Friday, December 2, 2016

How rude

For those still reeling from the telegraphed body punch that is the forthcoming end of Midweek on Radio 4, a learned correspondent with long BBC roots has been in touch.

"It's probably apocryphal, but there's the story of one Radio 4 Controller who, when introduced to the then head of Magazine Programmes, asked him what his main programmes were. He says: Start The Week, Midweek and Stop The Week. Ah, she replies, 'Pluggers, Nutters and Wankers!' "

Creating meaning

For those un-Christmassy folk already at a low ebb, something on the horizon to drag you through into the New Year.

It's the HR Directors Summit 2017, being held in Birmingham over two days starting 31st January. This year's theme ? "Building Intelligent Organisations -  Creating Meaning, Guiding Strategy, Boosting Prosperity". Blimey, they should be running the country, eh ?

BBC HR Director Valerie Hughes D'Aeth has carved a few precious hours from her diary to present on the topic "HR Transformation - The People Function of The Future".

"Does your HR function still deliver the people capabilities you need to stay competitive? As organisations transform to remain competitive – the HR function must also take stock to ensure they are continuing to help the business achieve its strategic objectives for performance and growth.

Valerie Hughes-D’Aeth, BBC HR Director will share her experience in BBC’s current re-organisation and transformation. She will discuss what strategic considerations you need to make when re-designing your HR function to make it fit for the future. And what impact will this have on your team and the wider organisation ?"

Look Val, I don't mean to be difficult about this, but could you come back when you've sorted re-grading, Band 11 issues, diversity, UPA allowances, bullying, nightshift payments, non-competitive recruitment, late night and early morning transport, and few other intractable BBC chestnuts ? Then perhaps we can talk about transformation.

True to type

I admit to a certain fuddy-duddiness when considering current BBC priorities. Yesterday Auntie revealed a new, specially-designed logo for The Archers, to be used on the website, social media etc. I've no idea of the budget involved, but apparently it took two years of meetings for it to be agreed, and I bet they weren't costed.

Now whispers reach me of a plan for a new BBC font. Specially designed for Auntie. That's what the licence fee payers are crying out for..."Whadda we want ?" "A new font !" "When do we want it ?" "Now", is a refrain echoing around the UK's living rooms. There must be a pile of letters to Points of View and Newswatch - "We've had enough of the BBC following the herd. Helvetica simply isn't distinctive enough, and as for Georgia Italic for quotes, etc - I shall be taking this up with the DCMS".

Wednesday bombshell

On a ship where too many officers of the deck are eager to please, slight tilts of the rudder ordered by the captain can get magnified into major re-directions of course.

The great BBC helmsman, John Birt wanted more business news and editors. There remains a machine-like business news delivery, of occasional insight, on the News Channel, 5Live, Today, Breakfast and BBC World. Editors, for Politics, Business, Economics, World Affairs, Sport, Media and more remain omni-present.

Greg Dyke wanted more live sport, and shifted millions in that direction. The retrenchment continues.

Mark Thompson wanted more Shakespeare and science. Thus The Hollow Crown, Brian Cox and Bang Goes The Theory.

Lord Hall wants more of everything that he's passionate about. He sometimes can't make up his mind what he's most passionate about, but it includes drama, arts, music, natural history, local radio, Radio 4, Strictly, Dr Who, education, Children's, anything from Wales, Scotland etc etc.

James Purnell now owns network radio, so one has to presume the decision to snuff the guttering flame of Midweek by Controller R4 Gwyneth Williams was run past him. Joy of joys for Jim, the replacement for the tired chat show includes 24 half-hour shows a year in which major arts personalities interview each other sequentially. Joy of joy for Gwyneth, this reduces presenter fees*. Joy of joy for Midweek presenter Libby Purves - reduced from a 52-week-a-year presenter fee for 55 minutes, to a monthly fee for a half-hour show about British theatre. We are not told what will fill Wednesday mornings from April 2017 for the 28 weeks a year when there are no arts personalities to talk to arts personalities.

Midweek sort of made sense when Radio 4 had a stable of Start The Week and Stop The Week. In its prime it was a vehicle for Russell Harty, alongside birthday interviewer Sue Lawley, and a sharp look at "The Week So Far" with Russell Davies. That ended in 1981, when Russell H decided it was clashing too much with his TV work. I joined on attachment as producer, and was presented with a sort of live audition roster of hosts and the hardest weekly job I've done.

