Tag: Radio

WHY THE BBC HAS MORE TO WORRY ABOUT THAN FREE LICENSES

The BBC has more to worry about than free license fees

Not for the first time this year, the BBC has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The decision to stop providing free licenses to over 75’s being just one controversial move. Now, payments for employees have been shared with some netting more than £1m a year. Not bad.

While it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon, when you consider what the BBC is trying to do, the waters get murky. It’s no longer black and white. You see, the corporation needs to remain competitive without being commercial.

Held accountable to the general public, it is not always as easy as you may think to run an organisation that has to have total transparency. Every decision is scrutinised. The truth is, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Attracting the best talent

Like any organisation, the BBC wants to attract the best presenters. I was watching the news on the BBC this morning and Dame Esther Louise Rantzen DBE made, what appeared to be, a very good suggestion.

She said, cap the pay of all BBC employees to that of the Prime Minister. At £150k a year this would be a significant pay cut for many of the leading figures at the corporation. That said, most of us would be more than content to agree this as our annual salary.

On the surface this idea worked. Make significant savings in wages and pass it back to those over 75 who have historically benefitted from a free license.

However, when you delve a little deeper you must remember that the BBC has more to worry about than free licenses. It needs to attract the very best talent in order to remain competitive. It is, along with programming, arguably its biggest asset.

Consider you are a presenter and you have worked your way up to a primetime position. You have achieved what you set out to do. You are a celebrity in your own right, and you earn the big bucks. Then someone comes along and tells you to give the majority of your ‘hard earned cash’ back for the greater good.

It is fair to suggest, in this scenario, many of the presenters would leave and work for an alternative commercial station. Not ideal for a company that needs to retain and grow audience figures.

Then there is the fact that BBC presenters can’t top up their salaries with work outside of the ‘establishment’. Take Nagga Muchetty as an example, who was recently criticised for appearing in adverts for Natwest while working for the BBC.

It’s easy to see why presenters may find the suggestion of a capped salary hard to swallow, whatever they earn.

The balance of maintaining and attracting audiences

While the BBC may have a loyal following, it also needs to become more appealing to a younger audience. This means creating relevant and compelling content that resonates.

The challenge is that it needs to invest in digital programming to attract a younger demographic, while retaining those viewers that have followed the corporation for years. Not an easy task.

It’s just not as simple as to create programmes that will be watched by everyone. Times have changed and so too have viewing habits. The harsh reality is that the BBC needs to decide which audience will support its growth and future sustainability.

Changing viewing habits

Digital media has changed viewer habits. We don’t sit down as a family to watch programmes at a given time anymore. Programmes are available as and when we want to watch them. We can stream live or catch up at a time that better suits our needs.

The power has passed from programmer to the public.

Those channels that don’t keep up with these expectations are never going to attract a younger audience. They have access to content 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They aren’t going to wait around to watch something or be dictated by schedules.

The announcement that the BBC may remove the news at 6pm and 10pm within a decade was a further indication of this. The theory being that younger people don’t want to watch ‘linear broadcasting’.

The argument again goes back to the older audience. They have become creatures of habit and like to catch up with what is going on in the world. They know when and where they are able to do this. Take this away and many of them will become even more isolated than they already are.

Pushing boundaries

It would be unfair to suggest that the programming on the BBC is in any way poor. It’s just that, as an audience that’s been brought up with access to it, we take it for granted. Other channels are competing hard for audience figures. It’s become a daily struggle.

Take Virgin Radio as an example. Attracting Chris Evans to the breakfast show, using the same format and even the same team. The advertising to migrate the audience was intriguing and certainly got people talking. Many, as a result, will have tried out the station.

While this was great for Virgin, the BBC had to sit back and watch. The corporation can’t advertise. It had to wait and to do its best to retain figures, keep talent and continue to be innovative. That’s not easy for any business.

The BBC can’t push boundaries like other commercial channels can. Again, it goes back to governance and accountability. This is a hindrance but one that the corporation must address if it is to appeal to a mass audience once more. A further example of why the BBC has more to worry about than free licenses.

A world without the BBC

As someone who has watched the BBC for years and works with journalists and reporters from the corporation, I have to show it my support.

