Friday, October 31, 2014

Spread out

Half the BBC's staff are now based outside London - compared with 42% ten years ago. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland account for 18%; MediaCityUK, in Salford Quays, now accommodates 17%, and 15% work elswehere across England. BBC-owned and leased buildings are down fromn 300 to 154.

  • This year's plan to fill empty BBC production space at the Mailbox, Birmingham, is turning into a recruitment drive. London-based HR employees have almost all decided to take a deal and leave, rather than migrate.  

OK Corral

If the arcane world of Freedom of Information struggles leaves you cold, look away now.

In those heady days when BBC HR thought it was employed to "do something", wayback when HR boss Lucy Adams, channelling a young Doris Day, slapped her cowboy chaps and hollered "I'm gunna sort out them ornery poorly-performing teams", she shared the information that 30 departments had done badly in the 2012 Staff Survey.

On the basis that there must be a list on a piece of paper, a Freedom of Information inquiry followed. It was lodged by one Spencer Count, a nom-de-plume now acknowledged by its owner as, rather unsurprisingly, made up. Spencer has made 55 enquiries of the BBC. Now he's come up against a new oppo in this particular Wild West feud.

Douglas Marshall, a lawyer who previously worked for the Football Association, is the BBC's chosen hired gun, employed via Lawyers On Demand, set to deal with pesky Spencer. In Auntie's latest refusal to say who the 30 bad boys were, Douglas claims "Spencer" is, in fact, a BBC employee, and, worse "a motivated intruder" (a quasi-judicial term) whose familiarity with BBC systems will lead to identification of poorly-performing individuals once he has the team details - and that's an ICO no-no.

Will Spencer rise from this kick in the teeth ? Are there more punches to be thrown as the combatants wrassle in the corral ? Or is Spencer effectively on his horse and out of town...?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lunch away from base

BBC Director of Television Danny Cohen had lunch with The Queen yesterday.

He was a guest at one of Her Majesty's regular meet the toffs people luncheons, in the "Semi- State" surroundings of the 1844 Room, in the west wing of Buckingham Palace. (It takes its name from an 1844 visit by Tsar Nicholas 1).

Did Danny get a word or two in ? Other guests (usually fewer than ten) included cricket commentator Henry Blofeld, tv chef James Martin, Vice-Admiral David Steel, second Sea Lord, and vascular surgeon David Nott, Janet Hulme (rhubarb producer) Professor Dame Julia Slingo (Chief Scientist, Met Office) and Moira Wallace (Provost, Oriel College).

Capita payment

As we await the review of criminal penalties for non-payment of the licence fee, one citizen has succesfully extracted £149.03 from TV Licensing, after eleven years of letters. Two years ago, he adopted the idea of charging Capita for processing their enquiries as to why he didn't need a licence again and again, and, whilst he's probably still of pocket, he has the satisfaction of a couple of framed cheques.

Vote often

Friends know I've become a bit of a pub bore about the threat/opportunity to our democratic future in online voting - not for Stevie, or Sunetra, or Eurovision, but about big, real decisions. That future moves a bit closer with plans to get at least half a million people signed up and "verified" to use Government online services by March next year. One set of identity checks should then get you through to other departments, as they offer online engagement - a bit like signing into hew apps with your Google or Facebook i.d.. More from Computer Weekly.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Disjunction

Many things are excellent and wonderful in BBC News, and I am reluctant to micro-report the odd difficulty. However I cannot resist sharing news of problems with the online staff survey, launched this week.

Many respondents, cheered by the rallying cry "We really value your opinion", have found that the "computer says no". Specifically, the digital dialogue seems to end when answering the question "What one thing would make News Group a better place to work?"  One of my longer-toothed correspondents attempted to enter the text "Better, more reliable systems" and was immediately dumped out of the survey; he's by no means alone.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pollster

James Harding, BBC Director of News and Current Affairs, is in contemplative mood. As he packs his Osprey Momentum 22 rucksack for a trip to California to find The Future of News, he idly muses "What one thing would make News Group a better place to work?”

"Top question, Jimmy", says an internal communications specialist about to apply for their own job, "Let's add it to the staff survey..."

In the spirit of Family Fortunes, here's my stab at the top answers...

1: Improved catering on night shifts (network)
2: Any catering at all (local radio)
3: More bike racks (network)
4: Bike racks (local radio)
5: Transparency about the relationship between an editor's salary and their audience figures
6: Please stop Newsgathering making me write "exclusive" in intros when no other news organisation is remotely interested in the story
7: Can I have a contract like John Simpson's ?
8: On winter nights, do correspondents really have to do live introductions to pieces when you can't see the buildings behind them ?
9: Can I have an office like yours ?
10: Can we have fewer surveys ?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Weaning

Good Morning Britain is six months old today. Here's last week's viewing figures

Mon - 650k (16.8%)
Tues - 600,000 (16%)
Wed - 588,000 (?)
Thurs - 523,000 (14%)
Fri - 520,000 (14.1%)

Uptick

As the agents say, "Commercial space is widely available across Glasgow".

So Savills are proceeding very gently with the sale of development land in the wide open spaces of Pacific Quay, now releasing an additional 4 hectares ( the site total is around 52) to the market.

The various plots have planning in principle for 30,000m2 of business space, 1,800m2 of restaurant/leisure, and 1,400m2 for retail.

Savills' David Cobban says "Activity is picking up at Pacific Quay and we are receiving an uptick in interest from developers and occupiers as the economy improves, which has spurred us to launch the latest phase."

Cool

So BBC News is totally looking for a new Head of Internal Communications.

Presumably the successful candidate will help in the composition of slightly more sensitive staff emails from the top. There's work to do on job adds, too. The main blurb uses "effective" four times, and the full spec nine times.

It also has some heritage bombast. "Under the leadership of Director of News, James Harding, the News Group makes up more than a third of the BBC with over 8,500 staff around the UK and the world serving a huge variety of audiences."  Big numbers like this irritate newspapers around the country, as they battle the Beeb in new media. They also irritate tv staff, who just know they are more important. The maths may even be exaggerated. BBC public service headcount in the last annual report was put at 16,672, full time equivalent.

Other people who read this.......