Tuesday, December 1, 2015

i i

BBC Trust chairman Rona Fairhead, with a double-first in law from Cambridge, must know what she's talking about when she calls for "an i-licence", to update the terms of the current television licence fee.

We've still yet to hear how the Government and the BBC intend to "close the iPlayer loophole", whereby we can all catch-up with BBC programmes on smart-phones and computers without charge. The mechanics are unexplained. The current TV Licence is a household licence; that's why students get chased at university when they flee the nest. But how many people are there to be in an i-licenced household ? And how many devices will they be allowed under this new licence ?  Will it be allowed on trust, or by inputting a code ? And if someone else logs in on your computer and "catches up", who's at fault ? And what will the sanction be ? Criminal, as with the current licence-fee ?  I hope better brains than mine are working on it.


BBC staff will have been cheered by the words of acting Television boss Mark Linsey, coming out swinging at the launch of Christmas schedules.

"We know viewers have high expectations of the BBC – especially at this time of year – but consider what you get for your £12 of licence fee in December. You get all those brilliant TV programmes, but also our outstanding radio stations, our world class news and our superb online services. 

“All, incidentally, for roughly the same price as it costs to download season seven of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

Some will muse about what you might buy for 10 taxi journeys, each at over £100, say, between central London and leafy Sevenoaks, over the past reported 12 months...


As the BBC winds down its presence on the White City site, it seems a wall has been put up with neighbours BBC Worldwide, now ensconced in the nattily-refurbished Stage 6 of Television Centre. Standard BBC passes don't get you through the doors at Worldwide. Is it, perhaps, because their funky basement canteen is exceptionally good value, or (heaven forfend) the prices are subsidised ?

Monday, November 30, 2015


So how did Alan Yentob, Editor and Presenter of Imagine, light upon straight-line architect Sir David Chipperfield as this week's subject for a documentary of cinematic proportions - 1 hour 15 minutes ?

David, two weeks away from his 62nd birthday, doesn't use his full title for work. His London address is a flat up Portland Place, just yards from the BBC; he likes to eat at The Wolseley, just across the road from The Royal Academy, both favourites of our Al; and takes liquid refreshment at The Connaught and Claridges; he has offices in London, Berlin, Milan and Shanghai. He's got two big commissions in New York (will Al have to drag himself across the pond again ?). He has built a holiday home near La Coruna (more or less certain to feature). He's built studios for sculptor and fellow Royal Academician Antony Gormley, another who received the Imagine honour this season.

Al and David met through business in 2001 when the architect was selected to design BBC Scotland's new HQ on the wastelands of Glasgow's Pacific (formerly Plantation) Quay, with Greg Dyke and Al among the luminaries on the panel. Sadly David didn't see all elements of his proposal through to completion, as the BBC's building chums got worried about costs.

David curated the Venice Biennale in 2012, and invited Al onto the judging panel.


Your self-effacing blogger is reluctant to crow, but with Henry Winter now finally at The Times, I'd like to remind readers where they read it first, back in March. 

Pulling rank

The cheeky monkeys of the Guardian have their usual festive fun with their 2015 power list of media movers and shakers, putting many a nose out of joint in their unscientific leage table.

Gone are a number of enfants terribles of last year - Russell Brand, Jeremy Paxman, Stuart Murphy, Piers Morgan, Danny Cohen, Ben Stephenson, Alan Rusbridger and Bob Shennan. I enjoyed the placement of Sharon White at Ofcom just above Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, and Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly as a joint new entry just above Gary Lineker.

First of the Last ?

It's all over in the US; The Last Kingdom has run its 10-episode course on BBC America, two episodes ahead of BBC2 showings. The programme, which scratches Auntie's long-running Game of Thrones itch, might have a long future. The drama so far covers events in only two of Bernard Cornwell's nine-book series of misty medieval mayhem and morosity.

So will it be renewed - and who will decide ? On the BBC, overnight ratings in the Thursday 9pm slot have stabilised at around 1.5m, which, with catch-up, rises to 2.5m. This does not represent runaway success - Wolf Hall averaged 4.4m in the overnights, and the last series of The Fall and Line Of Duty scored above 3.3m; the BBC originally cancelled Ripper Street with audiences below 4m, only to revive interest when someone else came in with the bulk of the funding. The Last Kingdom's ratings on BBC America are not public.

I've no idea what proportion of the dosh required for Kingdom comes from licence-fee, what from BBC Worldwide and what from BBC America. Lord Hall may not be buying "imported American drama", but our drama decisions are increasingly being made over the pond.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Even simpler

Ah, the joys of a simplified BBC. You have until close of play today to apply to run ITACU.  That's the BBC's ten-strong Interactive Technical Advice and Contracts Unit. Obviously, HITACU is a title too complex for a streamlined BBC going forward, so the new boss is to be called Head of Vote, Competition and Appeal Compliance, or HVCAC - at least until the next restructuring.

Also closing today, an opportunity to provide Peter Salmon with a cost-plan, as Chief Operating Officer of the nascent BBC Studios. "It doesn't make sense" shouldn't be heard at interview.


BBC1 is showing Disney/Pixar cartoon Brave as a big chunk of its Christmas Day line-up. This may or may not please the SNP.

In 2012, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond gave Visit Scotland an extra £5m, on top of £2m of their own funding, for a tie-up with Hollywood making tv and cinema ads to promote tourism. He said "Estimates so far are that the film will provide a £140m boost to the economy". The following year Visit Scotland fessed up that it would take ten years to reach that total.. and Scottish film-makers noted that Mr Salmond was only supporting their film productions to the tune of £3m annually.


Still, it gave Alex some photo-opportunities, here and in Los Angeles.


Those arguing for a "Scottish Six", a BBC1 bulletin of national and international news shaped in Glasgow, presume, I think, that it would be quite long. Maybe stretching all the way to 7pm, as happens now, with the news bulletin from the oppressors in nasty old London, followed by Reporting Scotland at 6.30pm.

But it seems colleagues on Radio Scotland are struggling to fill a morning bulletin with the same national and international remit. A correspondent to the Herald has noted recent 8am output down to just 7 minutes, compared with the nine minutes of past years.

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