Thursday, 10 March 2011

Talking Point: are same-day American premieres of British TV shows unfair?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Doctor Who's sixth series is being shown on BBC America the same day as its UK premiere on 23 April. This continues a trend started by Doctor Who with its 2010 festive special "A Christmas Carol" and the fourth series premiere of Primeval. I'm sure many Americans are overjoyed at this news, and I certainly don't blame them, but is it fair to British viewers, who pay for the show?

My argument boils down to the fact British viewers, who already have to wait weeks/months for US shows to be legally broadcast, have very few "TV events" to get excited about. The fact a world-famous show like Doctor Who premieres in its native land, weeks before anywhere else, gives British fans a sense of ownership and, yes, some fun bragging rights. For just a few times in the year, it's the rest of the TV-watching world who are jealous of us, and not the other way around. Or am I alone in getting jealous?

There are times when a US show airs within a week of its transmission here, too -- and that's fantastic. I don't begrudge the US getting to see their own shows first. That same-week system should be standardized and cut both ways. If Doctor Who premiered on BBC America within 7 days of its BBC1 premiere, that's absolutely fine with me.

I suppose we should be grateful Doctor Who's broadcast isn't simultaneous because of time zone issues. Thanks science! And I wouldn't complain if more UK broadcasters had regular same-day transmissions of equivalently popular US dramas. But it rarely seems to work that way. Maybe one day global simulcasts will be commonplace. That's fair. But, as it stands, I'm frustrated a perk of being a UK TV license fee payer has been eroded like this.

Do you agree with me? I bet Americans don't! I know it's a (very) petty issue, at heart, but I don't want the few instances of temporary exclusivity on globally popular UK shows to disappear, especially if it's a one-sided situation that benefits American audiences. In light of this news, Torchwood: Miracle Day had better broadcast on BBC1 the same day as Starz in the summer, considering it's actually co-created by the BBC...