Under the leadership of the director-general, Greg Dyke, the BBC
seems to be dancing on and over the increasingly blurred line which
separates its behaviour as a public sector broadcaster from the
commercial TV world. In the past couple of weeks three stories have
broken which lead one to feel that the BBC is becoming a very different
animal under Dyke.
First, there was the admission that the BBC is looking at moving its
news bulletin from 9pm to 10pm to take advantage of the slot vacated
last year by ITV. The BBC is considering the 10pm slot because it feels
it would allow greater flexibility with its peaktime schedule as well an
opportunity to pull in more viewers for its news.
We then heard that Dyke was looking to introduce a fourth episode of
EastEnders. This prompted the IPA to issue a public statement which
accused the BBC of abandoning its public service role in favour of an
aggressive and costly ratings battle. Shifting the news out of primetime
could be seen as a shift away from the BBC’s commitment to current
affairs while an extra episode of EastEnders is not a strong argument
for introducing greater choice.
Finally, last week’s nationals were buzzing with the news that the BBC
had signed up the media company Worldpop, founded by the former Radio 1
DJ Peter Powell, to sponsor Top of the Pops and Radio 1’s Top 40
The three-year deal will see the programmes credit Worldpop, although
they cannot feature any corporate logo.
There are two sides of the coin to this deal. On the one hand, if the
BBC opens up sponsorship opportunities advertisers will have a wealth of
opportunity with its rich line-up of programmes - think of The Royle
Family and its pull for the likes of Tetley Tea or PG Tips. On the other
hand, the prospect of the BBC competing with ITV would make the latter
feel more than a little unhappy and cheated. And how commercial can the
public service side of the BBC be before it makes a mockery of its
The BBC is clearly concerned about the gradual draining away of public
funding as it grapples with digital television and the increasingly
aggressive broadcast market.
The radical restructuring and streamlining that is under way, with the
role of marketing finally gaining a seat on the BBC board, indicates
that we are to see a much leaner, meaner organisation which will do
whatever it takes to maximise its revenue opportunities and boost its
It was recently reported that Dyke brought up the question himself about
whether the BBC should be changing the tide of its hallowed
He said: ’Should the BBC be involved in the commercial world at all? I
personally think it would be a grave mistake if we ignored the
commercial world and ignored the potential for generating more
You have been warned.