BBC braces itself for the Brown stuff

LONDON - The BBC is up to its neck in the Brown stuff and we are not just talking about dodgy phone competitions. Long after the questions of trust have been resolved and producers are persuaded that lying to the audience is a bad idea, there will remain the Gordon Brown problem.

on media


The BBC is convinced that Brown is not a fan and, at the least, not as wedded to existing broadcasting structures as his predecessors.

The most alarming possibility is that Brown does not like the BBC, either because of what it stands for, or more probably because of past slights at the hands of BBC programme-makers. Courtesy of whole rafts of BBC analysis, we know that Prime Minister Brown has considerable talent for bearing grudges, and treats criticism by friends as tantamount to an act of betrayal.

It is difficult to even imagine how angered he must have been by the virtuoso performance of Newsnight the evening before he finally became Prime Minister.

The gonzo journalism by independent producer Jamie Campbell made riveting viewing. He simply followed Brown around for five weeks trying to get an interview, a comment, a wave of the hand... anything. The fact that he got nothing at all demonstrated just how controlled and controlling the Brown Project really is.

Given how strong the reality was in chronological order, it was unfortunate that somebody thought it would be a good idea to take two sequences shot two weeks apart, reverse the order and imply one caused the other.

There are other explanations for Brown's lack of warmth for the BBC. He could see it as greedy or believe it is trying to be aloof from the process of modernising public institutions.

As a senior figure in relations between the BBC and government muttered privately last week: 'There are a lot of fences to be mended.'

A couple that has drifted apart can sometimes be reunited, but it is far more complicated when others are involved. There is a third person in this relationship - Ed Richards, the chief executive of regulator Ofcom.

Richards, a very acceptable figure in the corridors of New Labour, has a big idea - the concept of the public-service publisher (PSP).

On the surface, nothing seems more reasonable than the setting up of a PSP to inject perhaps £150m a year into genres of public-service programmes that have been squeezed to the margins.

It certainly seems a good idea to those who would like to get their hands on the money, and culture secretary James Purnell and his boss will no doubt like the intellectual clarity of the proposal.

The danger is that it will get tangled up with a number of related notions - top-slicing the BBC licence fee and meeting Channel 4's 'funding gap' with public assistance.

On Monday, Channel 4 continued its campaign to remove any residual doubt that there might be a public service 'funding gap' by paying £28m for a 50% stake in Emap's music TV business - The Hits, The Box and Kerrang!

The problems for the BBC from a Richards-Brown axis is that the money for a PSP and/or propping up Channel 4's ambitions will be top-sliced from the BBC in the name of pluralism, and there will be no extra money in the system at all.

There are problems with such an approach. Who will commission PSP shows, where will they be shown and how big will audiences be? Arts Council dispensing of Lottery money for British films produced only turkeys and millions were wasted.

There is an awful lot of Brown stuff awaiting the BBC.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers