Living in the past 

21 January 2010 tbs.pm/1122

‘Set BBC targets to partner its rivals’, says ex-Channel 4 chief

From the tone of Andy Duncan’s Oxford Media Convention speech, you get the impression that he thinks that he’s still living in the year 2007, because subsequent events have proven that the BBC cannot effectively give help to other public service broadcasters without sacrifices that would be regarded on both sides as unacceptable.

This has already been demonstrated in the often-fraught development of the new regional Channel 3 news franchises, with ITV plc still wanting full control of its news branding amongst other aspects, even though the news programming will/should be editorially outside of its control. Namely, broadcasters want to have their cake AND eat it.

The agenda has already (and thankfully) moved on from the ultra-simplistic notion that any money/help from the BBC represents a panacea to “public service broadcasters” (whatever that happens to mean at the time), because it has openly been demonstrated that such help would either be too little or alternatively subject to too much compromise.

BBC management may be guilty of not properly defending the BBC against Duncan and others queuing up for a slice of the licence fee – and the probability of the new local Channel 3 news proposals being doomed are high – but that doesn’t imply that anything that the BBC already has should be automatically handed to others on their say-so.

Andy Duncan’s speech unfortunately gives a superficial impression of himself – and perhaps Channel 4’s management in general – behaving like a badly-spoilt child. Channel 4 may produce some worthy programming but there’s nothing that can be considered to be automatically much more ‘worthy’ than anything that the BBC already produces.

And that’s the problem.