Friday, May 27, 2016

Lifting the roof

"There are currently 45 grade 11 employees on more than £100,000 per annum".

The BBC would like you to know that “Salary bands are internal guidelines and while the BBC salaries are generally lower than at commercial competitors there will always be occasions where we need people with specific skills that we have to pay for. These individuals enable the BBC to deliver high quality content for audiences but they are not senior managers who lead within the BBC.”

The roof of Grade 11 is just under £74k in London. By triangulation, I estimate that 370 members of staff are paid between £74k and £100k.

Up On The Roof

It looks to have been a busy opening night for the 2016 season on the roof of the old BBC multi-storey car park at Television Centre.

Four restaurants are running menus, Rabbit, Le Coq, Patty and Bun and the Salt Yard. Slightly more up market than the old days of industrial gas barbecues on the terraces of the BBC Club... and you can play boules, too. Elf and Safety would never allowed that near BBC drinkers.

Four things

BBC DG Lord Hall revealed to MPs this week that he's added four new projects to Auntie's critical list.

He told them that the one that keeps him awake most at night was 'getting BBC Studios right'. And maybe hanging on to some staff who are any good ?

The merger of technology teams under Matthew Postgate is also on the list, and so is HR Transformation. This is apparently so important that News' HR boss Dale Haddon has been seconded to the project. Let's hope there's good wifi on the two-hour-two-train journey from his Didcot base to Birmingham.

I'm not sure if the uppity News unions will be pleased at his departure - they are happier with pledges from overall HR boss Valerie Hughes D'Aeth, which have resulted in 15 staff at risk of redundancy being redeployed.

The fourth project is working on licence-fee payments and closing the iPlayer loophole. That team may have noticed a little petition from students seeking exemption from the licence fee if they only watch on-demand. It's now at over 17,000 signatures, which means, if they've framed it right, the Government has to respond.


Media hacks were marginally surprised to spot Alan Yentob at yesterday's launch of BBC coverage of the Rio Olympics. He was there to field questions about something now equally rare - a new edition of Imagine.

He'll be presenting an Olympic Imagine Special, One Night in 2012, looking back at the London opening ceremony with director Danny Boyle. It's scheduled for Tuesday 12th July at 2245 - no sign there of a new rumoured Sunday slot.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hide and seek

Thanks to readers in the Oxford area who alerted me to this new sighting of the most recognised face in British television news broadcasting.
I noted that John's website had been refreshed yesterday; yesterday, he seemed pleased with it.

So it's perhaps odd that it seems to have gone offline today. Maybe a sub is looking at it.

You can find out more about John through the website of Kruger Cowne, talent management and speaker bureau.  John's wife was a director and is still a shareholder - her sister is managing director. John is exclusively represented, and available at between £10k and £20k.  I suspect the Oxford Arts Festival may have made a different arrangement.

Recent additions to the Kruger Cowne exclusive but eclectic roster spookily (geddit ?) include Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, also available at £10k to £20k.

Tumbling off

Whilst we're talking about risk-taking, the BBC1 diet-psychology-jeopardy flummery, Lose Weight For Love seems to be losing audience. Episode 1 attracted 2.37m (12.1%), with last night's second offering down to 1.9m (9.3%). Two more to go.

The joy of governance

It was perhaps unfortunate that, as Lord Hall was quizzed by MPs yesterday about his issues with the make-up of a new unitary board, he couldn't quite remember the balance of his current Executive. He though it might be 8 BBC to 6 non-executives. It isn't yet, but will be when Nicholas Serota arrives in August.

The woeful Clementi report pointed to a BBC Board featuring 11 non-execs, perhaps playing against as few as 4 BBC employees. Listening to yesterday's session, I think Lord Hall is trying to get Whittingdale to agree to my marvellous plan, where some new non-executives would bring both a skill and an area of the UK they could credibly represent, perhaps in some sort of joint selection process.

Meanwhile, in terms of structure inside the organisation, Helen Boaden has made her first appointments in her role as Director of England - establishing Alice Webb as Director, North as well as her existing role running Childrens output, and renaming Joe Godwin, currently Director Birmingham as Director Midlands - he also keeps running The Academy (training, to you and me).  I fully expect there to be calls from MPs for a Director South West and East Anglia within days.

