Commercial rivals being affected by BBC’s populist approach?


A report commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has assessed the impact BBC television and radio stations have on its commercial rivals ahead of the corporation’s royal charter renewal later this year.

In the 243 page report, the DCMS argued that introducing “greater distinctiveness” to output on BBC services, could benefit commercial rivals between �81m – �115m by the end of the next 10-year BBC charter period.

The DCMS outlined in particular the effect populist shows on BBC television are having on commercial networks like ITV and Channel 5. It pointed out shows like ‘The Voice’ and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ as the biggest offenders with ‘The X Factor’ falling victim to BBC One’s scheduling clashes the most.

Furthermore, in the radio sector, BBC’s shift in focus on popular music, news and sport could held commercial stations by �47m by the end of the next 10-year BBC charter period. The report considered ideas such as making services like Radio 1, Radio 2 and Radio 5 on DAB-only to boost take-up of digital radio sets and further boost commercial radio’s share in the 25-44 year old genre.

While, it was not mentioned in the report, the BBC Asian Network is also available on two analogue frequencies in Birmingham and Leicester, plus nationwide on digital radio. It could also be asked to surrender its analogue frequencies to help in digital radio uptake. The BBC Asian Network has come under scrutiny numerous times from commercial rivals on its populist approach in broadcasting. Over the past few years the BBC Asian Network’s ‘Friend to the Family’ strategy resulted in an increase in populist music like Bollywood and Bhangra and speech content that included subjects with a wider appeal such as films, television and sport. Shows giving platform to British Asian “breakthrough artists” and music other than Bollywood and Bhangra was reduced in favour of populist programming.

A spokesperson from the radio sector told, “The current British government seems to looking into every aspect of the BBC in fine detail. Rightly so. The likes of BBC Asian Network, which continues to impact commercial stations up and down the country with its populist shows, populist music and coverage of “commercial events” needs to be put under the scanner. Surely, a station with this amount of budget cannot continue to dominate over commercial stations. Why also keep pouring money into the Asian Network’s two analogue frequencies? Save the BBC’s money by closing these frequencies down and keeping Asian Network as a digital-only service.”

Talking to MediaGuardian, the BBC said it was making strides to improving the distinctiveness of its output. It said, ���The BBC�۪s services are distinctive and have become more distinctive in this charter period. The response to the government�۪s green paper shows that licence fee payers overwhelmingly agree. The BBC�۪s services must continue to be run in the interests of audiences, not for the benefit of competitors. We are concerned that some of the report�۪s proposals would risk undermining the universal appeal, reach and quality of the BBC�۪s main services.�۝

MediaGuardian further reported Mark Oliver, of Oliver and Ohlbaum, saying that this report is not just designed to benefit the BBC�۪s commercial rivals.

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