In attacking the BBC for its overhype and disproportionate promotion of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, Kevin Spacey has hit the nail on its head. It's particularly bad for a public service broadcaster essentially to be promoting only one West End theatre company at the expense of all the others, when its Charter remit would recommend something else entirely. Yet the masses want what the masses want and the private, ratings-chasing mentality is firmly entrenched at Broadcasting House. No doubt there's also a sense that Lloyd Webber reality TV shows like Any Dream Will Do are the BBC's X-Factor, and need to be stuck with at all costs, given the corporation's past failures at music-based reality TV programming.
It's a mentality which is affecting most media these days - Marvel Comics putting superstar creators on poor selling properties like Fantastic Four, generating huge hype for brief periods at the expense of stronger written work on less familiar properties. It gets the attention the publisher needs, but it doesn't lend itself to a strong long-term strategy for them, nor for their publications at both ends of the sales figures. At some point the public will tire of the gimmick, Spacey is quite right in his irritation that far more innovative theatre companies like his will are losing out, with the public being pointed only in one direction on the West End, but with all media horribly fragmented and all audiences' attention spans unprecedentedly short, it's hard to know where the middle ground is. There may not be one.