Please activate cookies in order to turn autoplay off

Amazing Radio complains about BBC service 'copying our concept'

National digital station says rival BBC Introducing service is squeezing out commercial players

Amazing Radio, the national digital station that only plays unsigned artists discovered online, has lodged a complaint to the BBC Trust calling for rival service BBC Introducing to be investigated for allegedly squeezing out commercial players.

The company launched on digital audio broadcasting (DAB) on 1 June, only the third digital-only station on the service, as a national launchpad for unsigned artists that have uploaded music to the website amazingtunes.com.

Paul Campbell, the chief executive of parent company Amazing Media Group, has written to the BBC Trust chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, complaining that the corporation's rival service, based around the BBC Introducing website, is an unnecessary copycat of a product already provided by the market that has been massively expanded and now threatens to kill his business plans.

"It is an outrage that the BBC should use public funding to copy our concept and, by default, seek to put us out of business. This is to all intents and purposes a direct copy of our privately funded concept," said Campbell, a former BBC executive, in the letter to Lyons.

"I am dismayed that my former employer should behave in so aggressive a manner towards a private British company. I would ask that the BBC Trust investigate BBC Introducing as a matter of urgency," he added.

However, a BBC spokeswoman refuted Campbell's complaint, saying that nurturing new talent was part of the BBC's remit.

"We strongly refute this suggestion. Supporting new talent is at the core of the BBC's mission and BBC Introducing has been offering unique broadcast and performance opportunities to new and unsigned musicians for over two years," she added. "We are very proud of the work BBC Introducing does in championing new artists but, as it offers quite different opportunities to other new music schemes, we would encourage new bands to explore all the avenues open to them."

The initial BBC Introducing website was launched through a deal to sponsor a stage at Glastonbury in June 2007. Since then the brand has grown to have a presence at festivals including the Radio 1 Big Weekend, T in the Park, Reading and Leeds, while unsigned artists can get national coverage on BBC stations Radio 1, 6 Music, 1 Xtra and the Asian Network.

About 35 of the corporation's local radio stations also have BBC Introducing shows. Bands that the BBC claims have had a break through the service include the Ting Tings and Florence and the Machine.

Campbell claimed that the flow through of acts from BBC Introducing has on occasion gone as far as appearances on Jools Holland's BBC2 show.

He said he had been prompted to send the letter because the expansionist activity of the BBC had led to investors in parent company Amazing Media raising concerns about the level of competition.

The company is also on the brink of signing an indefinite extension to a six-month pilot deal for Amazing Radio on DAB, under which it will have to foot transmission costs of well over £600,000 a year.

He said that the DAB platform, which has struggled to gain traction with broadcasters, needs "innovative, new propostions to get people to buy [DAB] radios" but that the BBC's activities threatened Amazing Media's business plan and current funding drive.

"I would like to not be in the position where I can't grow the business and get funding because the BBC is too much of a competitor," said Campbell, speaking to MediaGuardian.co.uk.

He added that the Amazingtunes.com website was beta launched in 2005 - two years before BBC Introducing went online - and went fully live in 2006. The parent company raised about £2m in 2007 and is owned by about 20 people.

The company claimed it runs an "ethical" download service where artists receive about 45p per download, from a 79p overall charge, which Campbell said is far superior to the cut they get from iTunes, which can be as low as 8p per track.

Campbell compared the BBC's expansionist activity to BBC Introducing to the corporation's ill-fated foray into the online education sector with BBC Jam.

After complaints from the commercial sector, the BBC Trust shut BBC Jam in March 2007 with online content worth £75m subsequently mothballed.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email editor@mediaguardian.co.uk or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000.

• If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication".


Your IP address will be logged

Amazing Radio complains about BBC service 'copying our concept'

This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 07.04 GMT on Monday 9 November 2009.

