Sunday, April 23, 2017

Shaping the modern BBC

Nick Pollard, who poked around the BBC post-Newsnight/Savile, gets a longer licence to continue poking via Ofcom...

He was appointed a member of Ofcom's Content Board for three years back in April 2016. In November of that year, he was invited to step up to the main Ofcom Board as a non-executive for an interim period of 6 months - this promotion also allowed him to become interim Chairman of the Content Board.

On Friday, we heard that "given the need for stability and continuity for Ofcom as it goes through a period of significant change and takes on additional responsibilities for regulating the BBC, the Secretary of State has decided to appoint Nick Pollard by exception for a period of 12 months to 13 May 2018." (That's at £42,519 p.a.)

From September, the Content Board will be signing off the BBC's new service licences.

Drawn out

The transfer of Sarah Sands from Editor of the London Evening Standard to Editor of Today on Radio 4 seems to be taking time.

She was appointed at the end of January. Previous Editor Jamie Angus has long gone, to deliver the DG's bidding of a huge worldwide audience. Yet Sarah was still writing Standard comment pieces as recently as last Tuesday - rather creepily, praising Cressida Dick for a taking a £40k pay cut to run the Met Police, mentioning BBC Lord Hall's hair-shirted salary, and ending thus...

"Cressida Dick’s simple message — “I have enough” — may prove contagious....At the top end, more will not bring peace of mind."

Just how much more than the current acting editor of Today, sorting out the mild distraction of perhaps the most-scrutinised election campaign coverage, will Sarah settle for ?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Friday feeling

Dermot O'Leary finished his second week on ITV's Nightly Show with an average of 1.23m viewers. It was a marginal improvement on his first week (1.14m average) and it would have been a tad higher (1.4m average) had he not been biffed later on Tuesday for the Important News Of The General Election. If Dermot is the future, he's still not beating News at Ten's yearly average of 1.8m.

New comedy Hospital People, on BBC1 after Have I Got News For You, had a Dick Emery feel about it, without Dick Emery's ratings - 2.34m stayed with it (12.6%). Tom Binns' clutch of characters have been playing well in stand-up settings for four or five years, but with no laugh-track and little spontaneity, they don't bear the scrutiny of cold tv camera. The hunt for something original for this slot continues...

Tall story

It must be all change at the various Fairhead households. Rona has parted company with the BBC, HSBC, and now her non-exec role with Pepsico is her principal earner - which must leave more time for lolling around. Husband Tom is still tied up with his proposed giant waste-burners at Rivenhall in Essex. His experts thought a 35m chimney would do the job; the Environment Agency wanted at least twice that.

The Fairhead compromise is a 55m chimney - which will probably cost an additional £1m in construction costs. But then, yet another planning inquiry could run to £2m. Public comments closed on April 13 - we await the white/black smoke....


Will there be a Mail/Express/Brexit hoo-ha over the Proms ?

The UK premiere of James MacMillan's European Requiem, simply for the title, could be a firestarter. First performed in the far-away safety of Eugene, Oregon, the composer wrote, obliquely, in 2016: "The language I feel drawn back to is Latin, which represents for me the common European language that existed before nationalist barriers were erected."

"It was the lingua franca used by the European founding fathers, whether in Roman times or in the Church, and provided a source of common identity for a millennium and a half, in international relations, education and the sharing of ideas. Setting texts in Latin may now seem counter-cultural to many, but for me it represents the ideal rediscovering of our common heritage."

(It) "is not a memorial for a loved one but rather a general response to this vivid text, coloured by a realism and wistfulness at the passing of deep cultural resonances."

Plus sign

I'm firmly of the belief that it's wrong to put dates and durations in the titles of programmes. Scotland 2014 staggered on til 2016; Film 71 in the titles has tottered on to Film 2017. There was a Newsbeat programme that got stuck with dates, too...

Now BBC World has got a reasonable show underway at 7pm UK weekdays, 100 days of Trump are almost at an end. Katty Kay in Washington and Christian Fraser in Broadcasting House have developed a reasonable rapport (despite time-delays) with BBC World 100 Days, simulcast on BBC4, and eventually were rewarded with some neater title shots.

The 100 days are up on 29th April (a Saturday, so there's no show), but lo, in schedules for 1 May, we find BBC World 100 Days+, billed as a new series.

Friday, April 21, 2017

No bad words

Sam Smith's like rules for all, behind and in front of their 300-odd bars. It's never entirely clear which of the Smith dynasty writes the edicts - father, brother, son - but they're all very particular about cleanliness, polishing and conformity.

Now there's a chain wide-edict banning swearing, and helpful posters with "No Swearing" in block letters (“We wish to inform all of our customers that we have introduced a zero tolerance policy against swearing in all of our pubs. Please kindly respect this policy”) have been issued to pub managers. Brief and unsystematic research has yet to spot one of the posters actually pinned up.

Still, if BBC hacks get a bit too tense in the election campaign, there could be the odd flare-up with bar staff around Broadcasting House. And if you seek a haven of debate without resort to potty-mouth stuff, here's a handy map.


BBC Director of News James Harding must have refereed the latest Dimbleby v Edwards ABA bout from Toronto (tko to Dimbers). Go to 1.30.10 for some insights on "covering the choice, rather than the race" in UK domestic politics.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hi, I'm Val

Here's an agent of change who doesn't need a new mandate.

From the Instagram account of People Management magazine: "We've been at the BBC today, speaking to HR director Valerie Hughes D'aeth about organisational change, making the BBC a better place to work, and delivering value for money from e taxpayers [sic]. Look out for the interview in June's issue."

Nimble Dimble

Is there a reverse ferret underway ?  If Twitter and web timings are right, 17 hours ago we had this tweet from inside the BBC.....

The message was re-tweeted by Huw himself some 13 hours ago, which implies some sort of endorsement. Then Mail diarist Peter McKay declared that the gig had gone to Dimbleby, who will be 78 in October.

  • A corrrespondent notes that Theresa May's opportunistic approach to fixed term Parliaments makes a nonsense of the 11 year charter deal for the BBC - designed to free Auntie from mere party politics when the next set of renewal negotiations start.    

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