Thursday, May 26, 2016

Watch me

The Public Accounts Committee session on BBC's "Critical Projects" in Salford yesterday shed a little more light on myBBC. We learned, although it's not in the National Audit Office report, that James Purnell was the original project sponsor, and that for at least two years there was no formal analysis of the benefits it would produce - a process usually key to working out whether a project is worth doing at all in the first place, and by which you can judge whether it's a success or failure. We learned that the lack of a benefits plan was discovered by the BBC's own Internal Audit team (when you think others at a higher level might have also spotted it); that James Purnell became too busy on Charter Renewal; and that agile myBBC ball was tossed to Helen Boaden, who can only have been pleased.

The MPs had been treated to a run-through of the project in the morning, which didn't entirely stop
them bothering the BBC team in the formal session. The DG told them that users of the BBC website who registered or signed in were now accessing 40% more BBC content, but nobody followed up on exactly how many had registered - which, of course, would be demonstrable proof of a benefit. (Phil Fearnley has said it's 6.4m, but I'm with commenter DonkeyHoteh here).
The MPs also failed to get the DG to explain how, or when, the BBC would implement a mandatory sign-up, which to most observers is essential to closing the iPlayer licence fee loophole. Lord Hall, flashing a nifty digital smart watch, did reveal that Auntie was wrestling with what should remain "free" online. The internal reality is that the moment iP delivery of BBC content requires proof that someone in your house has paid for a licence is the moment the BBC loses audience big time.

As well as their myBBC presentation, the MPs got a tour of the BBC's operations at Salford Quays, and hats off to those at 5Live who got Caroline Flint to extract a commitment to the network from Lord Hall. He also, however, pushed BBC Newstream again, which he said would give a "deeper, more meaningful experience". Let's hope that kills off the funny animal videos shot in portrait.

Stand by for a further post on governance. (Always a master at audience engagement, eh?).

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