Monday, March 14, 2016

Gloves off

Brava ! BBC Director of Radio and Queen of England (save London), Helen Boaden, comes punching out of her corner into Culture Secretary John Whittingdale today, in a speech handily leaked in advance to the Telegraph.

She takes to the barricades in Paris, and will say (check against delivery) "In some European countries, a change of government heralds a changing of the guard at public service broadcasters as well. Public service broadcasting subjected to undue political interference over a sustained period becomes state broadcasting. I don’t believe that is what our audiences want."

Whittingdale, she claims, has a “cycloptic” obsession with “needlessly diminishing” the BBC’s services, “to the benefit of its competitors. We must defend our right to be popular".

"The latest research commissioned by government asks a very loaded question – ‘how could you cut the BBC to the benefit of its competitors?’ – not something our listeners are queuing up to ask.

"Nor are they clamouring for us to sack our much loved presenters like Ken Bruce or Annie Mac, shut down the Radio 2 Book Club or kill the [Radio 1] Live Lounge.

"Our audiences want high-quality radio – which we give them - and to needlessly diminish our stations would do them a grave disservice.

"It has also been suggested that our stations should not be so popular; that we should deliberately turn away audiences who want our range and distinctiveness. The argument is that if we made BBC Radio less appealing to 25 to 44-year-olds, those listeners would flock to commercial radio. Real life suggests otherwise.

 "Since 2010, the time this age group spends with BBC Radio has dropped by two hours a week, but commercial radio hasn’t seen a commensurate increase in their listenership. They have left us but not gone to commercial radio. We are not the problem."

This is presumably an agreed tactic. A wounded Whittingdale could be dangerous - and he's already severely patronised BBC TV Uber Controller Charlotte Moore for her assertion, contrary to the mighty Oliver & Olhbaum, that BBC1 is more 'distinctive' than it was in prime time. "I hope Charlotte has read the whole thing – she needs to do so, as does Tony. It’s not supposed to be critical, it’s supposed to be flagging up areas where indistinctiveness...... [I'm] really looking forward to having a debate with her”. Game on.

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