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Does BBC 6 Music reprieve mean curtains for radio boss Tim Davie?

There’s a bit of an insurrection going on at the moment at BBC 6 Music, the ‘specialist’ music station that BBC bosses, chiefly director-general Mark Thompson and head of music and audio Tim Davie wanted to can as part of its package of sacrificial offerings to the new cost-cutting UK coalition government.

The hitherto-unloved DJs are having a fine old time taking the piss out of the BBC management and anyone else they can think of.

Thompson and Davie, formerly the marketing supremo at Pepsico in the UK, decided to can 6 Music and the Asian Network. Various luminaries have emerged to protest the nixing of 6 Music, including David Bowie and current employee Jarvis Cocker, although the poor old Asian network has found it hard to get up a team.

So BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons, a former local government panjandrum, has loftily announced that the Beeb management might have got it wrong and pronounced a stay of execution on 6 Music.

Which leaves Thompson, who, I suspect, is only waiting for the Olympics to be out of the way before he heads to an Oxford college, and Davie looking remarkably stupid and powerless.

Davie, who earns £450,000 a year from the public purse, must have thought that he was next in line as D-G when Thompson stepped down. When he was hired about four years ago the BBC was basking in its ludicrous licence fee grant from the then Labour government which gave it £3bn plus to do with what it wished.

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Top marketing honcho Davie was clearly the man to win more audiences, armed, as he was, with a marketing budget to die for.

But the Beeb isn’t Pepsico. On his watch the bloated duo of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross launched their answer-machine assault on national treasure Andrew Sachs (these things don’t happen at Pepsico or Unilever or Procter & Gamble) and then, rather more deliberately, the decision was made to axe a minority channel (600,000 expensive listeners) and roll it into Radio 2.

But the Beeb isn’t like that. Its minority audiences are the most voluble and they’re heard in Whitehall. The Beeb isn’t the subject of commercial logic, which is the only reason taxpayers stump up for it.

So Davie is faced with a conundrum, which is not of his making.

Pointing your money at the biggest market (and deserting those that don’t deliver) makes perfectly good private sector marketing sense.

At the good old BBC it’s the recipe for a short, and thwarted, career.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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