2 Day or not 2 Day?

Its 2 Day on Thursday – BBC Radio 2’s annual day of self congratulating back-slapping over indulgence. I think this grotesque spectacle should be banned because it is damaging for the UK’s economy and creative industries.

Lets look at the “2 Day” business model. Here we have the UK’s most popular radio station – using the most powerful media – to promote itself across national TV, online and radio networks in order to attract even more listeners – totally for free. Unlike the hundreds of other radio station businesses that it is “competing” against, Radio 2 doesn’t have to worry about how it will pay for itself next year, or the year after or at anytime because it is funded through the TV license.

As a result of its funding Radio 2 can afford megabucks salaries for its star presenters and automatically gets tens of millions of pounds worth of free advertising. So, could you run a successful radio station if you had the best DJs, a guaranteed fixed income, free national advertising across the BBC and huge listener figures which attract the biggest star guests? Of course you could.

To clear something up, my view is that Radio 2 is fantastic. I love it so much I ought to wonder if every aspect of its excellent output was designed with me in mind. (If I could make only one criticism it would be calling for the return of Radcliffe and Maconie of an evening.) So to be clear, this is not a Radio 2 bashing exercise. There is a very significant point that I’m thinking of here though, a political question that is raised by the 2 Day initiative. Is the BBC trying to close down commercial operators in this country? And if the answer is yes, what’s the point in that?

2 Day will inevitably help the station get even higher listener numbers above its current reach of 15,000.000 people. But that’s going to be at the expense of the already struggling smaller stations who are trying hard to run their stations as proper businesses in the vile economic climate of our double dip recession. These proper businesses attract their finances from selling advertising, they don’t get any money handed to them for free. They’d be very grateful for some free, epic advertising and promotion after the local news bulletins in their areas, that’s for sure.

But if BBC Radio 2 successfully takes all of the local radio listeners, which car showroom, caravan supplier or restaurant is going to advertise on local radio? Local stations will go bankrupt, throwing all those people who work at the radio station on the dole. With the local radio station closed down, the local businesses that advertised and attracted listeners to their stores and showrooms will have no way of promoting their unbelievable offers and they’ll eventually go out of business too. Local charities and good causes won’t be able to promote their events and appeals for free and they will suffer too. Its simply not fair nor justifiable that a body as powerful as the BBC can play games with tens of thousands of peoples lively hoods as part of nothing more than an ego trip.

Another way of describing what 2 Day stands for is if we imagine that all of the UKs local councils decided to promote Tesco, totally for free and then spent a few days putting up signs all over the town, council websites and buildings saying “visit Tesco – its cheaper, and has a wider variety of goods that are better quality than the expensive local convenience shops.”  That a ridiculous concept isn’t it? But thats exactly what 2 day is all about. And here is the most ridiculous part; it is all completely pointless. It is simply a bragging rights exercise with no actual prize. If BBC Radio 2 got half its amount of listeners it would still get its money. If it doubles its listener numbers, it will still get the same amount of money. Its not a real contest that Radio 2 are winning is it?

My conclusion is that if BBC Radio 2 is so darn pleased with itself, that’s all very good. But maybe in the current economic climate, when colleagues at smaller, less privileged radio stations are struggling to keep their businesses alive in the real world – it would be appropriate to pipe down about how terrific they are and show some modesty. Because lets be honest Radio 2 can’t fail to be so successful with the tools at its disposal.

If we are paying a license fee to fund a non profit making radio station to compete for the largest market share, then the BBC charter needs revising. And the managers need a better set of targets than to simply grab the largest possible audience, at the expense of pointlessly bankrupting local radio.

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