Thursday, January 05, 2006

BBC's Bach Christmas 'huge hit' - or was it?

The BBC Radio 3 PR machine jumps into top gear today to spin the 'success' of their Bach Christmas.

A press release claims a 'runaway success'. But conveniently audience figures will never be available to prove this, as they are not measured over Christmas. Instead the BBC claims are based on 'a record number' of web site hits in December. The claimed figure is '3.1m impressions during the season itself', although there is no explanation of what 'the season' is, or how this figure compares with previous 'seasons'.

I have two problems with these claims, quite apart from the fact that there is no proven link between the web site hits and radio audience size. First, in the past the BBC's claims about internet traffic have not been fully supported. Information leaked from inside the BBC last year indicated that the results from drilling down into the data on the much-trumpeted 1.4 million Beethoven MP3 files may not have spun anywhere like as well as the top-line story.

And my second problem is with the BBC Radio 3 controller Roger Wright's statement that 'more than 90%' of the 2000 email received about the Bach Christmas were 'positive'.

What exactly is a positive email?

After three days of the broadcasts I sent the BBC a negative email, and wrote about it here. I received the following reply (my highlighting):


From: Bach Christmas [Bach@bbc.co.uk]Sent: 01 January 2006 11:03To: Bach ChristmasSubject: A BACH CHRISTMAS

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to write to us regarding A Bach Christmas. We are completely overwhelmed by the response to it and are delighted by how much you enjoyed the experience.

I hope you continue to enjoy Radio 3 in 2006.

With renewed thanks Best wishes
Roger Wright Controller, BBC Radio 3


I must assume the BBC counted my email (and how many others?) as one of the 'more than 90%' of the messages that were 'positive'. How sound are their other statistics?

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3 comments:

SimonT said...

You make a very good point and the BBC’s response shows just how seriously and accurately they consider their customers’ feedback. Turning it into a cheap PR exercise undermines the value of audience research and shows real complacency and disregard for listeners’ views. Such weak measurement and misuse of data is pretty disgusting. I market theatre shows and I try and measure everything I do. I’d never take such a cavalier approach to what should be the most important focus of any arts organisation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the salvo.

I'm a former radio man too. Nothing does more to shake the faith of the discerning listener than the bare face of the corporate media manager.

Anonymous said...

Depressingly complacent attitude ... as another of the comments indicates.

The fashion for inviting listeners to email and phone in all the time has always made me a bit suspicious. They surely can't deal with all the emails that might flood in and have to be selective and therefore one inevitably gets an interpretation, which might seem to represent general listener reaction much more than it does.