Monday, December 11, 2023

Up and down

War fatigue ? The BBC New Channel's reach for November was 10.8m, down from last month's 11.4m, and down from 11.2m in November 2022. 

Sky News reached 8.1m, down from October's 8.4m, and down on last year's 8.6m.

GB News was up to 3.5m, from 3.2m in October, and up from 2.5m a year ago.  

And TalkTV was up to 2.3m, from 2.1m in October, and a nudge up from last year's 2.2m.  

Skipping the wrong bits ?

A sort of open letter to BBC tv producers and their suppliers. The groovy 'skip recap' option is great for binge-watching series, but increasingly it seems drama makers are putting more than the 'recap' before the opening titles, and perhaps some hidden markers are now in the wrong place. This certainly seems to be the case with series 2 of Vigil and series 2 of Hidden Assets. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023


It looks like the BBC definition of 'irrelevant' will be tested in public, after a ruling that it should think again about 3,200 emails, documents and pieces of correspondence withheld from journalist Andy Webb chasing the story of Martin Bashir's misbehaviour at Panorama in 1995. 

Judge Brian Kennedy KC, in his Information Rights Tribunal judgement says 'It is not clear why the BBC has gone to such lengths to withhold information that it classes as 'irrelevant', despite that information falling within the scope of the search parameters that it devised and used'.

'The BBC's piecemeal and disjunctive approach to its searches for information responsive to the request, and its handling of the request more generally, is a cause of serious concern'.


Saturday, December 9, 2023


More Shah bits. 

Between waiting for his Ph D/s and starting as a researcher at LWT, Samir worked for the Home Office Intelligence Unit, just as Mrs Thatcher arrived in Government. 

He moved from LWT to the BBC on a three-year contract, rather than a staff job; there was a hoo-ha when it was discovered that his employer, John Birt, was paid by the BBC through a company. 

John Birt decreed that News executives should have cars and health insurance. Television Today reported in 1988 that Samir chose a BMW, and was very keen to have the same extras as his direct boss, Tony Hall  - an early mobile phone and a tv. 

If confirmed in post Samir, the immigration expert, will have to present to Samir, the chairman, his report on the BBC's recent coverage of migration. It was commissioned by his Latymer Upper School contemporary, David Jordan, Director of Editorial Policy. 

Friday, December 8, 2023

Doctor Doctor

Does the nominated chairman of the BBC have more than one Ph D ?  The records seem to show one granted at Oxford University in 1980 "Aspects of the geographic analysis of Asian immigrants in London". Which would make sense, under the tutelage of Ceri Peach. In the same year tutor and pupil contributed a paper "The contribution of  council house allocation to West India desegregation in London 1961-1971" to the Journal of Urban Studies. And in 1975, Samir had "Immigrants and Employment in the Clothing Industry: The Rag Trade in London's East End" published by The Runnymede Trust. 

Yet the esteemed journalist David Goodhart, founder and first editor of Prospect, onetime director of Demos, and colleague of Samir at Policy Exchange, thinks the Shah Ph D study was of French Marxist theoretician Louis Althusser, who went a bit odd at the end of his life and strangled his wife. 


Thursday, December 7, 2023

Nads and Robbie

Nadine Dorries may have felt a little bullied over trying to get her man, Lord Grade, into the chair at Ofcom, and has said she was lobbied by Sir Robbie Gibb. But it seems there were no hard feelings - Grade was confirmed at Ofcom on April 1st; on 16th May, Nadine has declared that she accepted the hospitality of a dinner with Sir Robbie in his role as a BBC non-executive director. 

No dinner from BBC DG Tim Davie, but three meetings with Nadine between April and June; the BBC also gave Nadine a ticket to the Party at the Palace.  

On the chin

The BBC Board has contented itself with a minor snark about the licence fee rise. "We note that the Government has restored a link to inflation on the licence fee after two years of no increases during a time of high inflation. The BBC is focussed on providing great value, as well as programmes and services that audiences love. However, this outcome will still require further changes on top of the major savings that we are already delivering". 

US outreach

The version of seen by users in the USA has had a makeover this week. The BBC's selfless drive to bring culture and enlightenment to the emerging democracy, in return for advertising dollars, now includes "Green Getaways," a series about greener, cleaner ways to travel, and "Changing Room," a series about moving fashion into a climate-conscious future.

It's hard to see all the stories that are promoted on this site, but this week, they have included "A designer's guide to Vienna shopping", "Meet the designer behind Beyonce's neon green sari" and a pointer to a 5 minute film "El Dorado: The remarkable story behind a mythical city". 

More to follow

Other bits about Samir Shah

From late 2014 to its demise, Samir Shah and Robbie Gibb were co-executive producers of the BBC1 politics chat show, This Week, presented by Andrew Neil.

Yesterday Mr Neil wrote: "Some good news for Aunt Beeb at last. Samir Shah to become Chairman of BBC. Superb appointment. I’ve worked on and off with Samir for decades. He gave me my start in BBC political shows. His production company made the legendary This Week on BBC1. That alone qualifies him! He’s a brilliant broadcaster. Smart, focussed, across the issues, fiercely independent. I wish him all good fortune in the job. He’ll need it!"

