Paul Twivy, whose fledgling Circus agency has been briefed to make
the BBC more comfortable with the marketing culture, is at pains to
point out on this week’s letters page that the corporation isn’t a
Confused? You may well be. Because, for a public service organisation,
Auntie seems to be throwing the cloak of commercialism around herself
with astonishing enthusiasm.
That the BBC will market itself with progressive aggression is beyond
question. To do so, it is assembling a sophisticated marketing
organisation staffed by some of the best brains in the field. If it were
Mars or Procter & Gamble this would come as no surprise. But it isn’t.
What’s more, the corporation’s money-spinning activities raise questions
about its purpose that are bound to bring the decisions about its
long-term future closer.
Anomalies have to be resolved. In particular, the fact that its airwaves
remain out of bounds to advertisers while it is permitted what many see
as a flagrant abuse of licence fee money by using screen time to promote
its own programmes and products. There is a strong case to be made that
the BBC has sacrificed its sacred status and can no longer pick and
choose which bits of the market it will embrace.
The questions of whether or not the BBC should supplement licence fee
revenue by taking advertising will not easily be resolved. But the
debate needs to take place - and soon.