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Losing Bake Off is a sign of a crumbling BBC

The recent news that the BBC lost the rights to the iconic TV programme The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) shocked the nation to its core, as it was revealed that the show would move to Channel 4 instead. The drama then continued to unfold, as first Mel and Sue, the charismatic presenting duo, and then the beloved Mary Berry, announced their decisions to quit the show and remain with the BBC.

The surprises did not stop there however, as Paul Hollywood, GBBO’s other judge alongside Berry, released a statement saying that he would remain with the show, abandoning the BBC and moving to Channel 4. While these events are understandably hugely significant for fans of GBBO, they also raise questions over the future of the BBC itself.

The BBC is renowned for its high quality shows, as it not only nurtures new talent, but also continues to broadcast popular and successful programmes which become institutions in themselves, such as Strictly Come Dancing.

With this in mind, it is even more unexpected that the BBC allowed GBBO to slip between its fingers, especially considering how much of the license payers’ money the corporation has invested in developing the show. However, Love Productions, the makers of GBBO, were reportedly asking for £25 million per year, a price which the BBC simply cannot afford to pay right now.

This is not the first time, however, that the BBC has not been able to keep a highly rated show, as last year The Voice moved to ITV, leading people to question how many more independent productions will part from the corporation.

Despite these fears, the BBC has plans to open up 40 per cent of the shows that are currently produced in-house to independent production companies.

In return the government will let the BBC commercialise its programme-making subsidiary, BBC Studioworks, in the hope of preventing talent leaving for greater pay in the independent sector.

Whether or not this move will prove successful remains to be seen, but with government cuts to the BBC budget affecting its output, such as the move to purely online content and the closure of the website BBC Food, it appears that the corporation might be facing some problems in the future.

The BBC is a national institution and these troubles could radically alter not only the corporation itself, but also the entirety of British media production. This whole issue becomes particularly significant when considering the fact that the current BBC Charter expires at the end of this year, and negotiations are under way for the terms of its renewal.

So while the future of the BBC is uncertain, the future of GBBO is even more so. Channel 4 has bought the format of the show, which means that the essential core of it will (probably) remain the same, and Paul Hollywood will clearly be staying as a judge.

A key question is how the advert breaks will affect the atmosphere of the show; if the commercialisation of GBBO will ruin its aesthetic, or if the breaks will simply allow the British public an opportunity to make a quick cup of tea between challenges.

However, a final twist in the Bake Off drama comes with BBC sources allegedly saying that the corporation is considering creating a rival cookery competition to challenge Bake Off, with Mel, Sue and Mary as presenters, which could be the soggy bottom to Channel 4’s pastry of triumph.

Image credit: Flickr/Erika Herzog

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