Monday, December 17, 2018


Dear reader,

A Christmas quiz. How many trees in this shot of the BBC's cash-strapped newsroom ?

Sunday, December 16, 2018


Last night’s Strictly final on BBC1 was watched by an average of 11.7 million, according to the overnight ratings - that's a 54.4% share of the available audience, beating last year's equivalent of 11.6m. Handily tweeted by BBC Press, who, on other occasions, remind us that overnights are so yesterday...

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Food makes a comeback

Remember all that hoo-ha with then Chancellor George Osborne about whether or not the BBC should be in the recipe business ? The conclusion seemed to be that it was alright to keep an archive going because it was really part of the BBC's "education" mission, but that the main focus would be on the commercially-operated BBC Good Food. Now it seems the licence-fee funded BBC Food is more than just ticking over. Here's the current rationale:

"BBC Learning exists to transform lives through education. That clear vision drives everything we do as we lead the overall education strategy for the BBC.

BBC Food is a small, Bristol-based team managing the recipe output of the BBC’s programmes and campaigns. We have a database of 10,000 recipes (and growing!) that requires a keen eye to make it the best it can be for our license-fee payers.

BBC Food attracts more than 2.5 million browsers a week, looking for quality recipes, as well as cookery techniques and nutrition advice. "

Yes, got all that. But now this team needs a new assistant producer. And the ambition seems rather frivolous, and even commercially competitive.

"In addition to producing topical articles and interviews, the Assistant Producer’s role will involve creating quizzes, Q&As and listicles which can then be effectively promoted on our social media channels."

Where are you ?

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have agreed new guidelines and tests for "Out of London" production, in line with Ofcom strictures.

Carpet-bagging is ok. "It is entirely legitimate for a production company to establish a new base for the purposes of a specific commission, with a view to it remaining substantive after the production is finished. However, in the spirit of the definition, broadcasters need to differentiate between genuine long term intent to maintain a substantive base, versus a temporary production office. This should be done through conversations with production companies at the point of commission."

Friday, December 14, 2018


Big weekend for big money programme...


Some odds and ends from the latest quarter of expense claims and transport bookings by BBC managers.

Shane Allen, Controller of Comedy Commissioning, is usually the man most likely to be hospitable and claim for it (anyone noticed any new comedy on BBC1 recently ?) but has been overtaken on the new talent dining front by Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor BBC4.

Meanwhile Patrick Holland, Channel Editor BBC2, managed seven nights in West Hollywood's four-star Petit Ermitage for a mere £1,794.66.  Commercial Director Bal Samra went a little better with three nights in an unnamed Hollywood hotel for £999.

Director of Radio and Music Bob Shennan took a return flight to Miami for just £850. Matthew Postgate, Chief Technology and Product Officer, made the same trip for £6880.

In time for Xmas

Pay relativities at the BBC are a hot topic these days, so let me be the first to note some entertaining re-adjustments at executive level.

Chief Customer Officer Kerris Bright has come aboard from Virgin Media for a handy £360k pa. I'm guessing this is the key factor in nudging up Director of Content, Charlotte Moore, from £325k, to £370k. James Purnell, Director of Sounds, Radio and Education, moves up from £295k to £315k, his first pay rise in over five years, but the new rate still leaves him behind Ken MacQuarrie, Director of Nations and Regions, who takes a neat leap from £250k to £325k (probably because he's also on the main board).

Deputy Director General Anne Bulford's wodge is unchanged, at £435k, but she's acquired an expensive departmental sidekick, also at executive level, Glyn Isherwood, at £325k. Valerie Hughes D'Aeth, as Head of HR is also unchanged, at £310k - I wonder if she helped with the review ? Corporation spinner John Shield, who will probably have to explain all this, is up from £195k to £220k. 


Owen Bennett-Jones has been in and around BBC News for 25 years, and offers some plain speaking about current live issues in a piece for the London Review of Books.

Here's an extract - about podcasting, but the whole thing is well worth your time.

"I recently made a series of ten podcasts on the murder of Benazir Bhutto called The Assassination. It took more than a year to get it commissioned, during which time many promises were made and broken, and my emails were routinely left unanswered. By the time the series was finally commissioned, my producer and I had just ten weeks before the first episode was broadcast. When the series briefly reached No. 1 in the UK podcast charts, there was frenzied activity, as all the managers who had even the slightest association with the project, including some who had been very unhelpful, tried to claim credit. I was copied into messages from a dozen managers all congratulating each other. "

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Congratulations to Ben Hunte, appointed first LBGT Correspondent at BBC News. (There were others before, but with different briefs, if you understand...)

Ben (Highams Park and University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus B.Sc in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience) was elected Mr Nottingham 2012 in his first year at Semenyih, Kuala Lumpur. He went on to study for a post-graduate diploma in tv journalism at City University, and has been freelancing around the networks since then.

Set in concrete

Regular readers will not be surprised by the news that the project to give EastEnders a new set (indoors and outdoors) is running 31 months late and £27 million over budget, at £86.7m.

The National Audit Office has been quite kind to the BBC in this report; it actually started way back in 2013, when first estimate of the construction cost was £15m. The strategic problem throughout has been trying to do the job and keep the show on air. The show's storyliners could have been asked to run with it - to allow 'real-life' development to be seen in shot. The full report more than hints at a lack of co-operation between the project team and the soap management.

Where the NAO might have been useful would have been to find some comparison total costs for the move of Coronation Street from Quay Street in central Manchester to Salford Quays. That might raise eybrows even higher.

Other people who read this.......