I like the BBC. I like BBC Radio. I can sort of get over the fact that the national BBC networks spend more than the entire earnings of commercial radio, just on content. I can just about cope with the fact that they have all the best spectrum. I’ve also begrudgingly accepted the cross-media deals BBC Radio offers commercial radio talent. And, you know what, I even feel sorry for the BBC that it faces brickbats from all sides, when generally they do an extremely good job.
However, what I really don’t understand is when it’s in the position it know’s it’s in, it chooses to just take the piss. No, that’s unfair. It has absolutely no concept of its position in the wider radio ecology, instead it just marches forward ignoring whatever it crushes below its elephantine feet.
A small example. There’s a new TV advert for Radio 1 that promotes the Official Chart show. Now, out of all the programmes that Radio 1 can choose to promote on TV, they’ve chosen the only one that commercial radio competes with the BBC on directly, and the only programme that commercial radio actually beats Radio 1 at.
Instead, they could have promoted the excellent specialist takeover on Bank Holiday Monday or suggested that people should try 1Xtra. They could have talked about the new Matt Edmondson Sunday show, Zane Lowe’s excellent, accessible specialist show or the new way to start the weekend with Annie Mac. They could have even talked about new time for the brilliant and public-service Sunday Surgery or the new progamme for teenagers, the 5:19 show, that follows the chart. Instead they talked about a programme that i’d guess the majority of the country already knows about. It’s proably the only programme on the network that’s been in the same slot for over 20 years. Indeed, if you asked someone what channel, what day and what time the official chart is on, i’d assume that a pretty signficant number of people would say Radio 1 and Sunday’s from 4pm.
Now, I of course don’t really know why they have chosen to promote the chart. I’m actually not even convinced that they’re doing it to compete with commercial radio. The sad thing is that they’re probably completely oblivious to it. They’ve looked at their own RAJAR for that timeslot and thought “Hmmm, we really should do something about that, let’s put some more effort into the show, let’s give it some telly, the research shows that listeners don’t think it’s very current, so lets give a mid-week update to make it seem more up to date – lets see what that does”.
They’ve ignored the fact that, even though commercial radio has led the BBC for a few years now, 12 months ago it chose to change it’s formula and make it more up to the minute – it’s now based on downloads and the chart can change during the show. It chose to innovate and push the programming on (all the stuff that commercial radio gets accused of never bothering to try). The BBC have also ignored that it’s the only truly national pop programme that commercial radio does. And they’ve chosen to ignore that commercial radio does it much better with less resources and without even the ‘official’ chart data (which the BBC chooses to purchase exclusively).
Like I say, I like the BBC. I would defend to my last that it should exist and be able to broadcast both mainstream and specialist programmes. However, for the love of God, can they just employ one person in the organisation who can understand the broader radio market and can just whisper to a Controller “you know what, maybe we don’t have to completely take the piss?”
I’m not Murdochian in wanting the BBC to be smaller or just do worthy things and news. I just want them to take their £3bn of public income and, every single day, think:
1. We’re in a really lucky and priviliged position
2. How do we make this [programme] even more distinctive?
3. How can we use our scale and resources to help commercial and non-commercial operators give more value to our licence fee payers?
4. How do we enhance the [radio/tv/online] ecology and add to the whole rather than just think about our own share?
Is that really too much to ask? And can they please choose one other programme to advertise on the telly.