Sunday, August 02, 2009

Tories can't tell Radio 1 from Capital, plot sell-off

You have to feel a bit sorry for Radio 1, don't you? Because the Conservatives don't really like the BBC, but don't really want to be seen trying to take down BBC News, it's always Radio 1 they go for.

Ed Vaizey, shadow minister for whatever would be left of the culture, media and sports has floated an impressively confused and spiteful policy in The Sunday Times:

Vaizey also believes the station is failing to reach young listeners. “Radio 1 is not fulfilling its obligation to its audience,” he said. “Its median age is those in their thirties when it should aim much more at teenagers and [those in] their twenties. There is then a good argument for the BBC to be rid of Radio 1 and give the commercial sector a chance to use the frequency.”

It's not fulfilling its audience remit, so let's sell it off. Rather than ask it to better perform its remit.

There's an argument that simply because the median age of the audience is outside the target, that doesn't mean that it's not serving its target.

Imagine, for example, a town with 100 dogs and 400 cats, and it's a town where you want to ensure as many of the dogs in town get flea protection. To do this, you offer free flea treatment for all pets. A quarter of the cat owners turn up, and half the dog owners show up too. You're doing quite well at reaching dogs, but statistically, you look like you're doing better at treating cats.

This might explain Radio 1's middle-aged bias; it might not. I don't know, and I'm prepared to bet Vaizey hasn't got a clue, either.

Also, it could be that the more intelligent response is to ask if trying to segment audiences by age alone actually makes that much sense any more. A service aimed at "teenagers and those in their twenties" seems a bit of a strange way to describe Radio 1 anyway - isn't it the nation's pop and rock station? Do 17 year old kids flicking through UCAS offerings and 29 year-olds celebrating their children getting into good primary schools really have common ground in the way Vaizey seems to believe they do?

And if there is such an audience, who are being ill-served by the BBC, how does flogging off the frequency to a commercial entity actually address the problem?

"Hey, guys - the coat factory that is supposed to make coats for you isn't delivering the coats. But don't worry, we're going to close the factory down, so nobody will have coats. Vote for me!"

Even more surprising is that Vaizey's thinking is that the BBC has too many FM frequencies:
He said the corporation was even more dominant than its commercial rivals in radio compared with television, pointing to the fact that it held four out of five national FM licences. The only exception is Classic FM.

“There is an unfair disparity,” said Vaizey in an interview with The Sunday Times. The sale of Radio 1 would help to alleviate the imbalance. Industry experts believe the station’s frequency could be worth at least £100m.

Leaving aside the question of if the new Bauer and Global 'local' networks don't quite count as national networks, are the Tories really thinking that British broadcasting policy in the 2010s is best shaped by worrying about if Virgin can broadcast of FM? Good lord, man, you're going to be shaping the way the media works for decades to come, and your proposal to the lack of adverts on FM is to propose closing down one of the BBC stations, rather than finding a way to fund getting a national spread of internet-distributed stations into cars?

This, then, is what the Tories look like: they've gone to hear Jesus speak, and have helped collect the food. Looking at the bread and fishes, they're ignoring Jesus' offer to do a bit of miracle work and make it stretch, and instead are drawing up plans to hold an auction for the few pilchard sandwiches they can make.

Or possibly some Tories. It looks like this is one flag being run up a pole only to discover the rats deserting Vaizey's sinking ship:
Although Vaizey is shadow minister responsible for broadcasting, a Tory spokesman said last night that the sale of Radio 1 was not party policy.

Let's hope they leave it that way.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

BBC Radio 1 is no longer a Music station for the UK public. Its a feeding ground for 50 year business men (presenters) to make millions of pounds from being associated with the power of the station's position in the media. It is totally out of control as this last weekend in Ibiza showed.

simon h b said...

How many people did Moyles kill this time?

Rob said...

What makes this especially ludicrous is that if Radio 1 did go ahead and target its youth audience, its listener numbers would go down and the Tories would use THAT as an excuse to sell it off.

Having said that, I'd like to see Radio 1 take that route, sacrificing broad audience for influence the way its Australian counterpart, Triple J does. All in all Triple J is much more interesting, influential and plain better than Radio 1, playing the likes of Animal Collective, Future of the Left and Tiga alongside La Roux, Dizzee Rascal and Daniel Merriweather. Neither government would ever have the balls to follow this route but if they did they'd end up with a slightly smaller, fiercely loyal listener base.

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