Boss of TV Watchdog Slams BBC for Mass Market Populism

07 March 2002

Patricia Hodgson, chief executive of the Independent Television Commission, joined the pack savaging the publicly-owned British Broadcasting Corporation for neglecting its public service remit and allegedly competing head-on with the nation’s commercial broadcasters [WAMN: 06-Mar-02].

Echoing the criticisms voiced last week at the Communications Reform conference hosted by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising [WAMN: 28-Feb-02], Hodgson inveighed against the BBC for its popular mass market output such as Celebrity Sleepover in which, reminiscent of a Japanese humiliation show, hapless viewers get to spend the night with third division TV celebs.

Opined Hodgson: “Beating ITV with Blue Planet [the BBC’s highly regarded and popular documentary series] is a triumph. Beating ITV with Celebrity Sleepover is a tragedy.”

She argued that publicly-owned broadcasters such as the BBC and Channel 4 should tackle only those programmes that the commercial sector won’t touch, praising the latter (which, unlike the BBC, is also funded by ad revenues): “With free spectrum and no shareholder pressure, Channel 4 can do things the market won't. Maybe we should think about how to strengthen, over the next few years, the public service offerings as well.”

Advertisers, said Hodgson, should understand the challenges confronting the commercial sector. “Even the most popular channels cannot be all things to all men. In future, the networks will need to develop distinctive, but complementary, identities if they're to succeed.”

She urged the government to evolve a communications industry structure that encouraged investment, citing as an example the radio industry's underwriting of digital broadcasting. Hodgson added that commercial TV networks, including digital platforms, needed a new and simpler licence contract if competition is to be encouraged.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff