Why Young People Need The BBC Too

From hangover trash to ground-breaking documentaries, we probably all owe the BBC more than we think

Why Young People Need The BBC Too

by Nell Frizzell |
Published on

At times, the debate about the future of the BBC can seem like 14 whey-faced men wrestling over a bread roll at a Harvester: undignified, unpleasant and motivated purely by self-interest.

But my god, the BBC is more important than that.

For many young British people (and beyond), the BBC was our big sibling, our teacher, our alarm clock, our soundtrack, how we got our first job and how we eased our hangovers. It’s how you heard the news, learned your alphabet, watched sport, spent a four-hour car journey to a festival, discovered what it’s like in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, wrote your first TV sketch, heard the best new music and avoided all those adverts for bad ready meals and walk-in baths.

So, as the present government freezes the license fee, in fact pushes to replace it with subscriptions, and hands the £750m cost of free TV licences for over-75s back onto the BBC, it’s time to reflect on just what it is that’s under threat.


BBC Three has the self-imposed remit to be ‘never afraid to try new things’. It’s where unexpected and challenging documentaries like Billie J D Porter’s Secrets of China or Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia and Teen Model Factory were developed and shown.

It’s where huge comedies like Family Guy, Bad Education, Gavin and Stacey and Murder in Successful were transmitted.

It’s also where we head for pure we-know-it’s-trash-but-we-still-want-to-watch-it like Don’t Tell The Bride or Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents. Not to mention brand new dramas like Murdered By My Boyfriend and Some Girls.

And, and all the other BBC television stations, of course. And the other shows. Eastenders, Sherlock, Great British Bake Off, Panorama, the documentaries, the comedies, films, everything on iPlayer. That’s all pretty great, too.


BBC Writersroom is one of the few places where new and emerging writers can get scripts read by professional commissioners and, even, the opportunity to work on BBC projects.

You can send them your script, get tips from their Writer’s Lab, apply for all sorts of writing competitions and get advice from industry professionals.


BBC music radio gave us Gemma Cairney, Nick Grimshaw, Lauren Laverne, Jameela Jamil, Annie Mac, Scott Mills and Reggie Yates, to name just a tiny few. When the BBC suggested it might have to close 6Music they received more than 25,000 emails petitioning against it. Radio 1xtra gets 958,000 listeners a week. Some of the best DJs and radio producers cut their teeth on the BBC while new bands and artists still see a significant impact after getting on the BBC playlist.

All of which, of course, is funded by the BBC license fee. It’s not just for telly, after all.

The news

We don’t like to admit it, but without Newsbeat and Newsround, lots of us could probably have sailed through quite a lot of our life completely unaware of what was happening in politics, health, education, sport, the arts, finance and elsewhere across the world.

I trust the BBC news website more than my own mother. And I respect it even more. What other institution has correspondents posted across the world, bringing us the stories other news outlets have neither the resources, interest or freedom to cover? And in the sort of politically-balanced, objective tone that means it will always get accused of bias by the right and left in equal measure?

Even if you only have the radio on while making breakfast, or are chatting to your friends between Pound Shop Wars and Great British Bake Off, you still get to hear and watch BBC news – a news service admired, aped and celebrated around the world.

And, while there may be things wrong with the BBC, there’s still a hell of a lot that’s right with it. Like Armando Iannucci, the writer of Veep and The Thick of It, said at the Guardian Edinburgh international television festival this week: ‘If public-service broadcasting was a car industry, our ministers would be out championing it overseas, trying to win contracts, boasting of the British jobs that would bring.

‘And if the BBC were a weapons system, half the Cabinet would be on a plane to Saudi Arabia to tell them how brilliant it was. And yet, it’s quite the reverse. They talk of cutting it down to size, of hiving off, of limiting the scope, with all the manic glee of a doctor urging his patient to consider the benefits of assisted suicide.’

You might think the BBC is irrelevant. You might think it's nothing to do with you. You might think that you can get it all for free online anyway. But if you watch television, read the news, listen to the radio, want to work in TV or love music – or ever want to in the future – then it’s probably not.

Like this? Then you might be interested in:

Why The Great British Bake Off Needs Its People of Colour

Billie JD Porter Tells Us About Her New Show On Young People In China

Jessie Cave’s Love Life Advice

Follow Nell on Twitter: @NellFrizzell

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us