Sunday, February 7, 2016

No one gets a prize

If you see a few more radio producers on the ski slopes this February, it's 'cos there's still no sign of a replacement for the Radio-Academy-Awards-formerly-branded-Sony. They were cancelled in November 2014. At the time, we were promised a new event to "celebrate and reflect the radio industry in a dynamic and modern way".

February was the month when network and local producers went in to hyperdrive to compile entries for the categories that required portfolios rather than single programmes. It used to terrify me to think of the person-hours involved.  Perhaps, if the awards come back, we could make the compilations in late November/December, and then at least they could be sensibly used on air, in the thin evenings of the festive schedules...


Welcome this morning to the Great BBC Campaign, the only pressure group that says we ought to consider making Auntie bigger and better in Charter Renewal.

It's been launched by Lord (Waheed) Alli and Charlie Parsons, the couple and business partners from Planet 24, with some unnamed funders who have paid for  the services of a campaign manager, a political director and a website/digital manager. Supporters already signed up include Tom Hooper, Ian McKellen, James Corden, Judi Dench, Nicola Benedetti, Danny Boyle, Naomie Harris, Richard Curtis, Steve Coogan, Daniel Radcliffe. In their Youtube video, James Corden reveals his first acting job with Auntie was at 15, in the Vicar of Dibley, and his performance ended up on the cutting room floor.

Lord Alli tells the Guardian "The BBC can’t defend itself, and so we need to encourage government to resist the temptation to fiddle with it when they renew the charter". Technically, that wasn't the BBC view taken when Danny Cohen and other insiders organised the first "Luvvies' Letter".

Saturday, February 6, 2016

History Man

BBC Studios boss Peter Salmon has lighted upon BBC TV production's current creative director Damon Pattison, 47, to join the new division's board as Head of Development. Damon has a degree in Ancient and Medieval History from King's College London.

I can't find a cv showing what he did from 1991 to 1998, when he joined the BBC. Early credits included the National Lottery Draw with Dale Winton. He left to join indie Celador in 2000, where he worked with poo-poker Gillian Keith on You Are What You Eat, and producing Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, including the shows featuring the first millionaire, Judith Keppel, and Charles Ingram, who won with the aid of well-timed coughs.

In 2007, he set up Lucky Day, which became part of Zodiak Media in 2011. He was behind E4's Love Shaft - speed-dating in a lift - which lasted six episodes. He moved to Keo Films in 2014, before rejoining Auntie as maternity cover for Ana De Moraes.  He's been involved in the development of Ultimate Gladiator, "history entertainment", coming to BBC2 later this year.

Nick Nick

Sir Nicolas Serota, Companion of Honour, will join the BBC's main board as a non-executive director from August, filling the gap left by the slightly early departure of Nick Hytner (he was supposed to do three years from April 2014 - was he bored ?)  Serota, born in Hampstead, now living in King's Cross, just up from a Travelodge, went to Haberdashers' Aske's School (school captain) and then read Economics at Christ's College, Cambridge, before switching to History of Art. He completed a master's degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London.  The FT says he sets his watch permanently ten minutes fast.

The appointment will please BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, who used to work for Sir Nicholas at the Tate. Will, it turns out, is now a Noel Gay artiste, and his cv carries the Serota endorsement “Will Gompertz is a natural communicator whose passion for art is expressed with wit and verve”

Friday, February 5, 2016

Maurice White

Earth Wind & Fire was marketed very successfully as an album band by Clive Davis of Columbia from 1972, but almost everyone I know will have a favourite EWF song. They were led by Maurice White, who's died age 74, but were very much a family band.

Maurice was born on 3rd Street and E H Crump Boulevard, South Memphis, and would be one of nine children; father Verdine was a doctor and amateur saxophonist, Grandfather had been a honky-tonk piano player in New Orleans. Booker T Jones was a young schoolfriend. The family moved to Chicago when Maurice was in his early teens, and Maurice studied at the Chicago Conservatory. Younger bro Verdine was encouraged to take up the double bass, and soon moved electric. Maurice took up session drumming for Chess Records, and played with Muddy Waters and the Impressions, and recorded with Fontella Bass ("Rescue Me") and Billy Stewart ("Summertime"). He became the second drummer in the Ramsey Lewis Trio, after "Red" Holt left, and played on Wade in the Water and many others.

