Monday, December 10, 2018


As the broadcasting behemoths of the Winter season wind down, some big figures. The final of I'm A Celebrity was watched by an average of 11.1m viewers - an audience share of 48.7%. It's the highest rating final for five years.

The Strictly semi-final results show attracted an average of 9m (40.3%).

The Doctor Who/Jodie Whittaker first series wrapped up with 5.32m (26.4%). There's a New Year's Day Special to come. Now show-runner Mr Chibnall has to re-group. His first effort was rather scatter-gun in its themes, and lacked any sense of development or real tension between the new Doctor and her trio of side-kicks. He needs a returning set of villains to build suspense and heebie-jeebies, whilst creating episodes that still work in isolation. Tricky, but if he could plot the first series of Broadchurch, he ought to be able to improve - with less use of the sonic screwdriver.

Still to come

A word in the ear of all those tv executives playing mah-jong with schedules between now and the apparently-possibly-definitive Parliamentary vote: if Theresa May loses, no one really knows what happens next. If Theresa May wins, no-one really knows what happens next in two years of negotiations.

Extended bulletins either way will be full of uninformed speculation by all parties - MPs, correspondents and the electorate. Do not give it free rein.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Gap year

Apart from the 1st January show, Dr Who's new showrunner Chris Chibnall is taking a year-long sabbatical with no new episodes planned for broadcast til 2020. Doesn't seem right - either the ideas are proving elusive, or somebody's got budget trouble.

Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content puts a brave face on it: "We’re delighted that the Doctor and her friends will be returning to thrill audiences in 2020. I know Chris and the whole team are already working on a whole new set of exciting adventures. In the meantime we’ve got a very special episode on New Year’s Day for everyone to enjoy.”


The BBC's John Simpson fails to mention he's nearly been fired in an article for the Daily Mail Event magazine, in which he shares some of his favourite photos - and promotes his current novel.

Here's a taste of his past and present dress sense, with a twin-lapel ensemble that would surely have Jacob Rees-Mogg salivating...

More book promotion, more boss-bashing and a less flattering photo, below...

High minded

We're coming up to the first full year of BBC Ideas, formally launched by James Purnell in January. I expect he's already writing a blog about how it's gone.

The sub-heading for Ideas is "Tired of clickbait? Satisfy your curious mind with this selection of thought-provoking short films and videos from the BBC."

We may have to re-define 'clickbait'. Among today's offerings: "Does your name match your face ?", "A visual journey through heaven", "How to win at rock-paper-scissors" and "When Christmas pudding was all about the beef".

Film rights available

How many columnar inches can the Greatest Living Foreign Correspondent make from his escaping a P45 ?

John Simpson has given his most-angst ridden version of his recent employment as the BBC's World Affairs Editor to British Airways High-Life Magazine. International passengers are treated to analogies featuring Dr Manette in Dickens, Joseph in Exodus, Henry V (in Shakespeare's Henry V1 pt 2), gobbets of information about Pope Benedict XVI and Agrippina, all in the name of adding excitement to a struggle to keep his job, told with a nod to a David Lynch screenplay. "Who was going to be the new boss ? Might they also want to bundle me out into the exercise yard to be shot through the back of the neck for being old ?"

If you don't stop going on about it, Johnny, I suspect they might....As it is, John writes from the Jianguo Hotel in Bejing, four stars, water gardens and fine French dining in Justine's, handy for both the diplomatic and silk quarters, where he's already been measured for some shirts, met up with his old friend, the doorman Mr Lee - and managed some "unforgettable meals with the members of my team, all of whom have become close personal friends over the years. These are a few of the pleasures of being on the road as a television journalist  - and I've missed them terribly".

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Virginia Henry

I'm very sad to report that Virginia/Gina Henry, a close colleague in arms and mischief from my Newsbeat days, has died after complications from an operation to excise lung cancer.

She came as producer, after starting at Radio 4 as a researcher on posh, serious programmes presented by Desmond Wilcox and the like, and then producing The Colour Supplement, a Sunday magazine show with Sarah Kennedy.

She was in her element at Newsbeat, cocking a quizzical eye and a trademark raised eyebrow at stories, looking for new treatments for old chestnuts (and often, rightly, leaving them by the wayside), and permanently at hand, it seemed, to help reporters and other producers battling the shortest of turn-rounds. In an office of occasional tensions, Gina knew when to apply sympathy, and when to point out daftness. She edited two Newsbeat reviews of the year, in 1986 with Frank Partridge, and in 1988 with Ian Parkinson. Perhaps more importantly, she fixed team outings - to Boulogne, Calais and Clacton.

Then she got more serious back at Radio 4, producing science and medical programmes. I enjoyed teasing her about 'Leviathan', an-only-at-Radio 4-title for a programme looking at topical themes against an historical background. Apparently it was 'acclaimed' and appeared for a short run on BBC2 in 1997.

Gina then moved on to training in radio, but never lost sight of the fast-moving technology changes around her. As a world only half comfortable with 'internet' struggled with the word 'intranet', Gina got into knowledge management. One rather unlikely, but successful client was De Beers, who knew everything about diamonds, but shared little of that information within the company.

In 2009, she was a driving force behind the start of the London Information and Knowledge Exchange - still going. It's a regular get-together for knowledge-management professionals, mixing, as ever, the serious with the sociable.

She wrote a regular blog "Making Knowledge Work", and it's worth just presenting her 'About Me' page - typical Gina, straightforward, generous and fun.

"As a researcher, then producer and programme editor for the BBC, I would have achieved little without actively collaborating and sharing knowledge with my colleagues and interviewees.  Later,  working in training and course development, I learned far more from course members and fellow tutors than I ever imparted to them.  Moving into websites and intranets opened up a world of fresh opportunities to learn and share. And now, helping organisations to implement and sustain knowledge-working  in their businesses gives me the chance to put all that learning into action – and continue to build on it.

So this blog site is, in some ways, a tribute to all the knowledgeable and patient individuals I’ve encountered, and all the shoulders I’ve left footprints on !"

Got the T-shirt ?

Did the Army offer funny hats and sweeties to new recruits learning to strip an Enfield ?

I think not. Apparently BBC hacks needed freebies to cajole them into training on their new newsroom computer system. The Times has discovered that the BBC bought 1,500 Open Media mugs and 1,100 T-shirts for £9,000, according to a response to a Freedom of Information request, “to ensure staff knew the system was changing”. It also spent £2,000 on 30 banners.

A BBC spokesman said “The roll out has required a substantial and intensive programme of face to face training for 10,000 journalists and the items purchased were required as part of our internal communications and training.”


The tenants of the old BBC White City 1 building are a right mixed bunch. It's now called WestWorks, and is home to the ITV production offices for GMB, This Morning and Loose Women. Also established as tenants are bio-technology specialists Synthace and Autulus - presumably hoping for some synergies with the Imperial College tech campus that occupies the old BBC Enterprises/Worldwide site over the Westway. They'll be joined next year by Novartis, the Swiss pharmaceutical company.

Other floors hold Arts Alliance Media, Chinese-owned digital cinema specialists, and OneWeb, who plan to deliver broadband worldwide by a network of 882 low-earth-orbit satellites.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Time for Fiona

Apparently Fiona Bruce has enough time in her diary to present Question Time without a dent in her current tv portfolio.

"Fiona will continue to present the main news bulletins regularly and will still present Fake Or Fortune? and Antiques Roadshow."

I suspect she won't show up on ITV again soon, and there may be fewer A-list gigs like presenting the School Travel Awards, The Banker of The Year, The Local Authority Pension Fund Awards, and The European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards.

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