Saturday, December 16, 2017

Old hand

DG Lord Hall finds time to meet Trevor Hill, 92, former studio manager who worked at the BBC in the time of Lord Reith...

Friday, December 15, 2017


A modest 57% rise in January for new BBC News boss Fran Unsworth, who will be paid the same as James Harding - £340k. Fran, a BBC lifer, will be on 'old benefits', so it's a considerable pension boost, when she chooses to go.  The final interview panel was Lord Hall, HR boss Valerie Hughes D'Aeth and Ken MacQuarrie, Director of Nations and Regions.

A successful internal candidate always creates hope for others down the line. Who will now lead the World Service Group ? Young pretender Jamie Angus (Winchester College and Magdalen, Oxford) or Earl of Salisbury and survivor Adrian Van Klaveren (Bristol Grammar and St John's, Oxford) ? Might any of the thwarted candidates fancy being Fran's No 2 - Kamal Ahmed (Drayton Manor and Leeds) or Gavin Allen (Oundle and Christ's, Cambridge) ?  Were there really no outsiders good enough to make the final stage ?

For further reading, try cheekyboy Amol Rajan, who says his new boss's job is 'hellish'.

Higher education

Most of the BBC1 audience blew a mild raspberry at Lord Sugar last night, with only 1.96m sticking with The Apprentice: Why I Fired Them at 8pm last night.

It was a highlights show of a poor series, offering no new insights. The reality of this reality show is that you cannot just pick young buffoons every time; and you should not be able to find candidates who apparently have never watched the series, and thus treat every task as if no-one had set such a challenge before. The standard HAS to get better, and there has to be something of a real competition, not the choreographed farrago we are currently offered.  The final is between a lad who wants to start an IT recruitment agency and an older woman who buys sweets and re-packs them into plastic glasses for online sale. Have a word, Charlotte.

It's Fran

Congratulations to Fran Unsworth (St Dominic's High School for Girls, Stoke on Trent, and drama at Manchester University), selected by Lord Hall as the new Director of BBC News. She's had a go at the job before, acting up during the Pollard Inquiry at the end of 2012 - when Helen Boaden was asked to 'step aside'. (Roger Mosey says acting DG Tim Davie asked him first, and he said no). One of Fran's first actions was an internal memo to staff attempting to stem leaks. “It would be helpful if some of our problems were not played out publically across social media and in the pages of the national press.” The memo was immediately leaked.

Fran was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, one of three girls - her 60th birthday comes on 29 December, if staff are contemplating gifts. Contemporaries at Manchester included Rik Mayall. Post-university she joined Radio Bristol ("virtually my first job"), and moved to Radio Leicester. London then beckoned, and Fran passed through network radio with Newsbeat, The World at One/ PM, and a period as radio's Washington producer.

The next step was with bi-media Newsgathering, on home news coverage, and spells with the tv One O'Clock and Six O'Clock bulletins.

In 2000, BBC DG Greg Dyke ordered a review of political output from BBC; the job fell to Fran, and led to the cancellation of On the Record, Despatch Box and Westminster Live for new brands of rather similar programmes.

In 2005 Fran became the first female Head of Newsgathering, then with 800 staff.  The step up to News' top job, as a 'clean pair of hands' in the aftermath of Savile/Newsnight, continued as Helen Boaden moved to radio, and until James Harding arrived in August 2013. Harding made Fran his deputy (involving quite a lot of daily grind, as Harding went looking for 'The Future of News'), and added the title of Director of World Service Group - another female first. There, she's been trying to spend surprise Foreign Office money, whilst domestic news stutters on the delivery of savings. She'll have to balance the books now. 

Other tasks left in Harding's in-tray; implementing new terms and conditions; sorting out talent pay - not just for women, but between some grumpy males; seeing if someone can make the new weather system work; moving the whole division to a new newsroom computer; choosing a Newsnight editor, a head of English regions and a new Number 2.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Money worries

Sir Cliff v The BBC surfaced again today - the first the public have heard of proceedings since May.

In a preliminary to what is expected to be a full trial in April next year, Mr Justice Mann was opining about Sir Cliff's finances - his lawyers claim he has suffered "profound and long-lasting damage",  mental, financial and reputational, and has submitted a confidential schedule of losses, including a cancelled advance on an autobiography. The BBC and the judge want clarity that these losses hit Sir Cliff 'pound for pound' and not just his service company, Balladeer. 

Psycho babble

More money descends on beleaguered Johnston Press - this time a big cash hand-out from the 4th round of Google's Digital News Initiative. It's for two projects - Mooding and Local Active.

"Mooding aims to harness a reader’s state of mind, profiling their affinity to different types and tones of content in order to personalise their experience and improve engagement.

"Readers of news sites tend to be targeted by geography, demographics and behaviour. The project will focus on creating a deeper understanding of consumers, using psychographic profiling to harness users’ attitudes, moods, values and aspirations with a view to gaining greater insights into content preferences, purchasing decisions and brand relevance. This deeper understanding will subsequently allow optimisation of content plans, product development and commercial solutions."

Johnston Press also received funding for ‘Local Active‘, a hyperlocal, mobile-focused service to deliver location-based information (sounds like something first proposed by the BBC in 2008.)


Crikey, are you now reading a blog of global influence ?

BBC America is showing darts. Coverage of the battle for the Sid Waddell Trophy, awarded to the winner of the World Darts Championship, starts today, with a mix of highlights and live shows. There'll also be some Premier League darts matches, running over 16 weeks. All 87 hours of the World Darts Championship and all 16 matches of Premier League will be live streamed on

It doesn't sound like there'll be special commentary for the Yanks.

BBC America President Sarah Barnett said, “Darts is a fringe sport like no other— it appeals to the obsessive soccer fan, requires the skill of poker and has some of the high entertainment quota of wrestling. As home to some of the world’s largest global franchises, adding a unique, world class sport to BBCA’s fresh and entertaining line up feels like exactly the right move, giving viewers a live fix of a spectacular world class sport.”


Old BBC hacks will be entertained to note the appointment of Jonathan Baker to the Witchfinders of the Ofcom Content Board.

Jonathan, for many years a stalwart of the BBC Radio Newsroom, will serve under Chair (and former denizen of the BBC Radio Newsroom) Nick Pollard. Jonathan (English literature and History, University of East Anglia) is now founding Professor of Journalism at the University of Essex, and serves as chair of the Science Media Centre. He began his career as a reporter at the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, and left the BBC in 2014.


Trends are often more interesting than snapshots.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Follow the money

Here's an interesting piece from BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan, on his first year in post, in which he confesses that the creation of tv news is more complicated than he thought.

He makes no mention of his many and varied presenter roles - R4's Media Show, Start The Week, The One Show, depping for Simon Mayo on R2, guest judging on Masterchef, and culminating in a Celebrity Antiques Road Trip pitted against Grace Dent. It's a miracle he fits any Media Editing in.

So what does 2018 hold for Amol, 34 ?  Is this piece part of his pitch to succeed James Harding, by which he might expect to earn over £300k ?  Or will he take the presenter route to increased dosh ?

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