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."

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