Like any business, it has its challenges, but when we consider a world without the BBC, it would be a darker place. It is a valuable and trusted new source, as well as being company for millions of viewers and listeners worldwide.

The BBC has been a staple for many of us, but it must change and evolve. Adapting to new audiences is just one of hurdles it will face if it is to have a sustainable future.

Going back to the very start of this blog, the BBC has more to worry about than free licenses. However, this also needs to be addressed. There must be a way that an organisation with such exceptional talent, experience and reach can meet the needs of a both young and old.

It remains to be seen. For now at least, I will continue to enjoy the news, along with other family viewing offered by the BBC. As a household of three generations, we all have our favourite programmes and we will share in the success of an institution that perhaps, in some instances, is easier to criticise than to celebrate.

For more information about Open Comms and how we get our clients into the headlines for all the right reasons, please click here.

 

SECURING NATIONAL HEADLINES

Kellingley Colliery

The success of a PR campaign and securing national headlines is directly associated to the strength of client relationships.

It’s not that you can’t do the job if you don’t get on with your client, it’s just that it makes life difficult. With a specialism like PR, you are working with a planned schedule of activity, as well as the daily news agenda.

This is when relationships really do come into their own.

Why relationships matter

Take the Coalfields Regeneration Trust as an example. We had planned to launch the State of the Coalfields 2019 report and had a schedule of activity to support this announcement. It was one of the biggest stories of the year and an import piece of work.

We had been working on the timings for months. We had the plan and the spokespeople available, we now had to liaise with all regional and national media. The story was embargoed for Wednesday 16 October, when the report would be officially launched in Westminster.

Sending this story out was no small task. Hours of work is required when you are focusing on a project like this and there is no guarantee of coverage. It’s the start of the process that you hope will lead to results.

Making things happen

On the day of the ‘sell in’ journalists asked for the story to be sent through, yet there was still no firm commitment to coverage. Frustrating but not unusual. The next day things changed. The phones didn’t stop ringing from the moment we sat down.

Broadcast wanted to arrange interviews and it was up to us to make it happen.

The client was ready to take calls throughout the day and these were planned, scheduled and arranged. It was then that we were asked for a spokesperson to be in London on Wednesday morning. The idea was that we would secure national headlines with two TV channels if the client was available.

Excellent news. All we needed to do was get the client to rearrange all of their plans to travel to London overnight to arrive first thing for an interview at 6.35am and then 10am at the studios.

This is where relationships are critical.

Working together

The client could have said no. They could have said they wanted to spend the evening with their family. They could have said it was too much money to travel to London at such short notice. It may have been that they simply couldn’t be bothered with the logistics.

The response from our client, who we have worked with for more than six years, was that this was important. It was an opportunity. It was too good to miss.

Not only did the client get on the train late at night to travel to the capital, they also did so with a smile. They were excited by the coverage we could secure as a result of this piece. At no point did they complain, suggest it was too much trouble or ask why this couldn’t be done in a different way.

Then came further calls asking for interviews down the line (on the phone) at 6.25am and 6.30am. It was back to the team at the office to ask if anyone would be willing to take the calls despite the early hour.

Again, it meant rearranging meetings and schedules, but they pulled out all of the stops to make it happen.

Celebrating success

From the minute we put the news on this morning the reports started to come in. The client’s story featured on both local TV channels (Look North and Calendar), was the lead feature on BBC Radio Sheffield and was aired on BBC Radio Five Live throughout the day.

We continued to secure national headlines as the story featured on Victoria Derbyshire and Jeremy Vine, which then led it to be syndicated across radio stations throughout the country. Again, back to the client to ask them to detour to broadcast house.

We are continuing to work on this story (literally as I type) with three clients from the office making their respective way to different interviews in varying media houses in London.

I cannot be more thankful of the relationship that we have developed over the years. Without it, we simply wouldn’t be in the position we are now; celebrating success, sharing coverage and looking forward to the next story we have to share.

For interest, here is just one link to the story we shared: https://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2019-10-16/former-coalfields-scarred-by-the-legacy-of-the-past/