Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Love Thy Neighbour

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Love Thy Neighbour

Article excerpt

Channel 4's radio U-turn reveals a need for the broadcaster and the BBC to work collaboratively.

As a religious man, Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan will know there is more joy in Heaven over a sinner that repenteth. However, the final axing of C4's ambitious plans to launch digital radio amounts to confessing your transgressions very late in the day.

On paper, you can make a great case for C4 radio. What a lovely, symmetrical idea for the commercial sector, albeit the public-service corner of the market. It would be competition at last for the all-powerful BBC speech radio, and a new way for marketers to reach elusive upmarket listeners.

Who could be against such an eminently sensible idea?

It was always going to be tough, and expensive, to take on the BBC. It might just have been possible in an age of expansion when C4's main task was to hide profits to prevent it moving up the Treasury's privatisation list.

As soon as the broadcaster started handing round the begging bowl and seeking public subsidy to fulfil its basic public-service functions, the game was up. Folly shaded into sin because of the reckless, stubborn exuberance that kept the idea on track long after it was no longer a serious practical possibility. The crisis in world markets was the final coup de grace, but this execution should have happened much sooner.

You just cannot risk prostituting your independence by seeking subsidies while planning to launch expensive ventures. It's just plain insane. As a result, the second national radio multiplex, and with it DAB, has been unnecessarily undermined and staff lured from good jobs for what has turned out to be a short-lived venture.

But only one penny has dropped so far. In the middle of the greatest financial crisis in living memory and the inevitable plunge in ad revenues, C4 is still pushing ahead with plans to find an extra pounds 50m from someone - anyone - to fund its Next on Four strategy.

Then there is the famous annual deficit of 'at least pounds 100m by 2012'. The ambitious plans are still on the table even though C4 recently announced that it would be cutting pounds 100m in costs, with job losses to match.

This is a toxic combination and the board should wake up to current business and political realities - or make way for those who will. What is needed is a fundamental review of what is special about C4 and an honest appraisal of how it can best preserve its news and current affairs output. …

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