PERSPECTIVE: BBC Radio should pay a realistic rate for BBC TV airtime

By DOMINIC MILLS, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 21 November 1997 12:00AM

So BBC TV is up to its naughty cross-promotional tricks again. This time it’s to the detriment of the commercial radio industry, according to our news story in Campaign this week. Naturally, Capital is fuming. According to its calculations, the Beeb has spent upwards of the equivalent of pounds 2 million of TV airtime costs on advertising its radio networks on BBC 1 and BBC 2 - and that’s not even counting ’Perfect Day’. (Mind you, they could spend twice that promoting Zoe Ball’s breakfast show and it still wouldn’t make a difference - but that’s a different issue.)

So BBC TV is up to its naughty cross-promotional tricks again. This

time it’s to the detriment of the commercial radio industry, according

to our news story in Campaign this week. Naturally, Capital is fuming.

According to its calculations, the Beeb has spent upwards of the

equivalent of pounds 2 million of TV airtime costs on advertising its

radio networks on BBC 1 and BBC 2 - and that’s not even counting

’Perfect Day’. (Mind you, they could spend twice that promoting Zoe

Ball’s breakfast show and it still wouldn’t make a difference - but

that’s a different issue.)



We have been here before, of course, whether it’s the question of using

BBC TV to promote BBC Radio, or rows provoked by trailers for BBC

magazines from Radio Times to Top Gear. But, judging by the recruitment

ad for a head of media planning placed by the BBC in Campaign last week,

this is an issue we will revisit many times in the future. It’s clear

from the wording of the ad - it talks of ’developing a strategy for

optimising the use of on-air time for promotional and cross-promotional

activities’ and ’extending formal media planning structures’ - that this

is a business the BBC is taking extremely seriously. Why shouldn’t it?

We are living through a period of intense media competition with no end

in sight and, like every other media owner, the BBC would be derelict in

its duty if it did not promote itself fully. Yet in doing so it will

inevitably step on the toes of a great many smaller commercial operators

and damage the trend towards a more pluralistic broadcasting

industry.



However, that moves the debate on from the immediate issue which, as

Capital and its peers see it, is the unfair nature of the BBC’s

promotion of its radio stations. As far as I can tell, their complaint

is not so much that BBC Radio does it (although it might be less

vociferous if the BBC Radio ads weren’t so good), but that it uses a

medium (BBC TV) that isn’t open to anyone else. Furthermore, since no

money changes hands apart from the creative costs, BBC Radio has another

advantage over its commercial rivals who, if they wish to compete at the

same level, have to pay for it in real money.



To my mind, there is no real argument. This is unfair competition and

the playing field should be levelled - downwards, not upwards, since the

BBC cannot give Capital access to its TV airtime. But there is a danger

of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Clearly BBC Radio must be

allowed to promote itself. The question is how.



One idea is to restrict BBC Radio’s promotions to radio only. The one I

prefer is to make it pay for its BBC 1 or 2 TV airtime in real money

based on equivalent airtime costs - just as Capital pays ITV or Channel

4 - and make the whole process transparent. The BBC is always banging on

about how its NHS-style internal market is designed to make itself more

efficient. Here is a chance for it to put its money where its mouth is.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

X

You must log in to use Clip & Save

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Additional Information

Campaign Jobs