Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gearing up

Lawks. Last night's Newsnight attracted 830k viewers on BBC2 in the overnight ratings - a 7% share of the available audience at 10.30pm.

Was it the Top Gear phenomenon ? 13 minutes were devoted to lead item. Or was it some of Piers Morgan's 4.4m Twitter followers waiting for his non-appearance ?

Underling news

A technical rollercoaster of a Newsnight last night - Piers Morgan, booked to appear live from at LA (announced at 1400 GMT) spent an hour in a remote studio without making it to air. His non-appearance meant we got a little more than we could stand of BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob on Clarkson, after an expensive Steve Hewlett set-up film.

Yentob's people had first said no to to duty editor Neil Breakwell - he was busy. He'd done R4 twice - The Media Show and PM, separated by less than an hour, and had opined on C4 News. He was in the brochure for an evening party to mark 25 Years of BBC Films, being held in the Radio Theatre, part of the same building as Newsnight.

Alan enjoys the company and hospitality of film producers, and had changed to the dark grey suit from the light grey (for Wolseley lunch), but with the same trainers. On Newsnight he was wearing either a prototype BBC Fitness band, or something that entitled him to unlimited local wines and beers at the do. Or it could be a new personal body identity card; Alan's had "Don't you know who I am ?" problems with the BBC standard issue over the years.

Do sanctions against those who face allegations of bullying actually work ? Do they drive a change in attitudes to production staff ? Mark Lawson, who left Radio 4's Front Row last March "for personal reasons", but co-incident with an investigation by HR, shared his thoughts on the Clarkson affair with Radio Times. You get a flavour in this quote...

"It may be revealing of the priorities of the BBC that, while an American TV star was disciplined for a serious broadcast falsehood, the British telly celebrity was pulled off air for allegedly losing his rag with an underling getting his supper."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Moving forward

Channel 4's right-on streak would probably shy away from instant re-employment of a puncher. ITV would like to step in, but might lose quite a bit of advertising from Peugeot and other manufacturers of reasonably-priced cars.

My money's on Channel 5 coming in with a global deal via new owners Viacom (who run MTV, and Comedy Central in the States, home of Jon Stewart's Daily Show until later this year). Clarkson, May and Hammond, plus Andy Wilman, are quite capable of further re-invention, and there are plenty of cheeky titles left - Second Gear, Stolen Gear, Low Gear, Wrong Gear, etc etc. On  that bombshell, as they say....

Jezzer minute

As Lord Hall borrowed from Lord Sugar, and fired Jeremy Clarkson "with regret", the late night schedule cries out for a Dara O'Briain special, with Jezzer's best bits and his take on Lord Hall's decision, plus audience voting. 

In odds and ends, did anyone notice that Lord Hall said Top Gear will be coming back "in 2016"  - a longer than normal hiatus between series ? Did anyone notice that the "tank" used to deliver the "Save Clarkson" petition to Broadcasting House was actually a Vickers Abbott Self-Propelled Gun ? 

Here's the start of my next photo-book, entitled "Where were you when Clarkson was sacked ?"

Of Discontent

There'll be one less reason to buy The Telegraph if, as I'm told, Henry Winter, Football Correspondent and Columnist, jumps ship for The Times....

Who will front it ?

Whatever the decision today, the lightning rod is Lord Hall, on his own. The Guardian's team long for yesteryear....

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Neat Patten

You remember that time when we were all worried about Lord Patten's ticker ?  He seems to have rallied. He attended a dinner at the French Embassy last week, as guest of Sylvie Bermann. Highlights of the six-course menu - lettuce jelly with bergamot caviar, semi-smoked zander fillet with fennel pearls, braised ox cheek with apple soufflĂ©, and Caribbean chocolate tart with liquorice.

In May, he's having another go at giving the commencement speech at Notre Dame, Indiana, which he pulled out of last year. Also in the 170th anniversary ceremony, picking up an honour, is New Orleans R&B singer Aaron Neville.

Could a doctor help ?

One element of a Clarkson solution could be time off to reflect on his behaviour, and to have the two hip-replacements he needs. He was first diagnosed with osteo-arthritis in November 2004, and told it would be better to wait for the operation, as, in those days, the artificial joints were only expected to last fifteen years.

In April, Clarkson turns 55, and the question of which lasts longer, the hips or the man, becomes a closer-run thing. Three months would be a sensible estimate for two operations and recuperation. Series 23, under a new executive producer, could have films set up to make in July/August.


While we're waiting for a Clarkson judgement, I'm told at least one aspect of the legend is disputed. Most tomes of record, printed and online, say that he was expelled from Repton, in his words for "drinking, smoking and generally making a nuisance of himself."

This is not how others recollect events. He got nine O-levels, and thus breezed into the sixth form. His behaviour was an issue - "charmless chump" is a phrase I've heard - but the school persevered, and whilst there may have been suspensions, the final sanction was never applied.  Perhaps expulsion is more glamorous on the CV than "A-levels not good enough for university".

Monday, March 23, 2015

Performance enhancing

Who'd have thought it ?  At least a handful of managers at the BBC are "inconsistent" in their performance. But it's so few that Auntie won't say exactly how many, in case it helps us work out who they are.

The figures released about management appraisals also only show the ratings held by HR centrally; there's no obligation on individual departments to lodge their figures centrally - so Lord Hall can just about count the numbers of senior managers, but has no overall record of whether they're any good or not.

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