Monday, November 24, 2014

Deep expertise

It's going to be small but good. That seems to be the message from the BBC's HR Director Valerie Hughes D'Aeth, as she seeks to cajole her extremely-reluctant London staff to new horizons in Birmingham. With all the plain-speaking of industry experience, the work of this new Centre of Expertise, in the wide open spaces of The Mailbox, is described thus, in a series of new job ads

The COE function provides deep expertise and thought leadership in order to develop pan BBC frameworks and policies that enable the achievement of our organisational strategy and objectives. Using internal and external insight, they will develop leading edge tools that can be deployed that increase engagement, performance and ultimately, value for our audiences.

The three vacancies are for HR Director Talent Management, HR Director Total Reward & Employee Relations, and Senior HR Business Partner, Resourcing - so insiders can probably work out who's turned down a move to Brum.

The last job is graded not-quite-Senior-Management Band 11, which is confusing. The first two are quoted as Band 4/GSM, which may excite union negotiators and nerds like me, because it looks brand new.  Has Val got a revised pay and grading structure in her grab-bag ?

Wiki offers a range of possibilities for the GSM acronym. Global System for Mobile Communications makes no sense; Garrison Sergeant Major is possible; Game Set and Match is appealing.  Further contributions welcome...


As the days shorten and drift towards December, your favourite blogger is low on stories. One regular source seems to have been stemmed. BBC Executive Minutes, that model of transparency, have not been published since June 2014.

I am assured that new BBC Company Secretary Phil Harrold is Australian, but also assiduous, therefore it won't be his fault....though I did notice that he attended Murdoch University in Perth, founded by Rupe's great uncle Walter.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


The rumours that the Telegraph's Editor-in-chief Jason Seiken may not see Christmas in the post continue to swirl.

Certainly, his glass office on the newsroom floor has now been designated a meeting room. Meanwhile the Hydraulic Hub that used to sit at the centre of spokes of desks has made a reappearance - not at the pivot of the room of multimedia hacks, but off to one side. Sort of symbolic of the wheel lolloping off the digital revolution...

Not yet under water

The first series of the BBC's Greek-myth-hokum, Atlantis, opened with 7.36m viewers and finished with 4.90m. 

Still, in partnership with BBC America, BBC1 Controller Charlotte Moore backed a second series, and we were promised something "darker, more adult". Episode 1, rolling off the Strictly Blackpool blockbuster, retained 4.2m last Saurday - 18.4% share. Last night's second slice fell to 3.62m - 15.8% share. Maybe the young folk switched to XFactor. 

It will need heroic improvement in its consolidated figures to look like a good investment. 

The second series is also running on BBC America; I can't find episode 1 in the top 100 cable shows for 15th November. 

Farmyard economics

There are many ways of presenting "savings" and "efficiencies". There's apparently a new report coming from the BBC, which is previewed in an interview in the Telegraph with finance boss Anne Bulford.

She was asked by DG Lord Hall to take "a fundamental look at every pound we spend". We are not told how this will be different to regular financial reporting, or who has done the work. And how it fits with current "Compete or compare" work.

Anyway, here's a bit I sort of understand. "Bulford’s report will say that since the start of the current BBC Charter in 2007, it has achieved £1.1bn in annual savings out of £3.2bn in controllable costs. 'We’re on track to hit £1.5bn annual savings by the end of the charter in 2017. So there’s £400m still to do' ".

£400m is painful. My bosh at it savages management, presumes BT cough for half of rural broadband, ignores wage and price inflation, and probably increases redundancy costs. It doesn't include £50m saving from moving BBC3 online, 'cos I wouldn't do it. It still requires a cut in content spend of 7%.  Listeners and viewers have taken to the streets of Sydney over less at ABC.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Under the ruthless lash of series editor Alan Yentob, presenter Alan Yentob has got the latest edition of the ever-expanding Imagine down to a mere 1 hour and 45 minutes*, so it will finish at 00.20 on Wednesday morning on BBC1.

Series editor Alan Yentob also demands inventive titles for the iconic arts show, so this one's called "The One and Only Mike Leigh".

*Three minutes longer than Abigail's Party, 21 minutes longer than Nuts In May.


Some recent "exclusives" from BBC News.

"Newsnight's special correspondent Katie Razzall was given exclusive access to the rehearsal room and director Sellars ahead of the world premiere at London's ENO" - or perhaps, a nug (news as plug) for  John Adams' "The Gospel According to the Other Mary", already premiered in New York, and now coming to London. Dress Circle tickets priced £57.50 now available for £30.

"In an exclusive BBC interview, Islam Karimov Jr - now 23 and studying business at Oxford Brookes University - says his mother and sister are under house arrest in Uzbekistan." Natalia Antelava beats off all contenders to find the grandson of the President of Uzbekistan.

"The BBC has been given an exclusive look at this year's standing. Find out who's up and who's down in Asia....". A preview of an Economist Intelligence Unit survey on best business environments finds that Singapore is Number 1 - again.

"Families' disappointment over Glasgow black-out driver inquiry... BBC Scotland's Catriona Renton has this exclusive report". Reporter talks to families of two students killed by an out-of-control car four years ago, after publication of Sheriff's Fatal Accident Inquiry report.

"In an exclusive interview, Cheryl told BBC Breakfast that she 'felt lucky enough' to be still releasing music after 12 years".

VP to P

Congratulations to Sarah Barnett, new President of BBC America. It's not a big move in terms of distance; the channel is now run by US group AMC, in offices near Madison Square Garden, where until now, Sarah has been in charge of the Sundance Channel.

Sarah's from the UK. She started at Warwick University in 1986, studying the History of Art. She worked in BBC Radio Arts production for a number of years, producing Kaleidoscope and Night Waves, and then in tv presentation and branding. She joined BBC Worldwide as "Vice-President, Creative Services", and in 2004, gave BBC America a new on-screen look from their offices in Washington.

At Sundance since 2005, her notable successes have included putting money into "Top of The Lake", a co-production with BBC2 and BBC Worldwide in the UK, Australia and New Zealand; and backing last year's sleeper, The Honourable Woman.

Precedent ?

To Australia, where thousands have turned out at Sydney Town Hall, to protest against Government plans to cut ABC's budget by 50 million Australian dollars a year for the next five years. ABC boss Mark Scott (often tipped in BBC DG Stakes) says the impact is equivalent to 8% of its annual income.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull also wants changes in the structure of ABC management. Cuts and/or demo couldn't happen here, could they ?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Team building

Could a heady combination of football and Greg Dyke lead to a second career change for Peter Salmon, the BBC's King of  Director of England (but Not London) ?

In 2000, Greg arrived as BBC DG, and Peter was running BBC1. Prior to his accession, Greg had been critical of the network's performance, and so Peter moved to become Director of Sport, making way for Lorraine Heggessey. But Greg also doshed up sport to win back football rights, and a jolly time was had all round.

Now Greg, as Chairman of the Football Association, is looking for a successor to Alex Horne, Secretary General, and, according to the usually-well-informed-on-BBC-matters Charles Sale, Peter is under consideration. Peter, born within a mile or so of Turf Moor, is a Burnley fan "but not a fanatic, like Alastair Campbell", and chose Warwick University because it had a picture of Steve Heighway in the prospectus.  Horne's current salary is £528k, so a move might resolve the slight anomaly of Peter's current deal - at £387,900, he's at number 3 in the BBC salary league table, with no seat on the Executive.  And, of course, he might not have to set up a family home within range of Salford.

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