Saturday, September 21, 2019


There's a certain richness in Rod Liddle cheering a result from the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit - he was pretty clear about their general uselessness while still working at the BBC. In Rod's second coming, as a writer, he's certainly fallen foul of most press adjudication bodies along the way. Rod's joy at this latest ruling follows a Newsnight interview on July 15....

The programme included a discussion about Brexit between Rod Liddle, columnist and author of a book about Brexit called “The Great Betrayal” and Tom Baldwin of the People’s Vote campaign. A viewer complained that the presenter Emily Maitlis was sneering and bullying towards Mr Liddle and in doing so exemplified the way the BBC views Leave voters.

The ECU did not agree that it was possible to deduce Emily Maitlis’ view on Brexit from the discussion. It also believed that it was valid to press Mr Liddle on his personal views  and noted that he had the opportunity to vigorously defend himself. However it was insufficiently clear that this was not Ms Maitlis’s view of Mr Liddle but that of his critics, and the persistent and personal nature of the criticism risked leaving her open to the charge that she had failed to be even-handed between the two guests.

Action Point
The programme has been reminded of the need to ensure rigorous questioning of controversial views does not lead to a perceived lack of impartiality.   

Rod tells followers: "A enormous thank you to those who took the time - the aeons of time - to complain to the BBC. More than worth it. Complaint Upheld!!!!!!!!!"


A pretty rumbustious farewell last night to Today presenter John Humphrys in the wood-panelled BBC Council Chamber. In case there might not have been enough drink, the event was rammed, meaning access to the Majestic Wine area, at the far narrow end, was almost impossible throughout. Sweat became obvious as the event progressed, with James Naughtie in particular in need of a blow-dry.

Three DGs present - the good Lord, Greg Dyke and Michael Checkland - and one interim, Tim Davie. I get the feeling Lord Birt and Mark Thompson might not have been invited. Political balance was provided by the presence of David Davis and Jack Straw, with no obvious Libdem in sight. UK Keepers of Culture Lord Bragg and Alan Yentob offered extreme ends of the groomed/casual spectrum. As Lord Hall began his eulogy, a serial of Daily Mail executives arrived at the back, with Paul Dacre riding shotgun, and plowed through remorselessly to the wine.

Some of John's speech followed themes that appear in today's Mail, as part of a serialisation of his latest book (never waste work done at a typewriter). He's generally right on 'institutional liberal bias', but a tad too Piers-Morgan on trans issues.

Gags ?  He said he'd been asking for advice on the right time to leave for quite a while, and that the Director-General has suggested hanging on til 75, to make sure of a free-tv licence. He said that Jane Garvey had promised him a role on Woman's Hour, but there would have to be some gender re-assignment, and she was willing to perform the operation, without unnecessary anaesthetic.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Zoned out

Viewers of BBC1 may be confused as to what zone they're in, after the 10pm news on Monday 30 September.

BBC1 normally hands to BBC3. But here comes ...imagine..  Old but groovy Alan Yentob offers redemption through The Arts, as disadvantaged youths from two London estates make a musical. Sort of like Cliff's The Young Ones meets The Choir.

So just where is The Arts Zone now?

Less Talkington

Another radio milestone last night: Fiona Talkington said farewell to Radio 3 Late Junction listeners, after twenty years on the show that she co-created with Verity Sharp. The programme moves from three nights a week, to a two-hour show on Fridays, with Verity.

Fiona, from Reading, started in radio with a classical show on local station Radio 210, then sent a tape to Radio 3. She joined in 1989, and started presenting editions of Mainly for Pleasure, alongside Richard Baker. Presumably, in those dark days, the rest of the schedule was Mainly for Hair-Shirts.

Partway through her Late Junction stint, she developed breast cancer, but kept going through seven years of treatment, with colleagues occasionally coming to her home to record editions.

She says she's continuing to work at Radio 3.  The Late Junction retreat is seen by many fans as a a move away from an eclectic style of broadcasting that has something of the heritage of John Peel. There are 6,022 signatures on one petition against Aan Davey's decision, and 1,066 on another.

Hear the future

DG Lord Hall has promised more re-invention for BBC Local Radio in England this autumn, as new boss Chris Burns marks her first year as carer for the old dear. As a steer on the way forward, he's pointed to a weeknight show on Radio Bristol, hosted by Adam Crowther, which carries content uploaded by listeners, mixed in with a playlist somewhere between Radio 6 Music and Radio Norwich. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Revision time

Lord Hall's speech to the RTS Convention in Cambridge clearly had a number of iterations. Here, side by side are extracts from versions in The Guardian and the BBC Media Centre. I'm not sure whether either was actually checked against delivery, and which represents a bigger commitment to moving more people out of London.


Nicky Morgan chose to make her first big speech as Culture Secretary to the Royal Television Society's Cambridge Convention yesterday.

For this blogger, there are very few questions about the future of UK Media which require the answer Ofcom. So this section is disappointing.

"Ofcom is beginning its PSB Review and I want Ofcom to think big.

In terms of what might be needed to ensure that the PSB system can meet audiences’ needs…

find the best new talent…

and provide the critical mass of investment that is vital to drive UK television.

But this is not a zero-sum issue. A healthy PSB system should benefit, and not diminish, other parts of our sector.

And Ofcom’s upcoming review will help us consider how regulation can ensure PSB continues to be the beating heart of our television landscape for years to come.

It is in this vein that I will consider the issue of ‘prominence’ that is so important for PSBs.

Ofcom has made its initial recommendations and my officials will be working with Ofcom and the industry to look at how to take them forward, with a view to legislation."

