Sunday, April 19, 2015

Go compare

Here's an new assertion about BBC management pay rates that might need a little testing.

The BBC has been quite public about the "discount" to commercial salaries suffered by its executive directors - the Annual Report says that discount is between 50% and 80% and the average discount is 72%. (There are seven BBC Executive Directors - costing, on the last published figures - £2.56m to run per annum. The BBC claim is that, without the discount, that total would be £9.1m).

Now, in response for a Freedom of Information request, Auntie has revealed the discount applied to the two Senior Management grades - SM1 and SM2.

The BBC policy is that pay for Senior Managers at SM1 level should be discounted by between 30% and 50% against the commercial sector and that that pay for Senior Managers at SM2 level should be discounted by between 20% and 30% against the commercial sector. 

As at 30 September 2014, 97% of the BBC’s Senior Manager population have a salary that is discounted against the commercial sector. 60% have salaries that are discounted by more than the agreed range, and a further 25% are discounted within the agreed range. 12% are discounted, but below the agreed range.

103 staff were graded Senior Management as of June 2014. Five people on the disclosed salary list have HR (Human Resources) in their job titles - and their average salary works out at £160k p.a. Seven managers on the disclosed salary list have finance in their job titles - on an average salary of £184k.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Vocabulary test

You get the feeling that if Sir John Tusa's career had gone in a different direction, the modern BBC would not be quite so capable of parody. At 79, he's still presents a formidable challenge to both structural weaknesses in the Corporation and management bollocks.

This week he was out and about as a guest speaker at the BBC Pensioners' Association annual general meeting. But not as one of them. He said he signed up fully to the scheme as a news trainee in 1960, but took a break from Auntie five years later - and a financial adviser advised him to cash it in.

He also revealed details of a 2011 private visit he made to BBC chairman Lord Patten, trying to flag up the risk to World Service standards and values in putting it under the control of hacks with a domestic agenda and budget to deliver. Even now, he feels the systems put in place to run the World Service under licence-fee funding do little to protect its global relevance. Unsaid, Sir John still regrets leaving the management of World Service in 1993, just as John Birt stepped up from running news to the full DG's role.

Words matter to Sir John, and he repeated his call for the BBC to drop a few. If only they could "elbow out the dead, mechanical, reductive vocabulary of accountability, systems, process, genres, formulae, consumers, marketing, targets, objectives, distinctiveness, compliance, bench marking and risk analysis, what a great organisation the BBC could be."

Friday, April 17, 2015

Taking the ....

BBC World is to be allowed to trial product placement on programmes that are not designated as "news and current affairs".  According to marketing supremo Chris Davies (Latymer and UEA) it will be permitted on "a range of feature programmes focusing on topics such as sport, travel and technology. We already use sponsorship for these kinds of programmes."

BBC house organ cites "Working Lives" as one possibility.  I haven't seen these shows, but they are often presented by BBC Business hacks - and I find it hard to believe product placement is appropriate at all. Will sport programmes feature anchors drinking branded-coffee ?  Will travelogues all be fronted by Berghaus-ed presenters (oops, sorry, that already happens...)?

Those of you who travel will perhaps help to spot the first


Whilst Beeboids in London take their post-shift drinks corralled by chainlink on the fume-filled pavements of over-priced bars, at least MediaCityUK offers Auntie's workers more generous open space. From 1st May, some will be occupied by The Shack - a pop-up tiki bar, serving “big, fun, fruity” cocktails including Mai Tais, Mojitos and Zombies as well as wine and beer, salads and sandwiches, plus a barbecue on Friday evenings.

Steve Pilling, owner of The Dockyard Bar (a permanent offering) is running it, and promises "a real relaxing holiday vibe".


An intriguing combo - Wikileaks, Dr Who and Danny Cohen. The leaky boys have just released a range of emails and documents nicked from Sony.

If right, they reveal that the BBC is setting up an eight-year plan for Dr Who, and that timeline will probably include a feature film. Director of Television Danny Cohen has apparently briefed Andrea Wong, London-based boss of Sony Pictures. Her boss, Michael Lynton, suggested meeting the "showrunners" (currently Steven Moffatt), but Andrea reported back Danny's view that the timing was wrong - they'd already come under pressure from BBC Worldwide on the film front, and weren't happy.

