BBC Stargazing Live returns in 2014, but will The Sky at Night?

After three highly popular series already under its belt, BBC Stargazing Live series 4 is now set to air in January 2014. According to astronomy4everyone, the BBC plans to bring back the annual astronomy based mini-series early next year, with Tuesday the 7th, Wednesday the 8th and Thursday the 9th of January the probable air dates.

Though nothing has yet been officially confirmed by the BBC, we’d expect the presenting line-up of physicist, Professor Brian Cox and comedian, Dara O’Briain, to remain unchanged for the new series.

A Partial Lunar Eclipse - Photo by Wayne Young

A Partial Lunar Eclipse – Photo by Wayne Young

Meanwhile, Stargazing Live has also been in the news for different reasons after Brian May revealed the budget for just one episode, could fund fellow BBC astronomy show The Sky at Night for one whole year. The Queen guitarist and keen amateur astronomer, who has guest starred on both series, took to his Twitter account to reveal the differences in funding levels.

As reported by Radio Times, the reason this has recently become an issue now revolves around uncertainty to whether or not The Sky at Night will be renewed for 2014. With the BBC’s current commitment to the show due to expire by the end of this year, an online petition has been set up, asking the BBC not to axe The Sky at Night. At the time of writing this article, the petition has so far received over 42,000 signatures.

It should be noted though that despite Stargazing Live only being an annual event, over the three nights and including the ‘Back to Earth’ after shows, this adds up to 4.5 hours of TV. In comparison, The Sky at Night airs for around 20 minutes each month, totaling just 4 hours per year.

If it turns out the BBC is only willing to budget a limited amount for all astronomical based programmes, surely viewers would rather see the money spread more evenly between SGL and TS@N. As opposed to one series having to go completely.

Lets not forget that for many years, Sir Patrick Moore refused higher paying propositions from alternative TV channels due to the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ he held with the BBC.

In my opinion, the two shows compliment each other well and it shouldn’t become a choice of keeping one or the other. Given the amount of BBC resources that goes into sport and reality television these days, you’d imagine the money required to produce these kinds of shows must pale in comparison.