It’s a taxing question for a Sunday morning breakkie in bed: which
are the more powerful, the people we vote in at the ballot box or those
we vote for with our TV remote?
Considering the former are charged with running the country and the
latter - ostensibly - simply with delivering decent TV schedules, one
would hope the Government might just beat the media moguls in the power
But while last weekend’s Sunday Times Power List had Tony Blair at
number one as the country’s most influential chief, Sunday Times’
proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, came in at number three. Second place, you
won’t be surprised to hear, was Bill Gates, a man with his sights firmly
set on the converged media future.
Christopher Bland and Greg Dyke, chairman and director-general of the
BBC, cosy up together at number 15 and are considered more powerful than
deputy PM John Prescott (number 17), while NTL’s Barclay Knapp squeezes
in between them at number 16.
It might seem spurious to try to compare the power of Dyke and Prescott,
but in the age of spin, media is increasingly a political issue. Take
the mooted digital licence fee. The government-appointed committee on
BBC funding, headed by Gavin Davies, has recommended a pounds 19 licence
fee surcharge for viewers with digital TV. A powerful consortium of
commercial broadcasters with a heavy presence of - you guessed it -
digital broadcasting interests hit out at the proposals, dubbing the
surcharge a ’digital poll tax’.
Now it seems the Government is mulling over the political implications
of the digital fee and, according to the Financial Times last week,
advertising on the BBC could be back on the agenda as the least
politically sensitive alternative to raising the licence fee.
The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers is positively
cock-a-hoop at the prospect of advertising on the BBC’s digital channels
or even, as the FT mooted, on the main BBC channels. But ITV’s chief
executive, Richard Eyre, has added to the spin by using his recent
speech at the Marketing Society to slam ISBA’s push for ads on the Beeb
as ’completely daft’.
A quick reference to the Power List tells me that, at number 35, Eyre is
more powerful than the Prince of Wales and Robin Cook. So with Eyre
against advertising on the BBC, and Murdoch, Gerry Robinson (number 19),
Michael Green (48) and Lord Hollick (90) opposed to a digital licence
fee, Tony Blair could be forgiven for a bit of wavering on the
Should he turn to the Sunday Times Power List for guidance on how to
play the various factions, Blair will not be giving advertisers’ wishes
much consideration. There might be some powerful industry chiefs on the
list, but neither ISBA’s director-general, John Hooper, nor its head of
media, Bob Wootton, figure in the chart.
Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.