PERSPECTIVE: No 10 can’t ignore the power-brokers in media-ruled UK

By CLAIRE BEALE, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 01 October 1999 12:00AM

It’s a taxing question for a Sunday morning breakkie in bed: which are the more powerful, the people we vote in at the ballot box or those we vote for with our TV remote?

It’s a taxing question for a Sunday morning breakkie in bed: which

are the more powerful, the people we vote in at the ballot box or those

we vote for with our TV remote?



Considering the former are charged with running the country and the

latter - ostensibly - simply with delivering decent TV schedules, one

would hope the Government might just beat the media moguls in the power

stakes.



But while last weekend’s Sunday Times Power List had Tony Blair at

number one as the country’s most influential chief, Sunday Times’

proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, came in at number three. Second place, you

won’t be surprised to hear, was Bill Gates, a man with his sights firmly

set on the converged media future.



Christopher Bland and Greg Dyke, chairman and director-general of the

BBC, cosy up together at number 15 and are considered more powerful than

deputy PM John Prescott (number 17), while NTL’s Barclay Knapp squeezes

in between them at number 16.



It might seem spurious to try to compare the power of Dyke and Prescott,

but in the age of spin, media is increasingly a political issue. Take

the mooted digital licence fee. The government-appointed committee on

BBC funding, headed by Gavin Davies, has recommended a pounds 19 licence

fee surcharge for viewers with digital TV. A powerful consortium of

commercial broadcasters with a heavy presence of - you guessed it -

digital broadcasting interests hit out at the proposals, dubbing the

surcharge a ’digital poll tax’.



Now it seems the Government is mulling over the political implications

of the digital fee and, according to the Financial Times last week,

advertising on the BBC could be back on the agenda as the least

politically sensitive alternative to raising the licence fee.


The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers is positively

cock-a-hoop at the prospect of advertising on the BBC’s digital channels

or even, as the FT mooted, on the main BBC channels. But ITV’s chief

executive, Richard Eyre, has added to the spin by using his recent

speech at the Marketing Society to slam ISBA’s push for ads on the Beeb

as ’completely daft’.



A quick reference to the Power List tells me that, at number 35, Eyre is

more powerful than the Prince of Wales and Robin Cook. So with Eyre

against advertising on the BBC, and Murdoch, Gerry Robinson (number 19),

Michael Green (48) and Lord Hollick (90) opposed to a digital licence

fee, Tony Blair could be forgiven for a bit of wavering on the

issue.



Should he turn to the Sunday Times Power List for guidance on how to

play the various factions, Blair will not be giving advertisers’ wishes

much consideration. There might be some powerful industry chiefs on the

list, but neither ISBA’s director-general, John Hooper, nor its head of

media, Bob Wootton, figure in the chart.



claire.beale@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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