Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Extending choice

Stephen Fry is on Newsnight with Evan Davis tonight. He's also on Front Row on Radio 4 and Newshour on World Service. Gawd knows where today's interview with Huw Edwards is turning up.

Last Thursday, he was "exclusively" on BBC Breakfast.


BBC hacks may be cheered to know that the New York Times (CEO Mark Thompson) is cutting 100 newsroom jobs this year - around 7.5% of 1330 employees. Subscription apps NYTOpinion and NYTNow have not done the business.

BBC News is still trying to reach a target of 20% cuts, spread over four years.

Accentuate the positive

There's an moderately entertaining debate going on about recent research conducted for the shy, self-effacing Radio Centre, who would like Radio 1 and 2 to become so dull nobody listens - or to run the stations themselves.

The headline spin is that "Listeners think Radio 1 and Radio 2 should be more distinctive" and "Listeners do not associate Radio 1 and Radio 2 with their public service remits". To reach this view, they put a positive line on negatives - extrapolating a "should be" that's certainly not in their published Q & As.

On Radio 1, for example, given a choice of 10 statements on "what Radio 1 means to you", and allowing people to tick as many boxes as they like, 33% said it was "different to commercial radio". From this, apparently, comes the line that 77% thought it was the same. It's not a positive option. Nor does there appear to be a question about "commercial radio" being "different to Radio 1".

Similarly, out of 14 statements that you might "associate with Radio 1", 25% said "programming for younger teenagers". That morphs into a headline "75% or more of Radio 1 listeners suggest the station is not representing its target audience, or getting them to engage". Not what they were asked, in the detail that's published.

The research was done by BDRC Continental, and as it's on their letter head, one presumes they provided the accompanying copy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Long haul

Newspaper critics in general have welcomed Evan Davis' first show as main Newsnight presenter. Sadly, their tuning in - and Evan's arrival - doesn't seem to have boosted the figures too much. Unconfirmed versions of the overnights suggest 550k viewers. That compares with an average of 605k for the four months to the end of April 2014.

Good Morning Britain, perhaps not aiming at the same audience, hit 581k average last Wednesday.


75-year-old former station master, Richard Spendlove, still adorning BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's schedules, gets a pretty hard kicking from the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee, in its latest report.

They noted his comments during a phone-in discussion of  marine sergeant Alexander Blackman, jailed for the murder of an Afghan insurgent, which included...

“And this, for what it may be worth, is my view: we shouldn’t be there in the first place. That’s where I stand on it. And if that’d been the case, it wouldn’t have happened, would it?”

At one stage, he urged listeners to write to their MPs about the sentence of eight years in prison; but later added,,,

“…as I’ve said so many times before, you vote one lot of wasters out and another lot of wasters in…” 

In relation to the parts of the complaint upheld, the Committee noted.. .

"...the failings throughout the show of 7 December 2013 and it was concerned that they were of such seriousness as to suggest that there had been inadequate editorial supervision of the output. It noted BBC Cambridgeshire had already acknowledged the issues and required the BBC Executive to confirm that such supervision was now in place.

The Committee considered that some of the breaches in this programme had been unequivocally clear. Trustees regretted it had been necessary for the complainant to go through every stage of the appeals process to establish what should have been conceded by the BBC earlier. "

Tickets, at £9 each, are still available for Richard's performance at the Brook in Soham on October 3rd, entitled "A Nice Night In...".


Herald Scotland has some interesting stats about the Yes campaign. They'd apparently set a fundraising target of £24m, but have so far declared reaching £4.8m. Some £3.5m was donated by Euromillions Lottery Winners Colin and Chris Weir, now living in Troon, They picked up £161m in 2011.

Earlier figures to the Electoral Commission show that Dan Macdonald, a property developer and member of Yes Scotland's advisory board, and Mark Shaw, director of operations for the campaign. both gave £50,000. SNP  activist, Randall Foggie, gave £125,000. The Proclaimers Live Ltd dontated £10k. Elizabeth Topping, wife of former William Hill boss, Ralph, gave £50k.