Other bits - Danny thanks Michael Lynton for an introduction to Tom Rothman of Tristar Pictures. He apologies for a late email response - "just back from vacation this morning and we stick to Noreena's digital-free policy when we are away !" Let's hope he's got an effective dep lined up.


A career in broadcasting regulation means you often bump into people again and again, sometimes travelling in different directions.

Take Alex Towers, the new Director of the BBC Trust, preferred by Rona Fairhead to mount what maybe its Last Stand. A degree in history from Robinson College, Cambridge leads, after a rather blank couple of years in the cv, to working for Tessa Jowell at the DCMS in 2002. Alex is part of the Bill Team working on what would become the 2003 Communications Act, alongside Peter De Val (spookily now Head of Legal at the BBC Trust). The Act set up Ofcom (from an idea by one James Purnell), and Alex went to work for it on its first review during 2004.

In 2006 Alex came back to the DCMS, with Tessa still at the top, but with James Purnell as Minister of State. Alex looked after the UK Humanitarian Assistance Unit, and was line managed by one Alan Davey, now of Radio 3.  

In 2007, James Purnell stepped up to Culture Secretary, and Alex switched to support Nicky Roche in the emerging Olympics Unit.  At that stage, Jon Zeff outranks our Alex, joining the DCMS as Director of Broadcasting. Margaret Hodge joined the department as Minister for State. In 2008, Alex took a career break, before joining the BBC Trust the following year.

Cricket also features in Alex's connections. On coming down from Cambridge he turned out for the famous Calthorpe Cricket Club in Crouch End, and occasionally for the less-organised London Erratics. They featured players like Bill Bush, whose career went from BBC to Blair to DCMS to the Premier League.  Alex will need a steady line and length if he's to hang on to his new post in the next Charter....


Piers Morgan has tweeted some ratings from his appearances on the ITV Good Morning Britain sofa this week...and chosen to compare them with the same week last year.

Mon: GMB 590k (16.8%) v Daybreak 490k (14.8%)
Tues: GMB 561k (16.1%) v Daybreak 426k (12.6%)
Wed: GMB 563k (15.8%) v Daybreak 429k (12.6%)

The share is probably a better judge of popularity than the raw numbers, with Easter holidays affecting 2014 and 2015 slightly differently. Daybreak in the last weeks of April 2014 was a dead duck walking, with Aled Jones and Lorraine Kelly soldiering on as the GMB team prepped up for their launch on 28th April. That first show hit 800k in the overnights, with the audience dropping to 600k later in the week. So there'd be no interest in that comparison, would there ?

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Rona Fairhead, who has clung to procedures and process as a defence of her oversight work at HSBC, seems to have abandoned a little of best practice at the BBC Trust.

Alex Towers has been announced as the new Director of the Trust. I can find no record of an external ad for this vacancy. The current director, Jon Zeff, arrived from the DCMS only nine months ago.

Drinkie poos ?

The evolving wine, beer and spirit preferences of the BBC can be tracked in latest figures released under Freedom of Information.

The BBC spent £45,732.67 with its central supplier over the year - unstated, but almost certainly Majestic Commercial. That's up from £42,971.38, which could be a reflection of price inflation. Top wines in bulk - an Australian Merlot, and a Pino Grigio from Veneto. Pleased to see three bottles of potato vodka on the list, though the Mail will no doubt say it's a Commie plot.


Just over a week to the big election. Yes, Friday 24th April sees the Annual General Meeting of HSBC, at the QEII Centre in London, where Rona Fairhead's name goes forward for re-election as a non-executive director.

The Daily Mail has found that Trillium Asset Management (Socially Reponsible Investing) and CBIS (A Trusted Investment Partnerfor Catholic Institutions andConsultants Worldwide) in the States think she should go. They control around £4.9 billion of HSBC assets - but that's from a total of £1770 trillion.

The BBC Trust chairman and bank have made it clear she's only seeking one more year. We may get a feeling of whether or not she'll hang on from the informal pre-meet with shareholders in Hong Kong on Monday.

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