By these appointments, Helen gives herself more time for her commiments as Director of Radio - but for how long ?  She's been the subject of a couple of Private Eye stories alleging she's stood up to Lord Hall over restructuring at Executive level, apparently rejecting the idea that there's a proper job in being Director of Nations and Regions (a role axed by Mark Thompson in 2008, with Pat Loughrey exiting most elegantly). Is the three-humped camel back on the horizon ? Will the new jobs be advertised ? Is Lord Hall still looking for a Director of Content ?  You tell me. Please.

Back to BBC Governance at the high level. We have a current case that Lord Hall might like to offer when talking to John Whittingdale about why packing a BBC board with Government-approved appointees might be tricky. The ever-collegiate James Harding, who's clearly studied issues of Cabinet responsibility, has made it public that he's putting the future of the BBC News Channel to the Executive to decide, as one of six options at the July board meeting. It's a poor form of leadership, even if he makes public his preferred option. "They made me do it", he can write as his end par in the redundancy letters. But even worse, imagine if this decision was taken by a majority vote of non-executives ....

Watch me

The Public Accounts Committee session on BBC's "Critical Projects" in Salford yesterday shed a little more light on myBBC. We learned, although it's not in the National Audit Office report, that James Purnell was the original project sponsor, and that for at least two years there was no formal analysis of the benefits it would produce - a process usually key to working out whether a project is worth doing at all in the first place, and by which you can judge whether it's a success or failure. We learned that the lack of a benefits plan was discovered by the BBC's own Internal Audit team (when you think others at a higher level might have also spotted it); that James Purnell became too busy on Charter Renewal; and that agile myBBC ball was tossed to Helen Boaden, who can only have been pleased.

The MPs had been treated to a run-through of the project in the morning, which didn't entirely stop
them bothering the BBC team in the formal session. The DG told them that users of the BBC website who registered or signed in were now accessing 40% more BBC content, but nobody followed up on exactly how many had registered - which, of course, would be demonstrable proof of a benefit. (Phil Fearnley has said it's 6.4m, but I'm with commenter DonkeyHoteh here).
The MPs also failed to get the DG to explain how, or when, the BBC would implement a mandatory sign-up, which to most observers is essential to closing the iPlayer licence fee loophole. Lord Hall, flashing a nifty digital smart watch, did reveal that Auntie was wrestling with what should remain "free" online. The internal reality is that the moment iP delivery of BBC content requires proof that someone in your house has paid for a licence is the moment the BBC loses audience big time.

As well as their myBBC presentation, the MPs got a tour of the BBC's operations at Salford Quays, and hats off to those at 5Live who got Caroline Flint to extract a commitment to the network from Lord Hall. He also, however, pushed BBC Newstream again, which he said would give a "deeper, more meaningful experience". Let's hope that kills off the funny animal videos shot in portrait.

Stand by for a further post on governance. (Always a master at audience engagement, eh?).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


The BBC's John Simpson has been on Twitter for four months, and should surely have more than 600-odd followers. You would learn of his travels - China, Kenya, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, Syria and Russia - and countless dinners and speeches in his new home base, Oxford, where he is pleased to tweet that Alan Rusbridger is a neighbour.

John's website has been refreshed, and reminds us that "John Simpson CBE is an icon of British Television News, a household name in the United Kingdom. With his 50 years of experience in world affairs and international political journalism at the highest levels, he is the most recognized face in British television news broadcasting".

There are other lines, too. "SIMPSON ASSOCIATES: Corporate Consultants Simpson Associates is an advisory firm specializing in critical issues and corporate relations: a global resource led by John Simpson and drawing on an internationally renown knowledge base....Media relations is at the heart of what Simpson Associates does as a firm."  No sign of a client list.  I'm sure there's something on his BBC declaration of interests.

Game on

I shall be taking a refreshment at lunchtime, so will miss the Public Accounts Committee session on the BBC, which is an away fixture for the MPs, at the BBC's Salford Quays premises. So far, I can't find plans for a live stream, and free tickets have all gone.

The MPs have given themselves room to manoeuvre on current and future projects: "The Committee will question a panel of senior BBC figures about the delivery of major projects, ranging from the relocation of BBC offices to the development of new online platforms like myBBC. They will explore how the BBC manages these projects so they are delivered on time and provide good value for licence fee payers' money."

Lord "Harry Kane" Hall will again be playing twin striker with Anne "Jamie Vardy" Bulford. Debutante Trustee Nick "Jordan Henderson" Prettejohn will hope to provide the through balls.

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