Sunday, August 7, 2022

Poet of journalism

The Great Welsh Silverback, Huw Edwards, was finally inducted into the Gorsedd of the Bards at the National Eisteddfod in Ceredigion at the end of the week. He missed out on getting into the blue dress in person just before the pandemic, so it's been quite a wait for this Rubovian ceremony. 

Here's the National Trust's take: "This institution, and the ceremonies and robes associated with it, were invented by the fiery, inspired, and occasionally laudanum-addled Iolo Morganwg (1747–1826). Claiming to reveal ancient truths, but in fact heavily influenced by French Revolutionary politics, Iolo and his collaborators (like many others in Welsh history) made becoming a bard exactly what they wanted it to be."


Huw was presented as "Huw Elli", with 'Elli' being part of the postal district of his home town of Llangennech. 

Later the same day, no doubt as part of some high jinks, the letters E, F, O and D disappeared from the festival site. Not sure where they'll end up - FODE is Middle English for food, DOFE usually means Duke of Edinburgh award.... 

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Property news

The Telegraph has resurfaced the story that the BBC wants to sell the freehold of its Elstree Centre, and make a deal to lease back the over-priced facilities it has built to produce EastEnders. The story first appeared a year ago, when it was revealed that Auntie's estate agents, Lambert Smith Hampton, had surveyed the site and suggested it might raise £70m, if bought for housing. 

This basically means either converting or rebuilding the l-shaped office block, Neptune House, which was added to the site under Lew Grade's ATV ownership.  The block has had televisual uses over the years - featuring in Emergency Ward 10, General Hospital, Holby City, The Power Game, UFO,The Plane Makers, This Is Tom Jones, The Des O’Connor Show and Hunter’s Walk. The entrance was  recently featured in EastEnders, as a dance school.  

Don't confuse the 'Elstree Centre' with 'Elstree Studios', owned by Hertsmere Council, and part-leased by BBC Studioworks. 

And these Elstree facilities are really in Borehamwood. 

Friday, August 5, 2022

Title accumulation

BBC DG Tim Davie says Deborah Godot Turness, new CEO of News, will be at work at the BBC on Monday

"Once Deborah starts, Jonathan [Munro] will continue in his substantive role as deputy of the division, becoming Deputy Chief Executive Officer. I am also pleased to confirm that Jonathan will be the Director of Journalism with responsibility for day-to-day editorial leadership within BBC News. More detail about the leadership structure and exact responsibilities within News and Current Affairs will follow once Deborah arrives."

I'm still checking the records, and think the last time the title Director of Journalism was used was by Mark Byford, as Deputy Director General and chair of the Journalism Board, which folded with his early retirement in 2010/11. I'm sure the role has been fully Towers-Perrin-ed by Tim Davie's HR team (who are...?), but in Mr Byford's time it was very much to toppermost of the top jobs. Has Deborah thought this through ? 


Extracts from the 2014 National Audit Office report entitled 'Managing the BBC's Estate'. 

In 2001, the BBC signed a 25-year lease on Mailbox in Birmingham and moved into the site in 2004. The site contained 20% more desks than the BBC had said it needed in its original business case. Four years later, the BBC proposed to relocate staff from Birmingham to Salford and Bristol.  Successive staff relocations and cuts resulted in much of the site becoming surplus to requirements. In March 2014, the site had been over 40% empty for the previous 2 years. Subletting this vacant space was not viable because of local market conditions. Surplus capacity made it the second most expensive site per person to run, after Broadcasting House.

In January 2012, the BBC approved spend of £4.6 million in redundancy, relocation and related costs
for relocating staff from Birmingham to Bristol and in February 2014 estimated the relocation costs of moving more staff back into Birmingham at around £8.6 million. 


Gemma White, the barrister brought in to review how the BBC managed Tim Westwood, led the 2019 inquiry into bullying and harassment of MPs’ Parliamentary staff. 

She has an LL.B from London, a Maitrise de Droit from Paris, and BCL from Oxford University. She was called to the Bar in 1994, and appointed to silk in 2016.  She told The Times in 2019 of her best decision: Declining an invitation from producers of The Big Breakfast to participate in a game called “Buddies in the Nuddy”. Her husband, Pushpinder Saini, was appointed a High Court judge in 2019.  

Another review

This sentence, from BBC non-executive Sir Nicholas Serota, could be the prising open of a lid on Tim Westwood's time as a BBC dj. 

"In light of the BBC’s internal review, I believe that there may have been occasions in the past when the BBC should have further explored issues that were being raised."

You get the feeling the restrained knight does more than 'believe'. 

Maybe it's time to re-read the Dame Jane Smith Review, published February 2016.

 "I think it reasonable to say that if a Head of Department was aware of Savile’s deviancy, the BBC was aware....I do so because it seems to me that a Head of Department has management responsibility for an identifiable part of the BBC and also has ready access to people who would sit on one of the important
management committees such as the Board of Management. I do realise that there is an element of unreality about this decision because, if a Head of Department was aware of Savile’s deviancy and deliberately decided to keep that information to himself, the BBC as a body would never have had the
opportunity to do anything about the situation. However, arbitrary though it may be, I am saying that, if a Head of Department knew, the BBC, as a whole, knew. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022


 Away in a ...

Incredibly popular

 Here's an interesting call: a much longer music-led BBC radio station in Welsh. 

"Taking Radio Cymru 2 from 15 hours a week to over 60 hours a week is part of BBC Wales’s ambitious strategy to ensure we can give Welsh speakers a choice. Radio Cymru is incredibly popular – with listening figures reaching a twelve year high – and we want to build on that ensuring that we can meet the needs of those Welsh speakers and learners who enjoy listening to music throughout the day."

— Rhuanedd Richards, Director BBC Cymru Wales

Unfortunately, that twelve-year high was reported in December 2021, at 164k weekly reach. That fell to 155k in March and 125k (1 in 7 of Welsh speakers) yesterday - still a 5 year 'high'. 

Not washing

In my previous post, I suggested there wasn't yet enough in the new RAJAR quarterly radio listening figures to suggest trends. 

However, BBC Local Radio cumulatively has lost a million listeners quarter on quarter, down to 7.6m, and down from 9.1m reported at the end of September last year. I think this is listener and presenter fatigue with the four hour shows brought in during the pandemic. A prudent manager would get some energy back into the schedules WITH MONEY quick, or some of the Across The UK flannel will soon look grey and full of holes.  Thank you. 

Lend me your ears

A ho-hum set of figures from RAJAR for the latest three months of listening - April, May, June - with some odd fluctuations quarter-on-quarter, and a general decline in listening hours. They may, or may not, reflect a twitchy mood in the country - from around Boris Johnson's fixed penalty notice to the lost by-elections of Tiverton and Wakefield, and the resignation of Chris Pincher as a Whip.  Speech stations are off the top, perhaps with Ukraine and politics fatigue, but quarter-on-quarter changes are less indicative of trends than year on year figures. We'll get the first of those under RAJAR's new methodology in the next quarter. 

Meanwhile, I can recommend, as ever, Matt Deegan's analysis. 

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