There are some things in life which I cling to with absolute certainty.
ITV will never crack Saturday nights, the Express will always be dull,
some agencies fiddle their clients and I’ll always get caught in the
rain after I’ve spent the night in my rollers. But a BBC free from
commercial messages? Give me a break. I stopped believing in that about
the same time I found out what boys kept in their trouser pockets.
So I was surprised to hear that people were surprised by the idea that
the BBC might be offering corporate logo exposure during the Last Night
of the Proms.
The idea is that companies take a hospitality tent in Hyde Park, where
the concert will be beamed live from the Royal Albert Hall. BBC coverage
will include visuals from the park and, perhaps, the odd glimpse of a
hospitality tent (hopefully not the liggers inside).
Except that, according to the Sunday Times’ Insight team, shots of the
hospitality tents will not be quite so casual as they might appear. For
an extra wad of money, the paper claimed, the camera will linger. A bit
like selling commercial airtime, don’t you think?
Anyway, notwithstanding the sorry demise of the Insight team (it can’t
be much fun posing as an advertiser, can it?), the truth is that
creeping commercialism at the BBC is nothing new. The Mercury Music
Awards are allowed because the BBC is merely broadcasting a sponsored
event, the male stars of Men Behaving Badly drink Stella Artois because,
well, men do, etc.
Many would welcome some form of commercial activity on the BBC, but it
should be official and regulated in the same way as the other commercial
TV channels. All commercial channels are monitored carefully, but
because the BBC isn’t supposed to carry ads, there’s no real mechanism
The final irony, of course, is that we should be discussing this at a
time when John Birt wants us all to fork out more for the licence fee.