Are we likely to get ads on the BBC under Tim Davie?

Newly-anointed BBC director general Tim Davie (how long will it be until he’s called CEO?) certainly has stamina: a seasoned marathon runner and someone who’s ridden out a turbulent decade at the Beeb.


Davie (above) is still defined for many by his background as a marketing exec at, first, P&G and then Pepsico and he originally joined the Beeb as its marketing supremo. He then ran audio for years (radio to some of us although not, these days, the Beeb), plotting, among other things, the demise of Radio 6 Music to save money. This failed mercifully, let’s hope he doesn’t bear a grudge.

Davie has a lot on his plate of course. This Tory government (Dominic Cummings) hates the BBC and David Cameron’s lot weren’t much better; then chancellor George Osborne (still regarded by some as clever, mystifyingly) landing it with the responsibility of paying for over-75s TV licences.

The licence fee still provides about £4bn or so of the BBC’s £5bn income although Davie’s commercial activities as head of BBC Studios help greatly to top it up – by selling the likes of Killing Eve to the US. The Tories (or many of them) would like to get rid of the licence fee, effectively a tax on the UK population, many of whom don’t watch the BBC.

Davie will need to come up with some kind of compromise which substantially reduces the licence fee but gains money from from elsewhere. Streaming will obviously play a part but, in reality, he has two options: advertising on some of its radio channels or selling them. Even that may fail to sustain such a big BBC.

On your marks Tim…

PS Whatever’s happened to Killing Eve? It used to be murderous fun, now it’s a showcase for angsty middle-aged female actors.

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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.