Gary Barlow overload: BBC cuts back day-long tribute to singer

Gary Barlow

Broadcaster scales back day devoted to X-factor judge Gary Barlow after criticism it might breach guidelines

LAST UPDATED AT 15:55 ON Fri 6 Dec 2013

HOW much Gary Barlow is too much? That was the question being asked by several newspapers this week after the BBC announced an entire day of programming dedicated to the singer it calls a "bona fide national treasure".

"This is no ordinary performance - throughout the day, you can listen, watch and interact with a bona fide national treasure - before seeing him perform in concert," the BBC website gushed.

The event, scheduled for 11 December, is linked to the release of Barlow’s solo album Since I Saw You Last. In its original form, it would have seen Barlow interviewed three times on three different radio programmes, a live broadcast of a Barlow concert and a live Q&A session with the singer on the BBC website.

Commercial radio stations - fearful their advertising revenues would be hit by the BBC’s 24-hour Barlow bonanza - were among the first to object. Matt Payton, a spokesman for commercial radio’s trade body, RadioCentre, argued that the BBC had "over-stepped its remit by giving such blanket coverage to a single artist", The Guardian reports.

Payton said it was natural that Barlow would appear on a station such as BBC Radio 2. "But if you look at the scale and the reach of the BBC, if it starts to offer things akin to free advertising, that potentially has an impact on our revenue," he said.

A BBC spokesman defended the programming last week, telling the Daily Mail: "It is not unusual for an artist of Gary Barlow’s stature and broad appeal to appear on a range of programmes that reach different audiences, and is entirely in keeping with our guidelines."

Now the taxpayer-funded broadcaster - which has got into hot water previously due to "over-zealous tie-ups and promotions" - seems to have a change of heart. It has "scaled back" the Barlow event and toned down some of the breathless language it has been using to describe the former Take That singer, the Guardian says.

References to "no ordinary performance" and Barlow being a "bona fide national treasure" have been ditched. In their place is the rather more neutral statement: "You can listen and watch Gary performing In Concert, live from the BBC Radio Theatre."

Previous examples of the BBC overstepping the mark include a Harry Potter-themed day on Radio 1 in 2010, says the Guardian. It’s promotion of the U2 album No Line on the Horizon also breached guidelines and it was criticised by the BBC Trust for "overly endorsing" Coldplay’s Viva La Vida tour in 2009. · 

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