Magazine article Marketing

BBC Rethink Has IR Holding Its Breath

Magazine article Marketing

BBC Rethink Has IR Holding Its Breath

Article excerpt

The commercial impact of new independent radio stations pales into insignificance when compared to the impact the BBC with 49% of listening has on the market. To coin a cliche, if the BBC sneezes, commercial radio catches a cold.

In recent weeks the future of public service broadcasting has hit the top of the agenda for ILR in the build up to a Government Green Paper on the future of the BBC. Leaks and rumours abound, the most extreme suggesting the axe for Radio 2 and Radio 5. Commercial radio's trade body the Association of Independent Radio Contractors (AIRC) has published its own view.

There are two clear problems. These flow off the back of the central question which is what should the BBC's role be?

The first problem comes if BBC funding is changed. If Radio 1 or 2 were to be privatised, for example, the subsequent impact on the commercial market would be huge. Radio 1 alone takes 24% of all radio listening.

The second problem is exemplified by the BBC's current policy of trying to close off any gaps that ILR tries to fill. The reason this is so dangerous is that it creates awkward competition and flies in the face of the RA's responsibility to widen listener choice.

The AIRC view is detailed across the page and is supported within the industry. Radio Clyde managing director James Gordon puts the issue of the BBC at the top of his agenda.

However the problem has been best exposed through the launch of the national licences.

Controversy has surrounded BBC Radio 3's recent changes to its programming format which have been seen by many commentators as a direct response to the launch of Classic FM. The BBC has dismissed this, pointing out that it has only recently appointed a new controller for the station Nicholas Kenyon who would inevitably want to stamp his own mark on the station.

Classic FM's chief executive John Spearman has also tried to avoid any perception of confrontation but he has his own view on the BBC's role:

"The worst and most dangerous thing the BBC can do is try to emulate commercial stations. …

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