Sunday, January 19, 2020

Paymasters 2

Sarah Montague says the Mail is wrong about her getting £1m in backpay.


Last weekend The Sunday Times quoted sources claiming the BBC had paid out £1m in back pay to a female presenter to level out past inequalities.

Today, the Mail claims it was Sarah Montague. 8pm update: Sarah has tweeted to say that the Mail is wrong; she accepted £400k (see later post).

The BBC has paid Radio 4 presenter Sarah Montague £1 million following an internal investigation into equal pay. Ms Montague previously admitted she was 'incandescent with rage' and 'felt a sap' after discovering her £133,000 salary paled in comparison to the £600,000 to £649,000 John Humphrys received, according to 2017 figures. The pair had presented the Today programme together for 18 years.

Who might have had control of Sarah's pay over those 18 years ?

Today's editors were Rod Liddle (1998–2002) Kevin Marsh (2002–06) Ceri Thomas (2006–12) Jamie Angus (2013-2017) Sarah Sands.

Controllers of Radio 4: Helen Boaden (2000-2004) Mark Damazer (2004-2010) Gwyneth Williams (2010-2019).

Directors of Radio: Jenny Abramsky (1999-2008) Tim Davie (2008-2013) Helen Boaden (2013-2016) James Purnell (2016) assisted by Bob Shennan

Directors of News: Richard Sambrook (2001-2004) Helen Boaden (2004-2013) James Harding (2014-2017)


Former BBC DG Mark Thompson on The Andrew Marr Show this morning...(At 1.22, Mr Thompson seems to have a Trump-affliction, talking about "the middly-aged and old").

More oop north

The suggestion that the House of Lords might move to York could be more evidence of The Cummings Influence. Other possibilities said to have been considered are Harrogate, and Ponteland, just north of Newcastle.

There's a 45 hectare largely brownfield development site called York Central which has outline planning underway, that could easily be adjusted. Or, if you want to move faster, a range of older and newer historic across buildings that might be modified.  What about the Chapter House of York Minster - Parliament met there in 1296. Or a nifty re-modelling of the Railway Musem, utilising the the turntable ?

Either way, if the re-modelling of the Palace of Westminster continues at a snail's pace, MPs could just shuffle across into the empty Lords Chamber, while their Commons gaff is tarted up. And that would save a bob or two on other temporary accommodation.

Big steps

Baroness Morgan of Cotes has given an interview to The House magazine. Is she or isn't she a stop-gap Culture Secretary ?  “My intention to step back remains but I will have the honour of being in the House of Lords.”

And on the BBC.

“We want great broadcasting, but the way people consume television, news and broadcasting is changing. It’s why we need better connectivity, for example. The younger generation don’t watch live TV or terrestrial TV in the same way. They want to be able to download what they want, when they want it and have all that content.

“The BBC and others have got to keep up with that. MPs are getting an awful lot more pushback from ordinary folk over ‘Why do we pay the licence fee, what are we getting for it?’ This is something we’re going to have to be open to looking at. We’ll see. It’s a big step, a huge step. What I don’t want to see is the BBC’s income being put under threat to such an extent that the diversity and breadth of their programming is something that we don’t see in the future.”


This blog has occasionally mentioned the activities of Julian Knight MP, who laboured, thankfully unnoticed, in the BBC Business Unit for five years from 2002.

Julian shares his manifesto for chairmanship of the DCMS Select Committee with Express readers this morning. Sentence construction and punctuation seem not to have bothered the eagle eyes of sub-editors.

Reforming the way the BBC is funded and encouraging it to use more outside production, make more lucrative use of it’s fantastic back catalogue to fund programmes can be key to changing the culture at the BBC. It is the current cosseted economics of the BBC that allow it to indulge in groupthink.

Don’t forget, the BBC, in terms of employees, is the size of a chunky town it has it’s own culture and this forms - often unconsciously - how it reports the news, particularly subjects which are against the grain for the west London media elites. And because of the existence of the licence fee - people feel, rightly they have a right to judge their output, they see or hear lop-sided views and they no longer think Aunty knows best, people want greater accountability. We are not happy being spoon fed and told what to think, we want the national broadcaster to reflect us. This will only happen if the way the BBC is paid for becomes fair and transparent and Aunty learns it is not all about her.

Saturday, January 18, 2020


The FT has noticed that the BBC has been using HR consultancy Croner, of Hinckley, to supply independent people to sit on internal grievance hearings. The BBC 'fessed up to this in January last year.

Perhaps Auntie should have gone for Croner's full service HR offer, which claims 90% success rate at tribunals. For 20,000 employees, their fees would be £1.3m p.a.


The latest survey of audio listening habits from RAJAR shows that podcasting reaches 17% of the UK population over 15, compared with 12% a year ago. Share of the total audio market isn't moving quite as fast - up from 3% to 4%.

Industry grandees think we should now start combining 'listen again/catch-up' figures with podcast listening; 'listen again' is often a misnomer, likely to be ticked in a survey when someone simply missed an episode, rather than enjoying it so much they went through it twice; and people who 'miss' an episode of The Archers might say they downloaded the podcast when they probably just 'caught-up'.

If you do that, the current combined share is 5%, compared with 4% a year ago.

Friday, January 17, 2020


Baroness Morgan of Cotes, the Tory Culture Minister formerly known as Nicky Morgan, has taken her name from the historic hamlet of Cotes, where she lives with her husband 'Jono'.

Perhaps the selection also publicises the couple's company, Cotes Consult, which, in its most recent published accounts, recorded some £4,000 in capital and reserves, and no employees. Their line, lodged with Companies House, is "Activities of Political Organisations", and the company passed a special resolution in 2017 to allow it to make political donations not exceeding £1,500, and to incur political expenditure not exceeding £1,500.

New order

STV's early evening bulletin beat the BBC's Reporting Scotland on average during 2019, according to the Daily Record.

Figures show STV News at Six delivered an average audience of 390,000 – a 30 per cent share, whereas BBC's Reporting Scotland, at 6.30pm, averaged 380,000 - 28%. It's the first time STV have been ahead for five years. STV brought together separate bulletins from Glasgow and Edinburgh in 2018. Reporting Scotland lost the services of Jackie Bird back in April 2019.

Jackie told the Sunday Post last week “I’ve been back working with the BBC on some development ideas, too, including a documentary about Scotland’s music in the 80s, and I went off to Sierra Leone immediately after my last shift to work on an idea for a documentary." 

“And I was almost – almost – in pantomime..... I got an offer but it was just too late in the day, so who knows what will happen next year!"

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