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
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
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
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
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
’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’.’