OPINION: Question Time with ... Andy Barnes - Channel 4’s commercial director likes to rock his viewers. By Mark Tungate

With the media industry still abuzz with talk of the planned blockbusting merger between Carlton and United News & Media, it’s a good time to meet one of the most high-profile people in telly. And Andy Barnes is quite happy to share his views on the matter.

With the media industry still abuzz with talk of the planned

blockbusting merger between Carlton and United News & Media, it’s a good

time to meet one of the most high-profile people in telly. And Andy

Barnes is quite happy to share his views on the matter.



’Logic suggests that if the merger goes ahead, the rules that govern

other companies will be overturned. At the moment, no two national sales

forces can sell together - we couldn’t sell on behalf of GMTV, for

instance - but that’s one of the things there will be pressure to

change,’ he says.



There’s no doubt Barnes will be one of the people driving that

change.



Despite his laid-back persona as an interviewee, he is well known as a

dogged and imaginative operator.



He arrived at Channel 4 in 1991, when the broadcaster moved to selling

its own airtime, and set up a sales department from scratch: ’My

proudest achievement,’ he calls it. ’When I arrived there were no

people, no desks, nothing.’



He also switched from selling on ITV’s average station price to selling

by fixed price, a move that caused some raised eyebrows at the time.

’But as there was no history, people either bought into it or they

didn’t.’



Barnes likes to cut through the bullshit. Perhaps he developed this

facility in Australia, where he spent a year as an insurance clerk after

finishing his business studies degree. ’I had a furnished flat

overlooking Sydney harbour, an idyllic ferry journey to work - and the

most boring job you can possibly imagine.’



When asked about his first job in media - as a graduate sales trainee at

Southern TV - he takes a mischievous delight in explaining: ’I took it

because it was offered to me. There was no grand plan. I didn’t

necessarily think TV was the way of the future.’



After Southern TV, he became deputy sales director at TVS, then a

director at Laser Sales.



Barnes now heads the 105-strong department responsible for generating

all of Channel 4’s revenue, with the exception of international agency

sales.



His success suggests that there is a talent for media in the Barnes

genes; after all, his father was new business director of the

now-defunct agency Saward Baker, and his brother Simon is ad director at

Associated Newspapers’ contract publishing arm.



Barnes has further extended the family media empire by marrying

recruitment consultant Linda Stevens, who is (somewhat unfairly)

credited with giving him an image makeover after he moved to Channel 4.

Having said that, on display in his office is a picture of Barnes during

his TVS days, sporting a tank-top.



There are also many pictures of him at the Superbowl, an annual Channel

4 outing he enjoys almost as much as his regular trips to see the

Arsenal.



While in the US, he particularly enjoys late-night pool sessions, mainly

because they allow him to indulge his passion for rock music. He has a

photographic memory when it comes to artists, labels and release

dates.



’A good bar with beer, a pool table and a jukebox with Pearl Jam, Led

Zep and Lynard Skynard on it,’ he says ’is what I’d call perfect.’





BARNES ON CHANNEL 4



’I personally love Friends, but I’m not so keen on Ally McBeal, mainly

because I’m a bloke. But I like to think that with our programmes,

you’re either in or out - nothing in between. That’s why people have a

personal relationship with the channel. They want it to be edgy, to say

things other people won’t say. If they ring up and they are indignant

about something, it’s because they feel we’ve let them down. It’s very

much ’TV for me’.’



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