Monday, September 27, 2004

WE GUESS THIS MEANS VERNON KAY WAS LIKE A MOLE: Times have been tough for a while at Horseferry Road since Channel 4's digital plan started to go a bit wonky - they're actually regretting not keeping the horse ferry when they moved in now - and the murmuring about merging with Channel Five seemed to be about as nuts as it was going to get. But then at the weekend the Guardian carried a report that Channel 4 is offering to take Radio 1 off the BBC's hands. I'm sorry?

There have been plans about for a while about TV Four moving into radio, but the smart money had been on a takeover of Oneword, the struggling spoken word digital station. The thinking behind this plan seems to be that Channel 4 can't be arsed to build a radio brand of its own, and thinks that the youth it flatters itself it's great at talking to don't want to listen to talk radio anyway, so it would make more sense just to take over Radio 1. Of course, as Five Live, TalkSport and even Radio 4 demonstrate pretty well, there is a demand amongst people with their own hair and teeth for speech programming - and if Channel 4 is so good with youth, it should be able to provide that, shouldn't it? Although it's not clear that young people really are Channel 4's natural constituency anyway - E4 was meant to be aimed squarely at young people, but its hits tend to cut across the age range quite a bit: ER, The Sopranos, and so on. Probably a better fit for Radio 2.

You might wonder what would be in it for Channel 4. They'd expect to receive the cash from the licence fee that is currently spent by the BBC on Radio 1. Which might seem fair enough. But although they wouldn't seek advertising - the current commercial radio operators wouldn't wear that - they would seek to exploit "sponsorship" opportunities, says the Guardian. We're not sure the commercial radio guys would be happy about that, either - "Ah, it's okay, they're not taking the big companies' marketing spend by selling advertising, just selling sponsorship. That's alright, then" - and we're not sure anyone else would be, either. Why would Channel 4 get licence fee money and be allowed to flog off airtime to the highest bidder, whether in the form of adverts, sponsorship or tattooing brand names on Chris Moyles' head?

It's a frankly bizarre idea, which, without even thinking of the hideous practicalities - how would the regional Evening Session opt outs work? Newsbeat? How would the Radio One archive fit in? And what about 1Xtra?

On the other hand: Discovery Channel and 6Music - surely made in heaven?

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