Surprise move

What prompted Greg Dyke to give BBC Production chief executive Matthew Bannister control of the new marketing and communications directorate? His radical shake-up of the company has baffled the industry, but it may be a canny way to reduce bur

Greg Dyke’s radical revamp of the BBC, announced this week, is going to be a painful process. “Making redundancies is never easy,” the director-general admits.

It will be down to the heads of the 17 new directorates, who will sit on the BBC executive committee, created through the restructure, to decide how best to reduce the duplication and bureaucracy that Dyke believes is holding back the organisation.

Hundreds of jobs are expected to go, with the axe falling most heavily on support services such as marketing and strategy, distribution, human resources, finance and public policy. Dyke is looking to cut the proportion of spending on administration from 24 per cent of the total about &£500m this year to only 15 per cent. The savings will be ploughed into programme budgets.

Dyke’s restructure is seen by some BBC observers as a canny first move. It cuts through the bureaucracy built by his predecessor Sir John Birt, at the same time allowing him to hold on to some of the most senior executives of the old guard.

This is one possible explanation for putting lifelong BBC insider Matthew Bannister chief executive of BBC Production in charge of the marketing and communications directorate.

The move has surprised the marketing industry, which expected the centralised role to be handed to Sue Farr. From her appointment as head of radio marketing in 1993, until her promotion as director of public service marketing in 1999, Farr is considered to have done much to make marketing a credible force at the BBC.

Bannister was somewhat derided for his 1993 shake-up of Radio One, which involved ousting older DJs, such as Dave Lee Travis, and replacing them with fresher talent. The moves initially lost millions of listeners, though many returned when Chris Evans was hired, and under controller Andy Parfitt the station has recovered its position. The BBC says Bannister’s changes are now considered to have been highly successful.

Bannister has no direct experience as a marketer, though he told Marketing Week: “We’re all in marketing at the BBC. I have extensive experience of designing and positioning GLR and Radio One. As director of radio, I developed a strategy of positioning the stations with clear target audiences and clear product statements, then implementing and communicating that.

I am not claiming to be a professional marketer, in the sense that I haven’t got a degree in marketing and I haven’t worked in a pure marketing discipline. What I do is understand audiences.”

But observers believe he may have been handed the role to keep him within the organisation, rather than because Dyke suddenly became convinced of his outstanding marketing abilities. Insiders say Bannister has been “angling” for the job for some time. They claim he is looking for wide-ranging experience within the organisation to launch a future bid for the top job of director-general.

Bannister says it will be “business as usual” as he talks to the staff in the new division and takes decisions on which jobs should be axed.

The directorate has a head count of 450 staff, and brings together marketing, corporate affairs, public relations, audience research and customer services. It includes the 250 or so staff who worked under Farr, and 80 who worked on corporate affairs under director Colin Browne, who left last week.

Bannister says: “There may well be some job losses, but we don’t know how many. We have promised staff that they will be dealt with fairly. I haven’t yet been told a budget that I must work within just that it will be less than at present. I can see opportunities where there has been duplication and overlap, and this gives us the chance to rationalise things.”

He adds: “I’d certainly like Sue to stay on. She’s done a fantastic job at the BBC in creating a professional marketing team. I would welcome the benefit of her experience.”

He says Farr, as well as Jane Frost, controller of corporate marketing, and Colin Browne, director of corporate affairs, have given marketing a degree of credibility at the BBC. Marketing used to be a dirty word at the corporation, but many producers now cry out for their programmes to be given strong marketing support.

“I’ve always given marketing prominence in what I have done, and I have always believed in it as a discipline so I think that is why it is appropriate for me to get this job,” says Bannister.

Dyke says “raising morale and uniting people across the BBC is a challenge”. He points to a recent staff survey which shows many employees feel divided from the rest of the BBC by differing objectives and that they lack freedom to make things happen”.

Eliminating conflict

By pooling all marketing, PR and promotions into one department, Dyke eliminates one potential source of conflict within the organisation.

A former BBC insider says: “BBC marketing has been dominated by two opposite characters – Farr and Frost – which led to the department being very fragmented.

“Frost is intellectually forceful and genuinely passionate about the BBC.

But she has an awful interpersonal manner. She has overseen some of the most successful marketing exercises in the BBC’s history including Perfect Day and the 75th anniversary trailers which had contributions from Mikhail Gorbachev and others.”

The insider says Farr “has admitted privately that she is not a great strategist and she delegates the task. But she is the consummate communicator and a very clever politician.”

There were rumours that Farr and Frost did not get on well. “By the end, they could not sit in the same room together,” says the insider.

Advisers are believed to have told Birt to seek a single marketing director, somebody with a strong track record who sat on the board.

Insiders say Dyke did not take to Farr’s Chanel suits approach, while he thought Frost “too high-minded”. He then bowed to Bannister’s supplications to be handed control of the department.

Changes to BBC One

One of Dyke’s first changes is understood to be a shake-up of BBC One’s Saturday night schedule, with plans to put Match of the Day on at 6pm, followed by a fourth episode of EastEnders, the National Lottery draw and drama.

The changes introduced at the BBC this week will be another cause for concern at ITV, which has experienced declining audience share figures for the first quarter of this year.

The channel has been criticised for not showing enough films to attract younger viewers.

One media buyer says ITV still without a chief executive will be under increased pressure next year, when the BBC will have an extra &£200m to plough into programming.

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