Dear Nicky, the genie is out of the bottle. For children aged 8 and up, YouTube is their main source of audiovisual entertainment. More than half the country subscribes to Netflix, Amazon or Now TV. Do something, or the steam roller will complete its pass over the prone bodies of our UK PSBs.

Not just Today - pt 2

Some notes on John Humphrys' broadcasting career Beyond Today.

1991 saw a first foray on Radio 2, playing "some of his favourite jazz recordings including Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson." It also brought a sit-down interview with the Duke of Edinburgh for a tv special marking his 70th birthday, and another R4 run of the interview series 'On The Ropes'. Overall, in the Radio Times, it looks like a lean year, but of course, John volunteered for extra shifts on the Radio 4 FM service nicknamed Scud FM in the Gulf War.

In 1992 came another Radio 4 quiz series, The Year In Question, refereeing teams from the UK's regional papers. He also fronted three programmes for BBC2 from the Farnborough Air Show.  Easter 1993 brought "Beyond the Shadows", seven short interviews, conducted while walking, for Holy Week.  In September that year, John's time outside radio was taken up by presenting On The Record, taking over from Jonathan Dimbleby. The gig lasted til 2002.

1995 saw a very Birtian exercise - a day long series of news specials on Europe. John and Peter Jay hosted one bit, edited by a certain Nick Robinson. Odd cover shifts on BBC1 news bulletins tailed off, but Radio 2 beckoned again in 1997, with two cover shifts for Jimmy Young.  There was a short series of late-night debates on BBC1, called You Decide, and more failures were found for R4's On The Ropes as the 90s progressed.

The impending turn of the millenium saw more writing from John, first with Devil's Advocate in 1999, followed by The Great Food Gamble in 2001, Lost for Words, 2004, Beyond Words, 2006, and more.  There were also more thumb-sucking pieces on the great issues of the day for The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.

In 2003, John took over as host of a re-vamped Mastermind, filling the shifts lost at On The Record.

One of the things you note about John is that he's always liked working when there are fewer big bosses around. He's nearly always volunteered for the Saturday edition of Today - shorter, more relaxed, and the same fee. He's often been available to front tv news bulletins on Fridays (bosses leave on Thursday for Norfolk and Devon) and Saturday.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Not just Today

Some broadcasting career notes about John Humphrys.

In 1970 he wrote and fronted a BBC2 series called Made In Britain (producer by Ivor Yorke, who tried to train me in TV News).  Export topics included fish and chips, toys, re-furbished naval vessels, and steel (remember that ?).

In 1975, from his base in North America, he got a BBC1 Sunday special on The Royal Tour of Mexico. "Today Britain does more business with Mexico than any other country outside the United States of America." Can that still be true ?  Why aren't Brexiteers banging on about it ?

In 1981, he started as a regular presenter of tv news bulletins. John Simpson had a go at the same time, but didn't last long.  In 1984, Mr Humphrys narrated Manny at 100, a BBC2 documentary on Manny Shinwell, researched by one Allan Little. In September 1985, he first shared presentation of The Nine O'Clock News with Julia Somerville....on Fridays he got to share with Andrew Harvey.  Frances Coverdale and Philip Hayton were occasional partners in 1986. He packed up TV News on 12 December 1986, and emerged, fully-formed as a radio presenter, on Today on Friday 2 January, 1987, alongside Sue MacGregor.

During his first full week of shows, Jeremy Bowen was covering business news; Cliff Morgan the Saturday sport news, with Garry Richardson on weekday duty; Rosemary Harthill had a run at Thought For The Day. Newsreaders included Charlotte Green, Brian Perkins and Eugene Fraser.

In February 1987 John fronted the Radio 4 Week's Good Cause, for Centrepoint, Soho. In March 1987, tv beckoned again, with John fronting the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards on BBC2 with Pamela Armstrong. By April, he'd front his first Any Questions ? and Any Answers ? for producer Carole Stone.   In October, he presented three editions of Farming, the lunchtime show on BBC1. He also made a guest appearance in a (lost) edition of Alas Smith and Jones.

1988 saw John hosting a typically-convoluted idea, six programmes on the 'deadly sins' (avarice and envy compressed into one show), billed as "Towards 2000 with the Radio 4 Generation", a panel of 250 young voters. The researcher was one Jo Whiley.

1989 brought On The Ropes, starting with David Steel, Eddy Shah, Janet Reger, John Conteh and George Davies.  "The Hot Seat", which followed was supposed to question people at the top of their profession - and featured Andreas Whittam-Smith.

August through to November that year saw a renewed flirtation with tv news, hosting The Six O'Clock News alongside Jill Dando, Moira Stuart and others. There was also a BBC2 series, Talk of the 80s, with John in conversation with Arthur Scargill, John Redwood, Lord Scarman, David Owen, John Hume.

In 1990 John presented a series called Family Matters on BBC1 which explored "the dilemmas facing all of us in our everyday lives. His team of reporters will be meeting the people whose stories of anger, concern, outrage and love could affect you too." It ran from January to April (and got a second series in 1991). There followed three special reports "Business Matters" for BBC2 and another series of On The Ropes for Radio 4.

More to follow....


"So far, we’ve seen 1.4 million downloads of the BBC Sounds app"
James Purnell blog on Medium, January 31 2019

"more than 2 million app downloads"
James Purnell email to Radio & Education staff, April 24 2019

"1.3m weekly users"
James Purnell speech to Radio Festival, May 13, 2019

"And with nearly 1.9 million weekly signed in users, BBC Sounds is used by more people across our digital platforms than the old iPlayer Radio app"
James Purnell blogpost September 4 2019

"The BBC iPlayer Radio app has been downloaded over 10 million times in the UK since launch in 2012."
BBC press release, July 7, 2016

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