Blair Jenkins, according to the Herald, was on a salary between £100k and £120k.  He was appointed Chief Executive of the campaign in June 2012.

  • Anyone else getting the impression that this year will see an increase in licence fee evasion in Scotland ?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Easing in

Bryony Gordon's Telegraph piece, an interview with Evan Davis preparing to occupy the main Newsnight chair full-time, is unequivocal. "Ratings are down", she writes, presumably without challenge from the BBC side.

Evan testing
So the rather high-risk strategy is to launch the new boy tonight with a David Cameron interview. Of course, you'd like to make headlines with it. Will Cameron surrender a news nugget of his own free will in joyful acknowledgment of/and congratulations for the Katz/Davis unilateral pact of non-aggressive political interviews ? Or will the soft cushion technique wrong foot Dave into a gaffe ?  (By the way, has Laura Kuenssberg signed the pact ?)

Either way, until the BBC shares some Newsnight viewing figures, we'll have to make our own minds up about success or failure. 5,900 10 to 14 year-olds was not enough to save the 4 O'Clock Show on Radio 4 Extra - is there a Bottom Line for investment in Newsnight ?

15.40 Update: All seems cosy, doesn't it ?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Davey lamped

It'll be entertaining to see where Alan Davey's salary ends up, as Controller Radio 3. His Arts Council England package was £186,000 p.a. in the last annual report. Gwyneth Williams, at Radio 4 is on a package of £191k; Jonathan Wall, at 5Live, approaches £143k; Ben Cooper, at Radio 1, close to £170k.

Roger Wright was on £227,450 - but then he ran the Proms, as well as four of the six "performing groups", the BBC Concert Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Alan, apparently, gets to run all six - adding the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. But even if Alan comes in for level money, that only leaves the odd £41k for a Proms director to keep the budget balanced. Doesn't sound like enough to me.

The performing groups are nearly always at risk - under the current Delivering Quality First cuts, they're saving 10%, while everyone else has a target of 16% or more.

Alan, as the outraged Norman Lebrecht speculates, could be in the job for some time; he's either 53 or 54, depending on your sources. I expect he won't be spending much money on Norman Lebrecht programmes.  

Table legs it

In the human laboratory that is the Telegraph newsroom, last week saw the exit of the Hydraulic Hub.

The table, at the centre of the spokes of desks in the Victoria aircraft hangar, adjusted for different tasks at different times of day. At full height, small meetings could lean in, as if taking un doppio at an Italian bar counter, making fast deployment decisions; half way, it could host a sit-down session for longer deliberations; and then down to coffee table level, to look down on first pulls.  It brought digital and print teams together, and meetings were open to all comers, provided you could get close enough to hear.

It's gone - to be replaced by a ring of desks for the new editorial leaders, circling the wagons against the possibility of incoming arrows from a new generation of multimedia hacks. There is, apparently, a seat for Jason Seiken - but he hasn't been seen at it yet, at least not in normal operating hours.

Meanwhile, around the perimeter, all the prized glass boxes which provided cover for the old regime have been taken out - apart from the Seiken duplex. We'll let you know if we spot any journalistic improvement resulting from the new layout.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


To think it was only seven years ago. When James Purnell was Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport; when Alan Davey was Director of Culture within the DCMS; Paddy Feeny (not the Top-of-The-Form/World Service sport one) was Director of Communication; and when Jon Zeff was Director of Broadcasting.

Jim's now Director of Strategy and Digital at the BBC; Alan Davey will soon arrive as Controller Radio 3; and Jon Zeff is Director of the BBC Trust. Missing out on a reunion in W1 is Paddy Feeny, Alan's partner. He was Head of Communication at BBC News from September 2012 til December 2013. He's one of the dramatis personae in the Pollard Report, helping to re-write Peter Rippon's blogpost about the decision not to run a report into Jimmy Savile on Newsnight. Paddy now works for Christie's.

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