Thursday, June 24, 2021


Busy 2021 so far, surely, for the BBC's Royal Liaison Officer, Graham Ellis, with the death and funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, William and Harry laying into the BBC over Bashir's fake documents, DG Tim Davie trying to reaching out to the Royal Household to make it better, and Royal correspondent Jonny Dymond caught up in the row over who said Lilibet first and why. 

Then there's the matter of cutting jobs and winning commissions for BBC Audio, which he also runs.

So, much relief as Graham finds time to attend, as President, the 2021 Prix Italia ceremonies at La Scala, Milan, earlier this month. And deliver his opening speech in Italian (43 minutes in). 

Reaching out

GB News is beginning to show up in the bits of audience information that BARB shares with the public. 

One measure it uses is 'four-week reach'. In the four weeks up to and including June 13th, GB News was broadcasting a test card, then some loops introducing the presenters, and finally four hours of real live programming. Reach ? 1.0m.  Over the same four weeks, the BBC News Channel 'reached' 12.4m people, and Sky News 8.2m.  

It will get better, but a million finding the right button with no real content isn't a bad start. 


George Osborne is the new chairman of the Board of Trustees at the British Museum. 

In their last set of minutes, from December, Trustee Minouche Shafik reported on the search for a new chair. She's formally known as Nemat Talaat Shafik, Baroness Shafik, of Camden in the London Borough of Camden and of Alexandria in the Arab Republic of Egypt, introduced into the Lords in October 2020. 

In March 2014, Chancellor George Osborne announced the appointment of Dr Nemat Shafik as the Bank of England's new deputy governor for markets and banking, after widespread criticism for his failure to appoint any women to the Bank's nine man Monetary Policy Committee.

Interviews for the Museum gig were scheduled for 1st March, to be conducted by outgoing chair, Sir Richard Lambert and Lord Chartres, who, as Bishop of London, moved George Osborne to tears with his sermon at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. 


I didn't sign up for the event, but some reports of last night's Media Society event on the topic of GB News say that Kevin Bakhurst, from Ofcom, said there was a difference between a news programme and a magazine show. 

I hope this doesn't mean that there will be lower standards of accuracy required from, say, the Dan Wootton Show or Dewbs & Co, than say, Today on Radio 4.  In 2017, Ofcom rebuked Today for allowing two unchallenged and uncorrected assertions from Lord Lawson, Honorary President of the Global Warming Policy Forum.  In the first week of GB News, Andrew Montford of GWPF made appearances with both Dan Wootton and Michelle Dewberry; Lord (Matt) Ridley told the Great British Breakfast that the world is getting greener thanks to CO2 emissions. 

Help wanted

Some new vacancies at GB News. My italics.

"We need a brilliant news producer to work closely with our UK-wide team of reporters to ensure the delivery of the highest quality content for all platforms from across the country."

"As we continue to grow, we are looking for an additional 8 producers to join us. ...You will be skilled and energetic with a forensic eye for detail and accuracy. You will be full of ideas both for stories and for how they are told. You will be highly adept at producing video, graphic and live sequences and casting debates in an original way, constantly seeking out fresh and compelling angles. You will not rely on the same faces saying the same things."

Morning, morning meeting

How exciting that the press and BBC were on board HMS Defender. Of course, a major news organisation would never like to feel itself used in a propaganda war.  That's why the BBC has Jonathan Beale on board, and Frank Gardner at home, discussing the strategic issues. 

What's missing is an analysis of the different between 'navigation routes', which Defender says its defending, and 'shipping routes'.   True, there are some RoRo ferries operating between Odessa (Ukraine) and Batumi (Georgia). But the major traffic route across the Black Sea is from the Russian port of Novorssiysk, which the Russians have been steadily building up over the past 20 years. Oil and gas pipelines are also of interest in this dispute, with Ukraine enjoying substantial Russian money for pipelines across its land. These pipelines could be sidelined by new routes in the Baltic. 

And perhaps the BBC could provide us with an update on the part Russians and Ukrainians in the UK are playing in British politics ?  

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Thee and thine

On October 1970, Joan Yorke hosted the first ever edition of You and Yours on Radio 4. Now Radio 4 Controller Mohit Bakaya has put the slot out to tender, looking for "timely, ear-catching information on, and scrutiny of, every aspect of the economy as it impinges on the life of citizens. "

(You and Yours, introduced under Controller Tony Whitby, aggregated an number of existing programmes with equally gripping titles - Can I Help You ?, Money Matters, Listening Post, In Practice, Parents and Children, and the seminal You and Your Money)

If you can knock something up for £8k an hour including presenter fees, get in touch, as they say. You get the full hour on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday they want the same magazine format, but for half an hour, to be followed by something they can re-use as a 25 minute podcast. Lord knows what we're going to get on Fridays. 

High peaks

Broadcast magazine says, by its analysis, the first week of  GB News, across all hours, was watched by an average of 50k viewers, with peaks of 70k. This, it says, is 'nip and tuck' with Sky News' figures over the same period, whereas BBC News averaged 92k, with peaks at 121k. 

50k is roughly the population of Clacton-on-Sea. 


Another recruitment surge is about to start at the BBC's New York offices, starting with a three-month vacancy for a recruiter. In turn, the successful candidate will "handle full cycle recruitment efforts for 15+ open positions which range from Assistant to SVP level."  

If you're amongst those losing their BBC employment in this country, please note you have to have legal authorisation to work in the USA before you can be considered. 

Let's hope this US tail doesn't start wagging the UK dog, eh ? 

Ignoring the bottom line

It almost looks as if neither Oliver Dowden nor John Whittingdale can read a balance sheet. The latest Channel 4 Annual Report, spookily held up somewhere in Government until yesterday, preceded, by a matter of hours, the latest Government move to consider privatisation. 

Channel 4 hasn't and doesn't require 'public money', but, in the judgement of these two culture warriors cannot survive in the new media landscape without serious 'investment capital', only available via an 'alternate ownership model'.  In 2020, Channel 4 turned in a profit in the pandemic by spending less on content. 

Top formats don't have to be expensive. Gogglebox, Jamie Oliver's Keeping Cooking and Carry On, Grayson's Art Club together cost less than an episode of The Crown. Smart investment saw Film 4 supporting double-Oscar winner The Father, and the excellent re-take of David Copperfield. 

This, in reality, is part Government fundraiser, and part punishment. The trouble is that, to back the received Tory view that C4 is a wing of the Labour Party, they need some Ofcom judgements they don't have, or a successful court case against the allegation that Boris Johnson is a 'known liar'. 

The findings of the latest Reuters Institute annual report on news consumption will probably distress Dowden and Whittingdale even more.  It shows weekly reach of Channel 4 at 11%, ahead of the Daily Mail at 7%.  In a survey of 15 UK news sources, Channel 4 News scored 58% for 'trusted', compared with  43% for The Telegraph and 26% for the Mail. 

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