When U2’s 12th album, No Line On The Horizon, was released in March 2009, no one seemed more enthused than the BBC. They introduced the slogan “U2=BBC,” hosted a rooftop concert with the band (which was simultaneously broadcast on BBC Radio 2), and BBC Radio 1’s website displayed links to ticket agents for U2 shows.
Slightly excessive? Perhaps, but it’s nothing entirely new in terms of television-network coverage. The BBC, however, is funded by UK citizens’ taxes. And some Brits were none too pleased to learn their money was going to support a live rooftop concert, among other ventures. British MP (Member of Parliament) Nigel Evans of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in an interview with the Daily Mail, called the coverage “the sort of publicity money can’t buy.”
“Why should licence fee-payers shoulder the cost of U2’s publicity?” he asked.
Now, nearly a year after complaints began rolling in, the BBC is admitting fault, releasing the following statement as a response to the controversy:
The Radio 1 leadership team have reminded executive producers and presenters about the issues to be considered in relation to judgments about undue prominence, and the distinction between the reporting of new artistic work and commercial promotion.
The management of BBC Marketing, Communication and Audiences (the Division responsible for the U2 = BBC graphic) has reminded all staff of the need to consult the editorial policy team in a timely manner for advice when potentially sensitive issues such as commercial interests are involved.