A funny article just popped up on The Guardian’s website talking about playlisting in general and specifically that Global (owner of pop radio stations) play The Wanted (an artist managed by another company in their group).
The article touches on payola (paying cash/providing services to get songs on the playlist). In my experience most stations wouldn’t consider playing songs that they think would turn people off their radio station – even for cash. Where the line does get blurry is when events are involved. Whether it’s BBC or Commercial, when a radio station organises a big pop event, they’re guaranteed to up the plays of the artists being featured. Radio 1 often ups the plays before they announce the artists for the Big Weekend, so you can always tell who’s going to be playing.
Probably the closest stations get, is from ‘must carry’ acts for events, ie if you want a Rihanna you have to take a lesser artist on the rosta. That also might result in a few extra plays on the station for that artist.
In the article there’s a mention of the Broadcasting Code in relation to Global’s playing of The Wanted:
No commercial arrangement that involves payment, or the provision of some other valuable consideration, to the broadcaster may influence the selection or rotation of music for broadcast.
UPDATED: Jimmy Buckland writes to tell me ‘undue prominence’ has been removed from the Code. Serves me right for some late Sunday googling. You can tell I don’t really do regulation any more….
I’m not sure if this is relevant to Global. I think the question is probably less about the above but perhaps about ‘undue prominence’. No undue prominence may be given in any programme to a product or service.
The Code goes on to say:
Undue prominence may result from:
the presence of, or reference to, a product or service (including company names, brand names, logos) in a programme where there is no editorial justification; or
the manner in which a product or service (including company names, brand names, logos) appears or is referred to in a programme.
They’re probably fine on 1, though the fine line is going to be 2. When does a DJ talk up for a song become undue prominence?
Undue prominence is a difficult thing though. Stations could face the same charge about promoting a station website. Or even someone else’s website. Twitter perhaps, or maybe Facebook?
Selling your own products is nothing new though. We’ve already seen radio stations (and TV channels) named after brands – Saga FM or the Audi Channel, anyone? Should Audi have had to report on Ford’s cars for balance? What about Sky’s cross-promotion of premium channels on its free to air or basic services?
At the end of the day, Global used their own platform to promote their own band, a band that if famous and successful would be completely on brand for their radio stations. Catch-22. Their first ‘hit’ was generated by significant airplay on Capital/Galaxy and Heart (with some late spot-plays from Bauer) alongside significant online support from the Global websites. The buzz generated by the ‘unexpected’ hit then guaranteed further airplay on other commercial stations and for the first time plays on Radio 1. They’ve gone on to be a successful, albeit odd-looking, boyband.
Surely it would be crazy if radio stations couldn’t use their own channels to promote their own activities? After all, if BMG were to a run a radio station, no one would be surprised if they played their own artists would they?
Perhaps if there has to be some transparency all a station should have to do is mention these activities in their Public File?
I leave the final comment to Popjustice…