Saturday, September 23, 2023

On the case

Mildly amused that today's Times story about the next BBC chair is written by Katie Prescott, daughter-in-law of the current interim chair, Elan Closs Stephens. 

Katie tells us that headhunters Saxton Bampfylde have approached Philip Jansen, about to step down as chief executive of BT. 

Katie continues "Other names that have been rumoured in media circles include Sir Peter Bazalgette, the former chairman of ITV, Dawn Airey, the former boss of Channel 5, and Sir Jeremy Darroch, executive chairman at Sky."


GB News Head of Programming Ben Briscoe has an interesting view of the right guests and presenters to have for balanced political coverage. He's appointed Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK, as a presenter and contributor, starting next week, saying Richard "is already on good footing with viewers of The People’s Channel after making regular appearances in his political capacity. Richard has an exceptional grasp of what really matters to the people of Britain, and deeply connects to audiences as a result. He’s a perfect addition to the GB News family". 

Reform UK put up 471 candidates in the May local elections. Six, standing as Reform Derby & Reform UK, were elected in Derby. 

Friday, September 22, 2023


The Culture Select Committee has come up with a rather mild criticism of the BBC's de-localising radio strategy. 

We continue to be concerned about the impact of the BBC’s Digital First strategy on linear TV and radio audiences. Sharing content across large areas risks undermining the sense of localness that has, until now, made BBC local radio distinct. We are similarly concerned that the direction of travel in linear TV provision could also diminish coverage for local audiences. While we recognise that the latest license fee settlement is difficult for the BBC, its changes to local radio and local TV provision are evidence that the drive to prioritise digital strategies can often come at the expense of local audiences. 

The regionalisation effect is now becoming clearer.  This has been an old-fashioned BBC squeeze on  'expensive' over-50s, with not just a reduced number of posts the target, but a major reduction in the wage bill, and a move to cheaper, younger, less experienced staff.   Sadly, it's easier to reach an over-50 audience with over-50 presenters. The decline of BBC Local Radio will continue, but faster.... 


It was BBC Director-General Alasdair Milne who, in the mid-80s coined the phrase 'wall-to-wall Dallas' as a possible after-effect of the coming deregulation of UK broadcasting. 

The BBC itself was a longstanding consumer of US TV,  starting with The Lone Ranger, Sgt Bilko, I Love Lucy, The Perry Como Show, Bronco Layne, Laramie, Circus Boy and many more. The 70s and eighties saw shows that lasted an hour in the States with ad breaks, coming to BBC1 schedules at 45 minutes. 

They included Starsky & Hutch, Ironside, Kojak, The Rockford Files, Petrocelli, Cannon, Cagney & Lacey, Dallas, Charlie’s Angels, The Dukes of Hazzard, and many more. 

In the 1990s the BBC Governors joined calls for a row-back, and more investment in British-made drama. 

In a continuing run of purchases, iPlayer now seems to require an enormous amount of US padding. Today we're told the BBC has bought all three seasons (28 x 30) of American teen comedy-drama Love, Victor from Disney Entertainment. Sue Deeks, Head of BBC Programme Acquisition says: “Love, Victor is a heartfelt, funny and nuanced coming-of-age story, beautifully portrayed by a winning and relatable cast.”


The BBC's News at Ten used to be the home of significant news reporting. Last night they spent 7 minutes wrangling one additional claim against Russell Brand to bits - admittedly alleged to have taken place in toilets at an office block containing a radio studio used by the BBC in Los Angeles. 

In second place came 6 minutes 25 seconds devoted to the story of Rupert Murdoch. It didn't have room for the views of the World's Greatest Living Foreign Correspondent. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023


In the old days of the BBC Trust, we had service licences, with target audiences. The target audience for BBC Local Radio "should be listeners aged 50 and over, who are not well-served elsewhere, although the service may appeal to all those interested in local issues.". 

The Ofcom Operating Licence of March 2023 creates the window for 'shared with neighbouring stations", but still requires all speech breakfast 'peak'. 

4.40 In respect of each BBC Local Radio station, the BBC must ensure that:

4.40.1 in each Financial Year on average at least 60% of the content during Core Hours is speech content;
4.40.2 in each Financial Year 100% of the content during Breakfast Peak is speech content;
4.40.3 it provides news bulletins and information of particular relevance to the area and communities it serves regularly at frequent intervals throughout the day;
4.40.4 it provides a significant amount of news and information of particular relevance to the area and communities it serves during the Breakfast Peak;
4.40.5 it provides other content of particular relevance to the area and communities it serves; and
4.40.6 in each Financial Year at least 4,954 hours are allocated on each BBC Local Radio station to original, locally-made programming. For the purpose of this requirement, “original, locally-made programming” includes programming shared with neighbouring stations broadcast between 06:00 and 19:00.

BBC Radio Sheffield's new breakfast presenter is Ellie Colton, 24, (Meadowhead Academy and BA Journalism, Sheffield Hallam), replacing Toby Foster, 54. 

What does he mean ?

The frenetic hunt by BBC Studios for US dollars to defray falling UK licence fees continues - and, in the relaxed atmosphere of the Royal Television Society Cambridge Convention, at King's College, BBC DG Tim Davie slipped back into marketing and business speak that I find hard to understand... Try this.

“We need to think how we lean in with the commercial lot so our content supply is absolutely vibrant and so we are making sure, editorially, we get the most bang for our buck.” 

What Katy said

Former BBC head of politics Katy Searle, six months away from Auntie, says there are big decisions ahead about cuts within BBC News. She says the merger of BBC World News and the BBC News doesn't work for viewers in the UK, and expects changes in the years ahead. 

The debate about Newsnight funding, she says, is because "audience levels are very, very small".  She also puts a bigger figure than most on the current Newsnight budget: "Is it really the right thing to do to spend £13m on a programme that's only watched by 300,000 ?". 

"Programmes like the Today programme are running on tiny amounts of staff now, and for me that is a real concern. The reputation that the programme rightly still continues to hold is under the threat if the resources are cut so thin that they aren't able to do their journalism to the standards that they should". 

All this, and much more, in the first of a new season of Beeb Watch podcasts from Roger Bolton. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


Some gentle eyebrow-raising at the appointment of Peter Johnston to lead on "Russell Brand At The BBC".  Said Tim Davie of Pete: "He's a highly respected, experienced editorial executive". 

Peter, 58, (Ballymena Academy and Chemical Engineering and Management, Imperial College London) joined the marketing division of Shell International from college, and in 1991 returned to Northern Ireland and joined Coopers and Lybrand (PWC) as a management consultant. He joined the BBC in 1994 in audience research.  

He moved up to Controller Northern Ireland in 2006. Over that time, we've seen The Fall and Line of Duty; the rise of Stephen Nolan; the decline of Radio Foyle; and a number of departures, NDAs and employment tribunals. In 2012 he survived the Newsnight/McAlpine fiasco, despite being in the chain of command. The executive report said "There was a single additional referral to Peter Johnston, as the editor-in-chief on Savile related issues, about which recollections differ; but the executive takes the view that the actual go-ahead for transmission was a decision taken in London within Newsnight and BBC News."

2021's report by Lord Dyson into l'affaire Bashir led to the Serota Review; in 2022, Mr Johnston was shifted from Northern Ireland to lead on changes sought in editorial processes, governance, and culture, with a 10-point impartiality plan.  He's not going back to the NI job, but he's still on £200k+.  

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