Issue: 'Who shot Phil?' EastEnders storyline
The BBC's PR machine had a tricky job on its hands when it came to
publicising the long-awaited EastEnders episode finally revealing who
shot Phil Mitchell.
The trick was to maximise the hype and generate record viewing figures
while maintaining a tight grip on the story line.
With media speculation about 'Who shot Phil?' running at high levels,
extreme measures were called for, and included the writing of five
alternative endings, the swearing to secrecy of lead actors Steve
McFadden and Lucy Benjamin, and keeping the rest of the cast in the
Filming in different locations in the UK added further spice, and
prompted admiration from The Daily Telegraph: 'the PR benefits of the
BBC filming away from the EastEnders set could not be more clear', it
commented (www.telegraph.co.uk, 6/4).
Delaying the start of the UEFA Cup semi-final between Barcelona and
Liverpool by 15 minutes was more controversial, and aroused criticism of
the Beeb's tactics on internet bulletin boards. 'Giving this important
match such second rate treatment is just stupid. I hope the BBC never
get to show a game of football of this importance ever again,' fumed one
contributor to www.ananova. com (6/4).
Despite the tight security, inside sources at The Sun and The Guardian
gained access to the soap opera's story line, and did their best to give
away the plot in the run-up to last Thursday's dramatic episode. But
this, and an e-mail, allegedly from the BBC itself, leaking the identity
of the culprit before the broadcast, failed to dull the nation's
interest, as the programme was positioned as the biggest TV whodunit
since the 'Who shot JR?' episode of Dallas 21 years ago.
'The PR team has done a brilliant job - keeping it a secret and
confusing everybody,' was the verdict after the extended programme
(www.bbcnews.co.uk, 6/4), a sentiment confirmed in the viewing figures
of 20 million and an audience share of 69 per cent, which, media
commentators observed, gave BBC1 a 'rare peak-time ratings victory over
ITV between 7pm and 10.30pm' (www.guardian.co.uk).
With talk already of Dan Sullivan being framed and a comeback by Bianca,
the Beeb is clearly on the offensive in the ratings war.
Analysis and commentary by Echo Research. More information can be found