Sunday, November 28, 2021


It will be an odd week ahead in the Today programme production area, with questions about who said what to Rosamund Urwin, Media Editor at The Sunday Times, about Amol Rajan.  Let me fillet the quotes for you... 

 “He has changed the tone of the programme and made it his own,” says a Today insider. “Everyone else — except Justin [Webb], who always had that mischievous charm — sounds stiff and old-fashioned by comparison. Amol has brought his personality to it. So when Mishal Husain interviewed the cricketer Azeem Rafiq about the racism he suffered, Amol said afterwards, ‘I’ve gone to pieces listening to that’ — and that is just unprecedented.”

“There’s a mixed view of him at the BBC, but he has plenty of supporters, and I reckon he can get Nick [Robinson] off the programme to [replace Andrew] Marr and have it as the Amol Rajan show within a couple of years,” said a Today source.

He always praises his production team too, saying they are the ones who create the magic, though one critic says: “It’s quite off-putting, it’s a weird humble-brag and a phoney deference.”

And the only fully-attributed bit: “Amol is one of the best: a first-class journalist and exceptional modern broadcaster,” said Owenna Griffiths, the editor of the Today programme. “He combines great intellectual curiosity with a laser-like sharpness in interviews.”

Saturday, November 27, 2021


After a bit of a hiccup, BARB have published channel statistics for the week starting 25th October. GB News reached 1,696,000 viewers for the four week period, and those viewers stayed for an average of 20 minutes. Three months ago, the comparative figures were 2,613,000 and 25 minutes. 

Up a bit

As BBC News' sealed basement project continues (more money on look and feel), suggestions of a more subtle change in presentation are reaching tradingaswdr HQ. 

Readers with exceptional ears say the BBC News channel's countdown music has been modulated, up around a quarter tone, from where it starts in B flat towards B. 

The theme also mixes major and minor: here's a quick 18th century 'guide' to some of the emotional issues involved. 

Bb major - Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope and aspiration for a better world.

Bb minor - A quaint creature, often dressed in the garment of night. It is somewhat surly and very seldom takes on a pleasant countenance. Mocking God and the world; discontented with itself and with everything; preparation for suicide sounds in this key.

B major - Strongly coloured, announcing wild passions, composed from the most glaring colours. Anger, rage, jealousy, fury, despair and every burden of the heart lies in its sphere.

B minor - This is as it were the key of patience, of calm awaiting one's fate and of submission to divine dispensation.


Friday, November 26, 2021


Someone else has done the heavy lifting for me here. Presumably producer/director Clare Hix told him to address the camera sideways. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021


Shumeet Banerji was CEO of  management consultancy Booz & Company till 2012 before which he held a number of senior management positions at the firm and its predecessor Booz Allen Hamilton. (Companies House notes that DII Capital Holdings (previously Booz Capital Holdings) accepted the resignation of Mr Banerji as a Director on 4th August 2011; Richard Sharp was appointed a director the following day.)  He is the founder of Condorcet LP, an advisory and investment firm focused on early stage technology companies. Mr. Banerji is on the board of HP Inc. and of India’s most highly valued company, Reliance Industries Limited, one of the largest oil-to-petrochemical companies in the world, and on the board of its subsidiary Jio, India's biggest mobile phone network.  

Shumeet, 60 (St Stephen's College, Delhi; BA and MBA, University of Delhi, PhD Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Illinois) has a London home in St John's Wood, not far from Abbey Road. 

Reliance recently branched out and bought Stoke Park which boasts a 27-hole Harry Colt designed golf course, a 49-room five-star hotel, a spa and leisure centre, three restaurants, bars and lounges, 13 tennis courts and 14 acres of private gardens. Mr Banerji is a director.  Could be handy for BBC Board awaydays. 


Richard Sharp has finally found two new non-executives to join him on the BBC Board, starting in January. 

Sir Damon Buffini, 59 (Gateway Grammar School Leicester; BA Law St John's College, Cambridge; Harvard MBA) was brought up by his single mother on the Thurnby Lodge Estate, Leicester. He was founding partner of Permira, when it was spun off from Schroder Ventures. He was Chairman and Managing Partner from 1997–2010. Acquisitions and sales included The AA, Little Chef, Birds Eye, Hugo Boss, Paperchase, Doc Marten's, Travelodge and New Look. In 2006, it became majority shareholder in All3Media, where, spookily, another BBC non-exec Steve Morrison was CEO.  It bought for £320m and sold for £550m in 2014. 

He was knighted in 2016; papers noted he had donated £10,000 to Britain Stronger in Europe. Since July 2020 he's chaired the Arts Council's Culture Recovery Fund, spookily working with Sir Nicholas Serota. 

At Permira he played sweeper for the Private Equity All Stars, building on playing for Cambridge University.  He's a non-executive of the PGA European Tour, and chairs their Ryder Cup Committee; he's reported to play off a 12 handicap.  

