Henry scores for Sky in battle of uneven playing field

In Sky Sports’ much vaunted new advert http://bit.ly/1HQdIb6 promoting its coverage of the forthcoming football season, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry demonstrates he is a much better actor than pundit.

The ad – putting him in the midst of some of the Premier League’s most famous and infamous moments – is extremely clever and memorable…although its appeal will soon diminish when Sky flogs it to death.

But its purpose is clear: persuade existing Sky viewers to upgrade their subscriptions if they do not already pay for the sports package. That’s fine. No problem with that. But, amidst the on-going debate over the future of the BBC and its funding, I do have a problem with the BBC unrelentingly advertising itself on television and radio.

In the days before Sky+, when you could not fast forward through the ads, a major appeal of the BBC was that it was advert free. The flow of films, dramas and sport was not interrupted by a commercial break. Now, stick on BBC1 for a couple of hours and there’s a deluge of self-promotion. I’ve bought this service already. Why are you trying to flog it to me?

Not only do these adverts – and that’s what they are – give the BBC an unfair advantage over its competitors, they will cost a fortune to make even if they are produced in house. And if they are created by BBC staff (knowing the BBC there will be a department of creatives and a lot of managers to manage the creatives) there is the cost of their salaries, NI, pensions, etc.

I do not want to suggest people lose their jobs, but it would be interesting to know how much of the licence fee is used by the BBC to promote itself. Then, of course, there is the free (presumably) use of TV and radio slots which – if you were an advertiser paying for them – would cost millions of pounds a year.

Far better minds than mine are struggling to suggest an alternative to the anachronistic Licence Fee. Allowing advertising is obviously one solution. Well, actually, it’s happening already.