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The biggest story in the UK right now is ‘Bake-Off,’ not Brexit

British baking hit moves from BBC to rival broadcaster after a year’s negotiations was unsuccessful

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 3:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 3:36pm

It’s the news that has sparked a social media storm and media controversy in the UK not seen since the vote to leave the European Union and it’s all to do with buns.

The BBC, which is funded by a compulsory license fee, has lost the contract to broadcast “The Great British Bake Off” – one of its biggest ratings and money winners – to a competitor after protracted negotiations with the show’s maker failed to produce a new deal.

Negotiations between the BBC and the show’s makers, Love Productions, have been going on for a year but on Monday evening it was announced that no deal had been reached and that the programme would be moving to commercial broadcaster Channel 4 next year.

In its seven seasons, “Bake Off” has become a national obsession, clocking up viewing figures that were higher than major sporting events and talent shows. The 2015 final show attracted a record audience of 13.5 million viewers, according to the BBC.

The show features contestants from the general public baking cakes, pastries and breads in different “challenges” each week testing their technical knowledge and creativity and trying to impress the judges, celebrity bakers Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry.

The seventh series is currently airing on BBC 1 and its loss to Channel 4 in 2017 will be felt by the cash-strapped corporation. The show’s formula has proven popular worldwide and the British version of the show has been sold to almost 200 countries or the format adapted by other countries.

The Telegraph newspaper reported that Love Productions, which is 70 per cent owned by Sky, was seeking a fee of £25 million (US$33.3 million) a year from the BBC to hold on to the show, more than four times the current amount it currently pays. Love Productions announced Monday night that it had signed a new three-year broadcasting contract with Channel 4 instead.

In a statement released on Monday, the BBC said it had worked with the production company to nurture the programme and create “the huge hit it is today” but that its resources were not “infinite.”

“We made a very strong offer to keep the show but we are a considerable distance apart on the money,” the BBC’s press office said in a statement. “The BBC’s resources are not infinite.” The corporation added in its statement that it hoped that Love Productions would “change their mind so that Bake Off can stay ad free on BBC One.”

Soon after, however, Channel 4 announced that it had poached the show. In a statement on Monday evening, Channel 4 said that its stewardship of the show would allow it to remain “free-to-air.”

Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s Chief Creative Officer said that the Channel 4 was “very proud to be the new home for The Great British Bake Off.” “I’m delighted we have been able to partner with the hugely talented team at Love Productions to keep this much loved show on free-to-air television.”

In the same statement, Love Productions’ Creative Director Richard McKerrow said Channel 4 would be the show’s “perfect” new home. “It’s a public service, free-to-air broadcaster for whom Love Productions have produced high quality and highly successful programmes for more than a decade.

“It’s tremendously exciting to have found a broadcaster who we know will protect and nurture The Great British Bake Off for many years to come.”

The loss of “Bake Off” or “GBBO,” as the show is affectionately known, will be keenly felt for the BBC. With its quintessentially British feel, the show has been one of the biggest success stories for the public broadcaster.

The trials and tribulations of the contestants in the kitchen – ranging from collapsing cakes to the now-legendary “soggy bottom” pastry – have made for entertaining family viewing. It is unknown whether the judges or presenters, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, will continue to work on the show in its new home.

The first Bake Off programme planned for broadcast on Channel 4 will be a celebrity version of the show in 2017 in aid of charity.

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