In 2021 Dr Shah was the broadcast face of the Sewell Report, which broadly concluded that the “claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence”. Mr Shah has been an occasional columnist for the Spectator (chairman Andrew Neil). This is from 2021:

"In the 1960s, my brother Asim and I were smitten by the magical Manchester United trio of Law, Best and Charlton. We became London Reds and travelled on the MU Supporters’ Club coach to Old Trafford to watch our team — and we always went to see them play London clubs. But we stopped going in the 1970s; we feared for our physical safety. Marauding bands of skinheads outside the grounds were on the lookout for a spot of Paki-bashing."

The book Fuzzy Monsters recalls the The Birt Approach to tv journalism, including ''pre-scripting'' (writing the story before you film it) well in advance of transmission. In 1987 a Panorama reporter was promised an exclusive interview with Peter Wright, of Spycatcher fame, who was living in Australia. The reporter's first instinct was to jump on the next plane but Samir Shah, the Birt-appointed head of weekly current affairs programmes, decided a researcher should interview Wright first so that a script could be written, and ''shown to Birt for approval''. This was done, with the script redrafted several times, while Birt supplied ''the phone numbers of some intelligence officers he knew''. After hours of filming Wright finally confessed that he had invented several allegations in his book. This, the authors say, was the story the reporter had in the first place.

"LWT was an extraordinary place in the early eighties, a good clue to that I was interviewed for a lowly researcher’s job, which is the lowest in the food chain, my final interview panel consisted of John Birt who went on to be Director General at the BBC, Greg Dyke who went on to be Director General of the
BBC, Barry Cox who is the Vice Chair of Channel 4, David Cox who saved Weekend World and Nick Evans who went on the write The Horse Whisperer that became a massive thing, so it was an extraordinary place. Very interesting was the recruitment procedure at LWT, the top people interviewed the most junior people coming into the company and they left everybody else to promote them. At the BBC it is the other way around; the more senior you are the bigger the knobs that interview you. At LWT it was the other way round, they wanted to make sure that they had a real hold on
the people arriving." 

Communities Secretary Michael Gove has appointed three expert panellists to sit on an independent review into the unrest that occurred in Leicester in September 2023, and yes, Dr Shah is one of them. 

In October this year the Government published its ‘Retain and explain’ guidance on historic statues; Dr Samir Shah helped. 

Online copies of Dr Shah's 2008 RTS Fleming Memorial Lecture, entitled "Equal Opportunity-itis: a suitable case for treatment" are not available. This is a key part:  "The difficult truth I want you to accept is this: the equal opportunity policies we have followed over the last 30 years simply have not worked. Despite 30 years of trying, the upper reaches of our industry, the positions of real creative power in British broadcasting, are still controlled by a metropolitan, largely liberal, white, middle-class, cultural elite - and, until recently, largely male and largely Oxbridge.

"The fine intentions of equal opportunities - and they are fine intentions - have produced a forest of initiatives, schemes and action plans. But they have not resulted in real change. The result has been a growing resentment and irritation at the straitjacket on freedom such policies impose and, paradoxically, the occasionally embarrassing over-compensation in an effort to do the right thing."

Wednesday, December 6, 2023


The first 'broadcaster' to chair the BBC since Michael Grade, Samir Shah, 71 (Latymer Upper School, Geography and Maths at the University of Hull, D Phil, St Catherine’s College, Oxford) was brought into the BBC from LWT by John Birt to run tv current affairs in 1987. He left in 1998, having acquired enough funds to buy indie Juniper TV from Michael Wills, another LWT colleague just elected to Parliament. As CEO of Juniper, he was invited to be a BBC Non-Exec by Mark Thompson in 2007. 

His brother, Mohit Bakaya, is Controller of Radio 4. His sister, Monisha Shah, a former executive at BBC Worldwide, is now a serial non-exec, and a member of the Ofcom Content Board.  In 2008 Dr Shah said that the BBC's scale and culture created a "monolithic posture that makes it appear anti-competitive". 

Samir was born in Aurangabad and came to the UK aged 8. After university, he joined LWT's Weekend World team as a researcher in 1979. On his interview panel - Greg Dyke.  Peter Mandelson joined Weekend World in 1982, from Lambeth Council; he overlapped with Samir at St Catherine's, Oxford.

He was awarded a CBE in the 2019 Birthday Honours list for services to Television and Heritage. From 2104 to 2022 he was chair of The Geffrye, Museum of the Home. From 2005 to 2014, he was a Trustee, then Deputy Chair, of the V&A. He was a director of the Gilbert Trust for The Arts from 2008 to 2016. He is a former Chair of the Runnymede Trust (1999 to 2009) and a Trustee of Reprieve (2014 to 2020)  He was Chair of Screen West Midlands (2008-2011). From 2004-2007, Samir was a Trustee of the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture.

In 2019, he was appointed Visiting Professor of Creative Media, Oxford University (Faculty of English). In 2006 Samir was appointed a Special Professor in Post Conflict Studies in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Nottingham.

Samir and his wife Belkis live not far from Wandsworth Common; they are both directors of Juniper Communications. Belkis also works in 'peace education', with the Prem Rawat Foundation. 

Will Samir still get to present his latest piece of research, looking at BBC coverage of immigration issues, commissioned by his old Weekend World colleague, David Jordan ?  How will he handle John Nicholson of the SNP, no fan of Birtism, at the Culture Select Committee appointment hearing ?

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