In the late 60s he formed the Salty Peppers, with Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, and you can seen an emerging EWF look, if not quite the formed musical style.

In 1970, Maurice decided to move to Los Angeles, and brothers Verdine and Fred (drums) and Philip Bailey joined Earth Wind and Fire. At the height of their success, nine members of the band had homes in Los Angeles and in the Carmel Valley. Monte White was road manager; sister Geraldine was secretary.

I saw EWF at Wembley in 1979. The show featured levitation, spaceships, and funk. Philip Bailey held a note for what seemed like and hour, gradually taking the mike away  - but we could all still hear him.  Apologies for the picture quality, but if you fail to boogie to this, from the 1979 world tour, you're officially broken.

Interior design

The news of forthcoming changes to the BBC News channel schedules should be viewed through two lenses. The first, nicely rose-tinted, is at least, during Charter renewal negotiations, it isn't closing as a broadcast network.

The second is that more or less anything sanctioned by James Harding's money minders outside Today and News at Huw has to save money. Thus the apparently chivalrous decision to re-broadcast Newsnight at 2315 actually ends a number of shifts earlier, saving dosh on unsocial hours payments and taxis home. The BBC Trust veto-ed BBC1 +1 last year as not a good way to use bandwidth, yet here BBC News is offering a BBC2+1 service. In Scotland, proper Newsnight is already delayed until 2300, to allow for Scotland 2016 (anyone watching ?).

In the new timetable, the 15-minute review of the next day's papers gets only one outing, at 1030. The second edition, currently at 1130, when more front pages are available, is dropped. Twitter is already upset - will our celebs face a 50% pay cut ?

Earlier in the evening, there'll be a return for a show with the best of the Nations and Regions stories. This has been tried before, with UK Today in 1998, and News 24 Tonight which ran for three years from 2005. Both faded away - the first, because the mechanics of gathering the bits was too cumbersome and the product was too dull, the second because the mechanics of gathering the bits was too cumbersome and the product was too dull.
Maybe the BBC's digital pipes have got wider and faster, and the process may not be cumbersome. And dull features, perhaps including more backbench MPs in peaktime, may help with Charter Renewal.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Just get on with it

I like the tone of the letter below (click to go large), from BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead to Culture Secretary John Whittingdale.

It follows the revelation that Whitters isn't happy with his public consultation on Charter Renewal. He got 190,000 submissions, but after applying 25 extra staff to the read through, totalling 10,000 man hours of work, he reckoned 177,000 were pretty much the same, generated from the petition website 38 Degrees, and therefore in someway faulty. How he's allowed to take this view isn't clear - how it took so many so long realise the similarities is a real mystery.

I make no particular claim for these words. LEAVE THE BBC ALONE. If you have a twitter account, you might like to tweet them to @JWhittingdale. See how he likes them apples.

Company news

The Kids Company documentary on BBC1 last night at 9pm was watched by an average of 2.39m. It dragged down News at Huw to 3.75m.  I haven't found a figure for News at When.


Calling the camera shots for live music shows is pretty remorseless work. I'm grateful to former colleagues for this gallery shot from the US Fox team making "Grease Live". The lady talking is an Associate Director.  Probably in the UK, she'd be a PA. She's called Carrie Havel, and she's counting out the bars to Greased Lighting, and calling the camera changes that have been planned. You'll feel tired when you realise that this is just minutes from a three hour show.

Final curtains

Alan Yentob's resignation as BBC Creative Director was announced on 3rd December, saying he would go at the end of the year. So he was able to attend the three-hour BBC Executive meeting on 8th December - and be thanked in person for his work. Non-executive luvvie Nick Hytner wasn't there to receive his vote of thanks, for a rather shorter term, after starting work on the board in April 2014.

The public minutes are largely meaningless, although we have some words from an apparent formula ('decision-making matrix of criteria') from World Service about how it decides on new services, supported by the newly-rediscovered Tory interest in soft power. "Decisions on investment were based on audience need: including an assessment of the information and democratic deficit; the potential accessibility of the services to the audience, and the geo-political situation country-by-country".

Now if only we could apply that to Scotland and Wales...

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