Embed from Getty Images

Ofcom opines

Some bits and bobs that caught my eye from Ofcom's fourth annual report on BBC performance. Its moans are mainly about public perceptions, and it occasionally acknowledges the BBC had a very good year. It's bulked out to 85 pages by re-running pompous complain assessments, none actually upheld.

The BBC launched its online audio service, BBC Sounds, in 2018 as part of its strategy to meet changing audio behaviours, particularly among younger audiences, and this service has grown in popularity. However, according to BBC data, less than a third of its users are aged under 35 and this proportion has not grown. Just 27% of BBC Sounds account holders are aged under 35, down from 29% at the same time last year.

In 2021, based on data the BBC provided to Ofcom, around twice as many people working for the BBC UK public services attended private schools as the UK average (14% vs 7%) and had parents in professional occupations when aged 14 (61% vs 33%). The trends are similar for the broadcasting industry as a whole, based on the limited data that we have.

Total BBC spend on original TV content has been in long-term decline, reducing from £1.6bn in 2010 to £1.2bn in 2019, although the number of hours of content each year has remained relatively stable. (Quizzes, antiques etc: cheaper programmes in longer series....)

The average weekly reach of the BBC News website has increased across all demographics this year (from 29% of adults 16+ in 2019/20 to 36% in 2020/21). BBC News had a stronger presence on YouTube this year, posting 60% more videos than in the previous financial year; the total number of UK views of those videos has doubled since last year. 

We note the BBC’s plan to have nightly news bulletins, tailored to the interests of young people and presented by young people on the broadcast BBC Three channel which we have agreed it can relaunch

We note from our research that the BBC website/app and BBC radio both perform better in terms of perceptions of impartiality than BBC TV: 65% of BBC website/app regular news users rated it highly, and 61% of BBC radio regular news users rated it highly. The BBC website/app also saw its performance on impartiality improve compared to last year. 

There has also been a significant reduction in total news and current affairs spend from £344m to £294m this year, with spend on this content for the nations and regions falling by a larger proportion than network spend.

In the current reporting period we have not found any BBC content to be in breach of the due impartiality or due accuracy requirements of the Code.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Sharp thinking

Asked if BBC staff are feeling beleaguered, chairman Richard Sharp told the Voice of the Listener and Viewer autumn conference “We’ve had to take significant financial and job cuts over the past years which creates a slightly negative attitude internally. In addition, we’ve lurched from one crisis to another over a period of time which hasn’t reflected well on the people of the BBC. Then in addition we’ve had persistent attacks from the press.”

On the licence fee deal - still not settled:  “What’s unfortunate for our consumers is that the BBC is facing financial strictures at a time when the competition is even more severe.  If we have to contract then that has a multiplier effect and there will have to be consequences if we don’t obtain a licence fee settlement that keeps pace with media inflation.”

On Amol Rajan's documentary about the Princes and the press, he thought "as a viewer it engendered enormous sympathy for the people in the crosshairs of public scrutiny, and the appalling behaviour of the media as a whole." Did he anticipate losing the co-operation of the Royal Family ? "The BBC is a national institution and we approach other institutions with great care and thought. We have tremendous respect for all aspects of the Royal Family and from time to time we produce shows that may or may not meet with full agreement from different parts of the establishment.”

On tiptoes

New BBC Head of Arts and Classical Music TV Suzy Klein offers a celebration of dance in 2022. 

This will include a showing of the film Yuli: The Carlos Acosta Story, released in the UK in 2019 with some funding from BBC Films, and now available on Amazon Prime. It's based on Carlos' autobiography. Much will be familiar to BBC audiences - via the 'imagine...' 2015 edition "Carlos Acosta: Cuba Calls" or 'imagine...' 2003 "Carlos Acosta: the Reluctant Ballet Dancer". 

Meanwhile, for the dance season,  Alan turns 'imagine...'s attention to choreographer Wayne MacGregor, including coverage of his time as director at the Venice Dance Biennale. Has he been to Venice for 'imagine...' before ?


The BBC is continuing to grow audiences abroad, thanks, in part, to the unwitting generosity of licence fee-payers, the Foreign Office - and a steady growth in the international performance of BBC Studios. 

Last year £214m of licence-fee income was diverted to the World Service group, a legacy of Mark Thompson's settlement in 2010. The Foreign Office coughed up £88m (0.74% of annual spend). 

The BBC's Global Audience Measure, in which we are assured there's plenty of de-duplication to make sure people aren't counted twice, now stands at 489m per week, up 20m from 2020, and on target to reach 500m by 2022.  Within that, BBC World Service (in English) and the language services, some operating solely on digital platforms, are up 13m; and BBC Studios reach is up by 16m, to 65m. 

We're told saw a rise of 8 million since 2020 and now has a reach of 40 million adults. Yet, when combined with BBC World (the tv news service), total growth is 3m, suggesting something of a drop for the linear channel. 

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