Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Commercial radio want a slice of the national pie

James P emails with the latest from commercial radio's attempts to try and shore up their collapsing world:
The top boss at the Radio Centre has unveiled
his latest tactic in the War on the BBC; If you can't beat them, ask them to

Chief executive Andrew Harrison wants the BBC to share the rights to big
events like the Diana concert with commercial radio rivals. He says
"National events like the 2012 Olympics or the Concert for Diana deserve
local and national coverage. Commercial and BBC". Quite why a concert in
Wembley would need local coverage on Radio Broadland, I'm not sure. Unless
it'll be the same sort of 'local' programming they're used to, i.e. one
broadcast syndicated to every local station in the country, which kind of
defeats the object of 'local coverage' in the first place.

He makes an interesting threat to back this up; "It's nonsense to expect
commercial organisations and their shareholders to continue to invest in
digital platforms without a coherent industry strategy and without an
end-game to get a return on that investment". In other words, "Nice DAB
platform you've got there... Be a pity if it became... Obsolete..."

I'm not convinced this is a good idea. Would the people listening to these
events really want two lots of coverage; One from an experienced
broadcaster, and one punctuated with adverts for Chatteris Windows and
Blinds every fifteen minutes? And would we really need twice as many
stations (or more) on our dials bringing us the same live footage of Johnny
Borrell telling us to boil less water?

Anyhow, Harrison makes the point that the commercial radio business model
was "close to breaking point", up against a "dominant, well-fed and in many
ways unassailable" BBC. Frustratingly, he assumes that the reason commercial
radio is getting beaten is because it can't spend one day a year beaming big
events to its dwindling listenership. He doesn't seem interested in looking
at whether it could be more to do with repetitive playlists, endless
commercials and an apparent loathing of being in the actual area to which
the station broadcasts.

What's interesting about this is that this was commercial radio's big idea two years back as well - there was a small flurry of networked programming in 2005 (the Tsunami fundraiser Radio Aid, the election special Leaders Live and Live8) but the impetus withered and, frankly, there's not been much evidence since of Red Rose listeners pushing for a hook-up with the Smooth FM audience. Oddly enough, on Saturday we were looking for Live Earth coverage on Horizon FM (we were heading off to eat a whole baked cheese) and were a little surprised to discover nothing there. Although Harrison seems to be suggesting that the BBC bullies the little guys out the way, this doesn't seem to be the case - Radio 2 didn't pick up with Wembley until the middle of the evening. The lack of link-ups seems to be as much down to none of the individual stations being that arsed than the BBC greedily hoovering up the rights.

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