BBC Four fans are a small but noisy band. So, the news that the BBC is to cease commissioning new programmes for the channel and shift to archival programming as part of its ongoing cuts prompted the inevitable outpouring of disgust and dismay on social media this week, some of it from BBC Four presenters.

Historians, film critics, musicians, writers and Armando Iannucci all announced their displeasure. Without BBC Four, we were reminded, no Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe, no Detectorists, (my own favourite sitcom of the last 10 years), no Scandi Noir. No slow TV either.

More recently, it’s the station’s history and arts programming that has taken the eye. And, of course, some of us go there principally to moan on Twitter about how terrible Jason Donovan is every time he turns up on the Top of the Pops repeats.

So, basically, if it goes ahead (it needs regulatory approval) it’s probably a bad idea. The BBC are sacrificing BBC Four’s quality and originality. It also seems a bit ageist that the channel whose viewers tend to skew older loses out just as BBC Three, aimed at those elusive younger viewers, returns from its online exile.

Perhaps if we take a step back, though, there are other ways to consider the question. Is it possible to see any positives? I can see a couple of possibilities.

For a start, BBC Four isn’t quite the channel it was in its heyday. Archive content already accounts for 79 per cent of its output according to the BBC’s annual plan. It’s all a bit scattershot, though. There is huge potential for the BBC to exploit its archive in an intelligent way. There is definitely a space for well-curated archival programming that extends beyond old music and sitcom repeats. Something that sees repeats as more than just filler but as a way of addressing television’s own history.

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(In my wilder fantasies, I admit, I have imagined BBC channels that simply repeat whole years of programming. Somewhere on Freeview it could always be BBC1981, BBC1982, BBC1996 – choose your year of preference – but I accept that’s probably a bit OTT.)

There is also the question of what the disappearance of BBC Four might mean for other BBC channels? You could argue that BBC Two in particular has largely hived off its commitments to the arts to BBC Four. The BBC plan suggests BBC Two will double its investment in music and the arts spending, moving its arts coverage back towards a mainstream audience. This is not unwelcome. As someone old enough to remember watching Werner Herzog movies on BBC Two, the idea that the channel’s ecology might move beyond lifestyle programming during prime time seems worth welcoming. (That said, if they hire Sheridan Smith to make a documentary about the Impressionists I might not be quite so impressed. And I like Sheridan Smith.)

However, the question that does need to be asked is what will be lost if these changes go ahead? A space, I believe, to think about television differently. To see it as something that can extend beyond formats and break out of tired TV habits in commissioning. (Believe it or not, there is more to history than the Tudor era and Queen Victoria. Some of it doesn’t involve the royal family at all).

In my head, the ideal TV channel is smart, funny, outward-looking (it might even speak in foreign languages; though I do need the subtitles) and innovative. BBC Four isn’t that. But it’s closer than most.