dr. Who on PBS in Florida. Don't know if that was true in other markets. And it's still shown today. It's what helped spark my interest in astronomy,
  • Nobody cares.

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