Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Andrews on Media: BBC Treads on Rival's Toes

Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Andrews on Media: BBC Treads on Rival's Toes

Article excerpt

The BBC's scheduling of Strictly Come Dancing will increase the pressure on a beleaguered ITV.

Glamourous frocks and glitterballs, or the next teen sensations singing for their lives? Choosing between Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor is not easy for millions of viewers in need of their dose of light entertainment on a Saturday evening.

The BBC's decision to pit its most popular show against ITV's has dragged the consumer directly into the argument over the licence-fee-funded broadcaster's encroachment on the commercial world.

This begs the question, at a time when commercial television is providing a satisfactory offering, as to what right the BBC has to run a programme aimed at a similar audience?

In my view, this is yet another example of breathtaking arrogance on the part of the BBC, and something its director-general, Mark Thompson, should not have allowed.

One can understand the BBC's desire to compete with its rivals and it has a duty to ensure licence-fee payers are offered high-quality programming at peak times. However, ITV is fighting for advertisers and needs The X Factor more than ever. Moreover, many viewers are likely to be irritated because they are now unable to watch their two favourite terrestrial shows.

What shocks me more about the BBC's latest scheduling faux pas is that it comes at a time when the broadcaster has been the subject of unprecedented high-profile criticism.

Only a month ago, News Corporation's James Murdoch delivered a much-reported speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, in which he referred to the BBC 'land-grabbing' and spoke of the failure of the BBC Trust to control the corporation.

More brickbats followed at the Cambridge Television Festival, where Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson suggested that the BBC is so influential and powerful that ministers fear taking it on.

Perhaps most significantly, shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that the corporation needs to be better-controlled on a number of levels.

Comfortably propped up by a guaranteed pounds 3.6bn annual income from the licence fee, the BBC seems oblivious to the woes of its rivals.

In Cambridge, Gerhard Zeiler, the chief executive of RTL, which owns Five, suggested that commercial broadcasters would have to cut their programme budgets. Meanwhile, BBC executives have been in Hollywood, spending about pounds 100m a year on US shows, often outbidding UK rivals.

Then there is BBC Worldwide's acquisition of a majority stake in Lonely Planet, and the subsequent launch of a travel magazine to compete with the likes of Wanderlust. …

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