The BBC has just announced some new arts coverage, but pull back the curtain a bit and you'll see things aren't as good as they might appear at first.

There may be a glittering headline act in town, with some star names such as Richard Wilson in the cast, but arts and culture at the BBC is in a very sorry state indeed.

What the BBC's new coverage essentially amounts to is 30 new episodes of the arts magazine show Artsnight, which was first introduced earlier this year to fill the slot once occupied by Kirsty Wark's Newsnight Review programme.

Admittedly, the Review format had gone off and needed replacing and the new Artsnight series is perfectly fine as far as it goes. But, in what appears to be a depressing acceptance that no show is complete without a celebrity presenter, the new Artsnight slot will be guest-edited by a different famous person each week.

Among the presenters featured in the new run, which starts in a couple of weeks' time, is Richard Wilson, who will be going to Enniskillen to explore the life and work of Samuel Beckett. There's also the model Lily Cole, who will be asking whether children are good for creativity, and in another episode, Andrew Marr investigates whether our focus on Shakespeare (next year is the 200th anniversary of his death and there will be many more programmes on him) means we are overlooking over great English dramatists.

Jonty Claypole, the director of BBC Arts, says the aim of the programmes is to put artists, writers and decision-makers centre-stage and see the latest trends, ideas and events through their eyes. "It's all part of the BBC's enduring commitment to capture and showcase the extraordinary arts and culture of the UK, up and down the country, right across the year," he says. "Artsnight is cultural access with a strong point of view."

But it is not enough. There was a time when arts and culture was one of the central planks of the BBC's coverage - there were plays almost every week and regular arts documentaries and big interviews. Programmes such as Huw Wheldon's Monitor, John Freeman's great interview programme Face to Face, and the documentary series Arena were taken for granted as a primetime presence on the main channels.

And what do we have now? Arts coverage shunted to the edges. Theatre coverage left shouting from the Gods. Music turned down and left to BBC4 repeats and a solitary programme on BBC2 in Jools Holland's Later. And what about cinema? Where on earth is the serious coverage of that? As for books, that is virtually non-existent, which is a shocking state of affairs from a public broadcaster.

Artsnight is at least an attempt at a regular, intelligent arts slot, and Kim Shillinglaw, who runs BBC2, says it is the start of an ambitious new generation of arts shows on her channel. But it does little to reverse the trivialisation of primetime and nothing to push out into new territory. At best, all it does it adjust the lighting and scenery - what we need is new shows, new stars and a truly new direction.