Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Brrrr

As August warms up again outside, it's getting chillier at the top of the BBC. New DG Tim Davie, with 15 years as an insider, is, as predicted, looking at a leaner executive team, and doesn't need time to assess performance. 

The resignation of top techie Matthew Postgate, live on Zoom last Thursday, is yet to be formally reported. I dub this Postgate-Gate. Let's hope m'learned friends are not involved. 

There may be some circularity about his interim replacement. Matthew rose to Chief Technology Officer from R&D in 2014, after the unhappy departure of John Linwood. John won an employment tribunal after wrongly, the tribunal ruled, carrying the can for the failed £100m+ Digital Media Initiative.  Could the interim CTO be Peter O'Kane, once Programme Director for DMI ?

The shivers are also running round output structure. Should there be one Content boss, and should it be Charlotte Moore or James Purnell ? In a recent RTS interview, former Labour Cabinet minister James offered, on behalf of the BBC, to  deliver more of the country's education, post-Covid. This has not gone down well with the increasingly vocal anti-BBC wing of the Conservative Party.  

James was at Lord Hall's elbow in the last Charter and licence deal. Will he be around as Tim tries to agree a new licence fee with the Cummings administration in 2021 ?  

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Hello again

Former Controller BBC Radio 4 Gwyneth Williams turned up on Radio 4's book show, A Good Read, last week. It was Gwyneth who anointed the current presenter, Harriett Gilbert, when Sue MacGregor moved on in 2011.  I wonder who provided the rather soignee photo.

Just a chat

Dominic Cummings knows the Prime Minister's priorities. So he discussed them with BBC Director of News Fran Unsworth and BBC Head of Westminster Katy Searle on 2nd February this year. Lee Cain also had a chat with them, 'cos he knows the Prime Minister's priorities too. 

To make sure all the BBC knew about the Prime Minister's priorities, Dominic Cummings met BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg on 27th February. Lee Cain had a chat, too. 

Munia Mirza is also across the Prime Minister's priorities, so she had a chat with Nick Robinson on 22nd January. 

Bauer in for Ben

Ben Cooper, one of a number of BBC popsters moved out under the Lorna Clarke regime, has found a berth at Bauer Radio UK. Eight months after leaving the BBC, the former Radio 1 Controller ends up in the specially-created role of Group Director, Content and Music.

Ben, 49, from Bromsgrove via the University of Brighton, will "add further energy to Bauer’s strategy and ambition to develop differentiated creative audio products, grow audiences and offer access to valuable audiences for advertisers".

Bauer brands include Kiss, Magic, Absolute, Gem, Hits, Country Hits, Planet Rock, Jazz FM and Scala. In the last (ever?) RAJAR figures it was reaching just under 18m listeners a week. The parent company started in Hamburg, and boasts that it is Europe's largest magazine publisher. 

Multiskilled

                         
Lord Hall absolutely not demanding a
 ransom for the freedom of a senior Royal

How's the handover going, Tone ?  BBC staff will have          been pleased to see the new Chairman of the National    Gallery hosting the Duchess of Cornwall last week. He's also in charge of Auntie until the end of the month....                                   


Monday, August 3, 2020

Datasort

There's a new currency in radio - 'connected listening'.  Last week, in the gap left by the missing RAJAR figures, many commercial radio operators shared big numbers from their own servers - adding up the number and duration of connections made online, for live-streaming, or catch-up/on demand, or podcast downloads. 

Radio Today has many of the details. Mike Hill, running the industry-wide RadioPlayer says he has lots of info but is only prepared to share 'general trends'.  The BBC, which used to regularly publish charts and tables of such info for the Radio iPlayer, is more reticent about the detail undoubtedly provided internally from BBC Sounds. Two years ago, James Purnell called on the radio industry to construct an agreed podcast chart - surely it's time for a bigger initiative ?  

Pardon ?

The pairing of Mishal Husain and Sarah Smith on Today brings together two rapid-fire readers. However, I would argue that when the producer/editor of the day asks them to rattle through the papers at 7.45, to help with timings, intelligibility goes out of the window. It's like listening to three minutes of those "terms and conditions", condensed by computer processing, on radio ads. 

Meanwhile, new editor Owenna Griffiths' hunt for a radio rottweiler to replace John Humphrys can probably be called off. Mishal's cold but pointed questioning of Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi on the the Conservative MP facing rape allegations was a model of polite fanging. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Old shows

Where to find old BBC tv programmes ?  First and foremost, on BBC networks, as repeats. Which there will be more of, in the year ahead. Then as clips, in BBC shows based on archives, which there will be more of, in the year ahead. 

Then on iPlayer, as the BBC boosts its catalogue with old box sets and more.Then on UKTV, now back wholly-owned by BBC Studios (nee Worldwide). Then on Britbox, the subscription video-on-demand service, operated jointly with ITV. In the UK, the BBC has a ten per cent stake; in the USA, and around the world, it's 50/50. 

Then, of course, many blockbusters are jointly produced with the big bucks of Netflix, Amazon and HBO, so the repeat rights are different. In others, PBS has co-production money. And some shows are funded jointly with BBC America, the Star Trek Channel, which occasionally shows BBC product. BBC America is a joint-venture with AMC Networks, with the BBC claiming a 50.1% controlling stake. AMC networks also is the major shareholder in Acorn TV, a subscription VOD service with a back catalogue of BBC and ITV programmes, vying for market share with Britbox. And now available in the UK, for £4.99 a month.

Whoever takes the helm at BBC Studios needs to sort some of this out. Tim Davie hasn't. 


Trouble in the valley

Oh dear. I hope new DG Tim Davie and one of his top lieutenants Rhodri Talfan Davies, i/c BBC Wales, are not at odds. 

BBC News reports that BBC Studios and BBC Wales are in a stand-off over a programme they make for S4C.

Recording of the long-running soap Pobol y Cwm, on air since 1974, stopped during the coronavirus epidemic. Production was supposed to restart at the beginning of July. But there's an argument over money. Covid-19 filming restrictions mean you get less content for the same money (the BBC Studios argument). BBC Wales' argument - we have less money for the same productions across the piece (absorb the extra costs - make production simpler and cheaper). 

The BBC is obliged to give S4C £74.5m in cash every year until 2021/22, and make enough 'free' programmes to fill 10 hours a week, to a value of £19.4m annually. Pobol y Cym is 'free': four episodes are produced a week, with an omnibus edition on Sundays. Average audience per show is around 25,000. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Whose decision ?

Sir David Clementi, BBC Chairman, writes in The Times (paywalled), as free tv licence fees for over-75s not on Pension Credit come to an end. 

"This change has come about because the government decided, back in 2015, to stop funding free TV licences for over-75s. Parliament gave the BBC responsibility to decide what scheme, if any, might be introduced instead. We would also need to pay for it.

"Some suggest that we have somehow gone back on what was agreed. I want to be absolutely clear: there was never any agreement, either in public or in private, that the BBC would keep the government scheme going. Both government ministers and the BBC recognised at the time that reform was possible. Had there really been an agreement to continue the government’s scheme, there would have been no need for the public consultation the BBC was required to have on replacing it."

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