The BBC’s big PR stunt – why 6 Music is the new Wispa


It is the ultimate social media PR trick. A company threatens to pull a brand and then sits back and watches as fans start huge Facebook/Twitter/blog campaign to save it.

It worked a treat for Wispa and in a smaller way for Subbuteo and now it seems that BBC’s Dir Gen Mark Thompson is about to pull it off again for BBC 6 Music.

Here’s the theory

1 The BBC needs to be seen to be making cuts. If it doesn’t it knows that the Tories (and maybe even Labour) will hack away at the licence fee and reduce its budget after the election.

2 Closing a few websites (many of which have been mothballed already) won’t be enough to pacify James Murdoch and his pals in the Tory party, so Thompson needs a good headline.

3 Thompson knows that of all the channels/stations it could close BBC 6 Music is the one most likely to trigger a campaign to ensure its survival. Even before Tuesday there was a Facebook group with over 50,000 supporters.

4 So by threatenign to close 6 Music Thompson looks as if he is seriously making cuts (although its closure will save less than £6 million a year – which is twice Anne Robinson’s salary – a drop in the ocean).

5 However he knows that the campaign to save it will give the station a huge fillip and will almost certainly significantly increase the number of listeners it gets.

6 Eventually the BBC Trust will save 6 Music making the BBC look like it is listening to its customers. Sir Michael Lyons has already hinted it will be saved.

7 BBC 6 Music will continue with a much higher profile

8 The BBC and Thompson in particular manage to look like it is making cuts when in reality it has just undertaken a bit of good housekeepin

He might be smug, but that Mark Thompson sure is clever. However the Tories are very quiet on the BBC at the moment. Slicing up the BBC is not much of a vote winner. The Murdochs will however want their pound of flesh and I can’t believe that the Tories won’t be taking a knife to the BBC if they win the election.


10 thoughts on “The BBC’s big PR stunt – why 6 Music is the new Wispa

  1. Interesting theory! I’d buy it if this was a commercial brand, but I’m not sure the BBC would be able to pull a stunt like that?I emailed the BBC Trust and suggested they sack Chris Moyles instead. Still waiting for a repsonse…

  2. Back in the 1980s, British Rail did exactly the same thing – a hostile government wanted to see widespread closures. So they proposed the famous Settle and Carlisle line for closure, and the resultant campaign to save it made the Beeching II that the Thatcherites wanted politically unacceptable.

  3. Nice theory Ashley – hope it’s true. Not sure what to do with my house full of DAB radios if 6 Music goes – can’t listen to the cricket in every room.

  4. I think you mean Heinz Salad Cream rather than Wispa. Cadbury really did stop making wispa bars and only brought it back when they needed a new product launch and realised there was an appetite for them.On the BBC I don’t think they’ve been that clever but agree that this may well have been there expected outcome.Might also be worth commenting on how it has taken attention away from other MUCH bigger questions surrounding Radio One, Radio Two and BBC Three. That’s good PR.

  5. Well, they did it with the Daleks. But, sadly, it simply just ain’t true in this instance. If we get complacent in this particular instance, 6music will go. That’s, er, it. Please send the Trust an email, tell ’em to instead sell Radio 1 or 3 (which are both stuffing commercial radio alternatives) or just sack off BBC 3 and please help save it. Send an email to: Cheers.

  6. Hmmm if it is a stunt then playing along helps boost 6 listeners and save other bits of the Bbc. Sadly i don’t think Bbc bosses are that clever. Even if its true its going to back fire, certain exec types are really starting to look like easily sacked fools. Thompson can get away with not understanding radio, tim davie on the other hand is looking like an over paid out of touch prat.

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