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BBC to appoint one big boss of pop

By | Published on Friday 26 April 2019


The BBC is planning to introduce a new role overseeing all of the broadcaster’s pop music output across radio and TV. Meanwhile, another new staffer is set to oversee the direction of the BBC Sounds app.

In an internal memo, BBC Director Of Radio & Education James Purnell explains: “We currently have a mix of controllers and heads in the pop music area, so I’m planning to create a new role – Controller, BBC Pop Music – to bring our portfolio of pop stations and music output under one umbrella”.

There have been attempts to more closely align the BBC’s various music operations before, although with mixed success. Indeed, many initiatives intended to streamline management at the top of the radio stations and music telly projects have instead added extra personnel and bureaucracy into the mix. Often this results in the BBC finding new things to keep those people busy, which is in part why the Corporation has increasingly started to compete with the music industry it’s meant to support by becoming a festival promoter.

Explaining what specific divisions will be part of this latest effort at joined up thinking, Purnell goes on: “The pop stations – Radio 1, 1Xtra, Asian Network, Radio 2, 6 Music – [and] BBC Music and the music TV commissioning heads will report into the new controller. This is a great opportunity for the pop music stations to work more closely together and for the BBC to maintain its effective voice with the music industry”.

In some ways the new position could be seen as a replacement for Bob Shennan, the Beeb’s former Director Of Radio And Music, who has been promoted to an overall MD role. The new role won’t have quite as wide a remit, but such roles often expand at the BBC, so could ultimately do so. A current favourite for the pop boss job is Radio 1 chief Ben Cooper.

Meanwhile, the second newly announced executive position will put one person in charge of the BBC Sounds app. Launched last year with mixed success, the app brings together all of the BBC’s radio and podcasting activity, and has been made a top priority by Director General Tony Hall.

Purnell notes that the broadcaster is “launching into a competitive, relatively mature market” in terms of offering ever more enhanced on-demand music experiences through an app, and therefore “gaining audiences is going to require determination and focus”.

However, he says, “we have something none of our competitors do – the breadth of our creativity. The streamers don’t have radio stations – yet. We are local, national and global. We have a unique public purpose – to serve the public by informing, educating and entertaining. And we have some of the best marketing and product teams in the world”.

“To succeed”, he goes on, “we need to make Sounds more than the sum of those parts. We are therefore going to have a single person accountable for the service – a new Controller of BBC Sounds. They will develop the strategy for Sounds, and oversee its delivery, coordinating our editorial, product development and marketing teams. The Controller will develop the editorial strategy for Sounds with the networks, who will do the majority of the commissioning”.

Applications are being accepted for both roles now, if you fancy having a crack at it. Although, I’ll just point out again that everyone is expecting the top pop job to go to Ben Cooper, so maybe don’t bother for that one unless you really like writing job applications. There is an opening for a new Radio 4 Controller at the moment though. But I think the deadline’s passed for that. Sorry, this paragraph has been a real downer, hasn’t it?

Elsewhere at the Beeb, the organisation has put in a request to media regulator Ofcom for a change to the rules to allow a big revamp of the iPlayer service. Keen to better compete with Netflix and Amazon, it wants to keep shows streaming via the on demand video platform for twelve months after their original telly broadcast, rather than the current one month. Also, it wants to make more full series and archive films available.

“Audience expectations have changed dramatically, viewers are now used to being able to watch what they want when they want, and they expect much more from BBC iPlayer”, says Director Of Content Charlotte Moore. “We want to make the best UK programmes available to audiences for longer and provide a range of series and box sets for everyone to enjoy. This will bring the BBC iPlayer in line with what other services already offer and give audiences even greater value for their licence fee”.

Ofcom has not yet given an indication of how long it will take to make a decision on the BBC’s request.