Sky says shutting 6music means nothing to them

By | Published on Thursday 27 May 2010

As expected, one of the key commercial media firms that the BBC’s 6music-shutting Strategy Review was in part devised to placate has said the cutbacks in services proposed by BBC bosses in the controversial document do nothing to alleviate their concerns that the Beeb is too powerful a player, and uses its guaranteed licence fee funding to secure unfair competitive advantage.

According to The Guardian, in its response to the BBC Review submitted to the BBC Trust, BSkyB says plans to close 6music and the Asian Network, two Beeb youth strands and parts of the BBC website are  “tactical and cosmetic” cuts that just “tinker around the edges” but do not dent the scope of the Corporation’s activities. Basically, 6music and the Asian Network could be shut tomorrow, but BSkyB and its key shareholder Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t stop moaning.

This is something much predicted by opponents to the cuts being proposed by the BBC. Many commentators have pointed out the irony that, in a bid to placate commercial critics, BBC bosses have proposed shutting down some of its least commercial services, a move which would see more money passed to those BBC networks other media firms most object to, in particular Radios 1 and 2 and, in BSkyB’s case, BBC News.

Even the BBC youth services facing the axe – which the BBC review specifically says could be provided on a commercial basis – won’t really placate commercial media owners. While in theory the youth market is lucrative, increased regulations regarding what you can advertise to teens coupled with that audience’s tendency to spend more time online than with traditional media, means few non-BBC telly firms have big youth market ambitions. Indeed the main commercial channel for teens, Trouble, shut down last year.

In his company’s submission to the BBC Trust, BSkyB corporate affairs man Graham McWilliam said: “The [BBC] executive’s proposals appear tactical and cosmetic. They tinker around the edges of the BBC’s activities, giving the impression of change while avoiding the fundamental questions over the BBC’s future strategic direction”.

Of course, to be fair to the BBC, while their Strategy Review is totally misguided as an attempt to placate commercial rivals, in reality little will stop BSkyB from moaning, short of shutting down BBC 1, Radios 1 and 2 and the BBC News Channel.

Sky’s most recent complaint about the BBC regards plans for the new look iPlayer to provide links to rival broadcasters’ online services, so that people who search for non-BBC programming on the iPlayer will be directed to where those programmes are available online.

Such a service is the BBC trying to fulfil its commitment to use its popular licence-fee funded website to drive traffic to commercial rivals, but Sky see it as an attempt by the Beeb to make their website the first-stop hub for British TV viewers, without realising it already is that, simply because most commercial broadcasters’ websites are really shite.