Monday, December 7, 2015


Expect entertainment at tomorrow's Culture Select Committee session on BBC Charter renewal - from Tom Archer, formerly in charge of Factual Production for Auntie, and, since 2012, a thorn in the side of Danny Cohen and others. He describes commissioners (in general) as "the uncreative crust at the top of television".

On Danny's resignation as Director of Television, Tom took a moment or two to write to The Guardian:

"At the BBC Danny enforced his belief that what these people [programme makers] needed were more and more layers of management in the form of commissioners to micro-manage them. This layer of office-dwellers he deemed so important that their names now appear in the credits of all BBC TV programmes (apart from the news). The result is a regime characterised at its worst by self-serving, wasteful and mind-numbingly unnecessary supervision, which undermines the creative independence and confidence of the programme-makers who actually make the shows we love. The bureaucratic over-management of the creative process has reached Orwellian proportions and there is currently a destructive climate of frustration and fear in television production."

This is extra-interesting, because Committee chairman Jesse Norman is in letter-writing mode with the BBC DG Lord Hall on plans to make the bulk of licence-fee funded tv production a commercial subsidiary of Auntie. The obverse element is, of course, another rise in the importance of BBC commissioners, who will have to be not only creative, but "fair" in how they choose what programmes to make, by whom and for how much.

Lord Hall's latest assurances to Jesse are opaque in places. Take this paragraph.

Possible conflicts of interest between BBC Commissioners and BBC Studios - As with other commercial subsidiaries, the leadership of the BBC will work with BBC Studios’ leadership in a fair and appropriate way to ensure that the BBC can deliver its long-term editorial strategy. The BBC’s highest priority will continue to be commissioning content that delivers quality, range and value for money to licence fee payers. To do this, the BBC will seek alignment with BBC Studios at Group level but Commissioner and Channel Controllers will continue to make choices about individual programmes on the basis of creative merit and value for money alone.

What on earth is "alignment at Group level" ?  Is Lord Hall seriously suggesting that international earners will be cancelled by mere Channel Controllers, without scrutiny from Board level ? Who are these future saints of taste ?  Really, genuinely, free to cancel, say, Eastenders ? Imagine ? Strictly ?

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