Pete Murray, Mavis Nicholson, Noel Edmonds, Tony Lewis and Henry Kelly all got a couple of weeks each. Looking at the budget, there seemed to be loads of dosh, so I had fun booking music acts - including Louis Armstrong's old band, and Phil Pope to write a weekly comic ditty. In turned out that the departmental manager had already siphoned off half the budget to subsidise Woman's Hour, so the end of my run turned into a hunt for cheap/free guests. I booked in Sarah Dunant for the Sue Lawley role. Sarah was a real trouper, helping new presenters through the longueurs of some duff guests.

In the end, the departmental manager instructed me to book Libby, who was for some reason available. I decided six months was enough and went back to Newsbeat.

I am still available in places of refreshment in the W1A area to regale old and new with tales from "Bill Rogers: The Midweek Glory Years", an as-yet-unwritten bestseller....

*The programme structure first appeared on Radio 4 in December 2004, in the form of Chain Reaction, with Jenny Eclair interviewing Jimmy Carr. Sky Arts have run four series of a similar format, Living the Dream, which started in 2011 with Stephen Fry and Bill Wyman in conversation.


If you have a little computer time available today, and want to see what a BBC management e-mail s---storm looks like, there's an entertaining Freedom of Information release to peruse here and here.

In January this year, an enquirer asked for copies of the TV Licensing Monthly Performance pack going back three years. It took the BBC until July to get its act together; to recognise that it was data, and couldn't be entirely protected. Sadly, in performing the BBC's preferred redactions, it all went Pete Tong. Most of the data was on Excel spreadsheets, and someone tried dropping in whited-out boxes. However, in conversion to PDF, the data behind the boxes was still accessible - stuff like the number of search warrants exercised by region. Deep magic stuff for anti-licence fee campaigners.

Plaintively, in one of the tangle of cross-forwarded internal emails, there is one bit of positive action: "This incident has exposed a lack of knowledge around the safe redaction of documents and the use of Adobe redaction software. This will be incorporated into our training programme for divisional FOI reps and we will also highlight the issue in our next FOI newsletter".

Within moments of publication, the wisdom of releasing this tiny bit of apparent common sense was called into question, with another enquiry...

Please release the last 2 years issues of the FOI newsletter and the current documents, video and audio of the current FOI training program. I request this detail since this release contains the phrase 'safe redaction', which I feel could be contrary to the ICO guidance on the same. Redaction is not 'safe' for any party, it only needs to be accurately and correctly conducted.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Three months after Christine Langan announced she was leaving, the BBC has advertised for someone to run BBC Films.

Christine, who's off to be CEO of Baby Cow, was billed as "Head Of.."; the new post is called "Director of....", and in the job description, it's explicit that the role reports to BBC Director of Content, Charlotte Moore. There no mention of the man who calls himself Chairman of BBC Films, Alan Yentob.

You have til Christmas Eve to apply.


Old-time favourite BBC watering hole, The George, in Great Portland Street W1, is boarded up ahead of renovation - but now the hoardings have acquired some artwork. It appears to be a bloke in dreadlocks holding his crutch, thankfully through trunks. Is there any relationship with George here that I'm missing ?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Congratulations to Lewis Goodall, off from Newsnight to join Sky News as a political correspondent.

From St John's Oxford, where he studied history and politics, Lewis joined Granada TV in 2010 as a researcher, where tasks included writing questions for University Challenge. Then a year with the IPPR, where James Purnell was in charge. This all qualified him to join Auntie as a broadcast journalist in 2012, rising to producer/presenter (with an agent).

It could have been different. View his profile from 2010, on Casting Call Pro. Marvel at his mastery of accents, his ballroom skills and willingness to perform in the nude.


Silverbacks beware. The new top dog in US nightly news is David Muir, 43. He presents ABC's World News Tonight, and November figures give it the lead in total viewers over NBC and CBS for the first time in 15 years.

Lester Holt, anchor of NBC's Nightly News is 57. Scott Pelley, host of the CBS Evening News, is 59.

What gave you that idea ?

It was back in September 2015 that the BBC launched its Charter renewal 'big ideas' under the banner "British, Bold, Creative".

Bold they may have been, but the gestatory period seems rather extended. The latest Executive meeting reviewed The Ideas Service, including "a plan for the next stage of development." and 
the findings of the Arts Group, on "what a more 'open' BBC meant for arts and culture in the UK, as well as for the BBC itself - and how it might be delivered."

The Arts Group were asked to return with "proposals for how the project would work in operational terms". Might that take another 13 months ?

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