Comments in chronological order

Comments are now closed for this entry.
  • This symbol indicates that that person is The Guardian's staffStaff
  • This symbol indicates that that person is a contributorContributor
  • ollybenson ollybenson

    9 Nov 2009, 7:35AM

    The problem with Paul Campbell's argument was BBC Introducing was hardly a new service, it was simply a rebadging of a vast array of existing services.

    Radio 1 set up One Music, a website dedicated to helping unsigned artists, in 2002; the Evening Session, a radio show that played unsigned artists, went on air in 1990, and John Peel before that. Local radio has had local bands for ages.

    What 'Introducing' tried to do was make there a more consistent proposition, so local radio stations could feed into network production; and offer things like the opportunity to perform at Glastonbury.

    Given the significance of the cultural industries on our world standing, I'd have an issue if the BBC's remit to promote new and emerging talent was under threat just because one of their ex-staffers had realised they could make some money out of it.

  • digitallytuned digitallytuned

    9 Nov 2009, 8:08AM

    BBC Introducing has been going a while. Long before Amazing. They were asking for songs via e-mail before that. To have people upload to their website is just a natural progression.

  • londonmark23 londonmark23

    9 Nov 2009, 8:17AM

    The BBC Trust scrapped the idea of local video news websites because it was feared it would put commercial competitors out of business, and there is a similar issue here.

    You're right that the BBC has been championing new bands for years, but there is a difference between that and pouring public money into a website which is likely to kill off commercial competition.

    It's a tough one for the Trust but you may see the BBC Introducing website content watered down in future, as part of the overall review of the BBC's online activities.

  • Phazer Phazer

    9 Nov 2009, 9:16AM

    You're right that the BBC has been championing new bands for years, but there is a difference between that and pouring public money into a website which is likely to kill off commercial competition.

    MySpace was much more likely to kill this than the BBC was.

    There is a difference between commercial competition that had a chance of succeeding and an area in which there's no plausible money to be made. This might well be good for Absolute - it saves them pouring money into a pit.

    Phazer

  • mememememe mememememe

    9 Nov 2009, 11:21AM

    "I would like to not be in the position where I can't grow the business and get funding because the BBC is too much of a competitor," said Campbell

    And there is the whole basis for Mr Campbell's claim - a pop at the BBC to gain a bit of publicity for his station - because he can't really think that the BBC has copied his idea. Amazing decided to launch as a radio station in June this year - why did they feel it was necessary to launch a product in an area in which the BBC caters well?

    Amazing will say, we had an unsigned music before the BBC's Introducing service - and it looks like they did - but it also appears that Amazing was set up to sell unsigned music, and their DAB service is a way of selling those tunes and their website. So neither is the BBC's Introducing what their orignal business plan was.

    And finally, as ollybenson points out, the BBC has had numerous activity around unsigned bands for years, and as the BBC has increased its online presence, so did they cater for this online: here's the very same idea back in March 2005, but it was around earlier than this.

    So - it looks like the BBC is not treading on commercial toes, rather this commercial venture has tried to take the BBC on, and is now crying foul when no foul has been committed. It seems this is perfectly timed for his appearance at

    "I am dismayed that my former employer should behave..."

    While we are at it, why does Campbell insist on referring to his period of work at the BBC as he has done here and here? (Where he titled as just a BBC "producer", not "executive" and does not list the BBC as a competitor) Does he have something to prove?

    On all of this evidence, it would appear, he does.

  • Smiddy Smiddy

    9 Nov 2009, 11:33AM

    I think Olly and Phazer sum up nicely the points I was going to make. I'm surprised the detail was left out the article.

    The business model that Amazing Radio is attempting - generating revenue through downloads - has been tried by more experienced industry operators - Cliq, for example. That didn't work, despite a lot of support from the industry.

    And there is that nagging concern about payments to PRS registered musicians. And the fact that there are several other start-ups working in this online space (as well as MySpace). And the fact that everyone in the industry could see that attempting to fund a digital radio station through downloads of unsigned music was never going to work. The maths is a non-starter, especially given that amazingtunes.com has never generated anywhere near the amount of traffic required to generate substantial revenues:

    http://siteanalytics.compete.com/amazingtunes.com/

    So less than three weeks before the six month DAB trial is due to expire, investors are concerned and it's all the BBC's fault. The story simply doesn't stack up - it's all smoke and mirrors.

  • michaeljs5 michaeljs5

    9 Nov 2009, 2:24PM

    Remember the BBC "Perfect Day" video from a few years back? Well my friend was the producer on it. The only reason people like David Bowie et al agreed to be in it was because they basically owed their careers to the BBC...

  • mediaskills mediaskills

    9 Nov 2009, 7:52PM

    Well said Paul Campbell.

    This is the BBC playing "me too" as they always do (with one hand in the taxpayer's pocket) whenever commercial broadcasting comes up with a model that works.

    How far back do you want to go?

    BBC7 kills Oneword ....

    Children in Need kills a dozen or more ILR charity appeals ....

    Breakfast News launches (amazingly) a week before TVam ....

    I could go on, and that's before you even open the can of worms which is BBC Online.

  • neilcoventry neilcoventry

    9 Nov 2009, 10:53PM

    In regards to the comment by 'mediaskills'

    Children In Need kills a dozen or more ILR charity appeals- How much gets ploughed back into childrens services due to children in need!! MILLIONS

    BBC Breakfast was launched before TVam (a service that died and still does die every morning in the form of GMTV!

    The BBC provides much more News, radio, TV and online content than any other broadcaster in the world! And until one of them raises its game and brings us anywhere near the quality and history of the BBC, i think we should be greatful that for a small amount of money a year we have endless news, programmes, radio that cater for hundreds of people tastes!

    As for the BBC killing things off, if only it would kill off awful local commercial radio, endless repeats of midsummer murders and a terrable news service that is itv!!!!

  • rufusst rufusst

    10 Nov 2009, 8:30AM

    This is the BBC playing "me too" as they always do (with one hand in the taxpayer's pocket) whenever commercial broadcasting comes up with a model that works.

    @mediaskills - Who says the Amazing Radio model has been proven to work yet? They've only been on air since the summer.

    Truth is, there's no real money to be made in supporting grass roots music; until a major label or publishing deal comes along, it's pretty much a loss-making exercise for the bands, who do it for the love of it (as do a lot of the local Introducing radio presenters on the BBC, I understand). Fans of unsigned music are a niche of a dwindling niche (youth radio listening figures are stil falling). This is a public service endeavour in the truest sense.

    In what way is the BBC playing 'me too' when they've been broadcasting as BBC Introducing since 2007, two years before Amazing? Even before that there was plenty of unsigned music on the BBC, going back well before Amazing Tunes launched, as well as the One Music and Exposed brands, as ollybenson says.

    Paul Campbell should remember that the BBC doesn't (can't) sell downloads from bands, it can only give them exposure on its radio, TV, events and online outlets. Presumably Paul welcomes this exposure when it's for bands who have made their tunes available to download at Amazing?

    Interesting to note that BBC Introducing clearly doesn't see Amazing Radio as a competitor; Amazing is listed high up on Introducing's "Helpful Links" page along with other 'rivals' like Last.FM, MySpace et al:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/introducing/links/

  • drumpaul drumpaul

    10 Nov 2009, 8:40PM

    I'm the Paul Campbell mentioned in the article. (That's the much-hated Paul Campbell, to judge from some of the responses).

    Thank you for the criticism. I've thought about what's been said and posted a blog, which I hope will explain a bit more about what I was going on about, and show why our point is (I hope) a bit more sophisticated than some of you thought.

    Let me know, anyway. Unlike the BBC, we like to be criticised ;-)

    It's at http://amazingradio.co.uk/blog/

    Paul Campbell
    amazing founder

Comments

Sorry, commenting is not available at this time. Please try again later.

Guardian Jobs

UK

Jobs in media

USA

Jobs in media

  • Loading jobs...

jobs by Indeed job search