Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Headhunters activated

BBC Chairman Richard Sharp has confirmed that the vacancy at the top of BBC News will be advertised internally and externally, and headhunters will be involved.  He told MPs at the Culture Select Committee that the recruitment will be led by Director General Tim Davie, and if the successful candidate is deemed to be Board material, that will be a matter for the Board Nominations Committee.

Tim Davie added that interviews could come in November. 

None of your business

The Times says that between 35 and 40 people who on BBC World Service business programmes are refusing to move to that noted global financial and trade hub, Salford. 

"No thank you" has been the response to BBC News' Preference Survey, and The Times says industrial inaction could be on the cards. 

Business programmes on the World Service include Business Matters, at 0100; Business Daily, 0830; World Business Report, 1530, and another World Business Report at 2330. 

Editor Alison

Congratulations to Alison Holt, anointed BBC Social Affairs Editor (from Social Affairs Correspondent). 

We think Polly Toynbee was the first to hold this title, lured from The Guardian in 1988 by John Birt, as part of his changes at BBC News. She sat alongside John Simpson, Foreign Affairs and Peter Jay, Economics. She left for the Independent in 1995.  Polly was a Birt fan, and even tried to organise a letter of support in 1993, when it was discovered that Birt's BBC earnings were channelled through a private company. 

Alison (BA English, Sussex; journalism post-grad at Cardiff) started out with Ocean Sound, broadcasting from Fareham in the mid-eighties, already specialising in stories on the social affairs beat. She reported for the regional BBC programme First Sight, before joining BBC2's Public Eye in 1994. She won the 2015 Royal Television Society's Specialist Journalist of the Year award; the judges said she consistently delivered stories which were "agenda-setting, policy shifting and politically important - while treating people at the heart of the stories with patience, knowledge and understanding."

Where's Andrew ?

Mmm. No sign of Andrew 'Hostage' Neil, promised as a regular Monday contributor, on last night's edition of Farage on GB News.  No details shared on Barb about top 15 programmes in their latest public release, but the channel's four-week reach is stuck at 2.1m. 

Monday, September 20, 2021


Rob Oxley, 35, will be be Special Advisor to Nadine Dorries at the DCMS. He's just back from honeymoon, after marrying Government press officer Stephanie Mann (who's off to spin for the Serious Fraud Office). 

He likes watching rugby union and American football (used to play defensive lineman for Sheffield Sabres and for London Olympians at Blackheath); he likes computer games. He started out from Sheffield University (Politics and International Relations) with Santander, then switched to being a Parliamentary Assistant, working for Brexiteer Anne Main. Sharper spinning followed with The Taxpayers' Alliance,  Business for Britain, and Vote Leave. He joined Priti Patel at DfID in 2016.

In 2018, Oxley took a break from politics to work in comms for Deliveroo, under George Osborne's inamorata, Thea Rogers, and returned as Press Secretary at No 10 in July 2019.

He's done some unintentional broadcasting, on Good Morning Britain. During the 2019 election campaign, he was heard to mutter “for fuck’s sake”, as he shielded Boris Johnson into a fridge at the Modern Milkman dairy in the Tory marginal of Pudsey. A GMB camera team was doorstepping Boris, while Piers Morgan shouted questions from their London studio. 

He was on camera again, in this coffee moment two years ago.


In his most recent job, Rob probably wishes he could have kept Dominic Raab, in some form of cold storage.  Still, he seems a loyal kinda guy. 


Julia Lopez seems like a hard-working MP from her Twitter feed, but it's not obvious why she's ended up at the DCMS. She went to see The Tina Turner Musical for an anniversary treat on the day she was appointed; she follows, as she should, Hornchurch FC; and celebrated a recent DCMS grant for The Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. 

Julia, 37, was born in Julia Dockerill, in Harlow, Essex. She went to Hertfordshire and Essex High School, then read Social & Political Sciences at Queens' College, Cambridge. She worked as a researcher for Conservative MP Mark Field, and continued during his time as a minister. She was co-author with Field of the books The Best of Times and Between the Crashes. In 2016 she was famously photographed in Downing Street, emerging from a Brexit strategy meeting, carrying notes which read "What's the strategy ?  Have cake and eat it". 

In 2014, she was elected as a councillor on Tower Hamlets Council, and won the safe seat of Hornchurch and Upminster in June 2017, beating Simon Jones and Shaun Bailey in the shortlisting. In September that year, she married her British-Australia-born-in-El-Salvador-partner Lorenzo Lopez, and they had a baby daughter in October 2019. In February 2020, she joined the Cabinet Office, with Digital Britain responsibilities, and has been sent to the dispatch box more than once to stonewall questions aimed at Michael Gove. 


In the old days, there was the "BBC Doctor" to see, if employees had some work-related problem. Then it became "Head of Occupational Health".   Since 2020 it was rebranded to: "Head of Medical Affairs", now vacant again.  

Above this, presumably, sits Dr Clare Fernandes, Chief Medical Officer. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Sir Robbie's induction

BBC minutes show that Sir Robbie Gibb's first Board meeting as a non-executive was an extraordinary Zoom meeting in May to sign off on the report of Lord Dyson into the activities of Martin Bashir in securing the Panorama interview with Princess Diana. 

Two days later, his first full board meeting, still by video, started with a session with the exciting trio at the top of Ofcom, Maggie Carver, Melanie Dawes and Kevin Bakhurst. The minutes shine no light on topics discussed. Sir Robbie will have been familiar with them as he paved the way for the creation of GB News, back in August last year. 

Rumbling on

"The Martin Bashir problem" continues. This week, we learnt that the BBC has offered compensation to former Royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke, of around £100,000, for the way her name was traduced by the rogue reporter, with made-up lines about an abortion that Princess Diana clearly believed. 

This weekend, the Mail on Sunday devotes several pages to Bashir's role in an unbroadcast investigation for the BBC2 series Public Eye, commissioned by editor Nigel Chapman.  This story has been festering since 2004.  In August 1991, Michelle Hadaway says she gave some of her murdered daughter's clothing to Bashir and got a receipt. Four-year-old Karen had been sexually assaulted and murdered in a Brighton park in 1986, alongside Nicola Fellows.  Michelle was told the BBC would conduct new DNA tests on the clothes.

In 2004 a BBC spokesman said "We have only recently learnt that these items may have been in the possession of Public Eye in 1991. The BBC has made extensive inquiries to try to track them down without success. We will continue to look into this."

At that time, Bashir's agent, John Miles told the Daily Mirror that Bashir was "very concerned. The clothes were taken to this production meeting. Martin is doing everything he can to find them."

Now a recently-departed editorial standards supremo from the BBC, Paul Smith, is reported to be looking back at that 2004 investigation, and whether or not it really tried. 

The MoS helpfully reminds us that Jonathan Munro, who it believes to be in 'pole position' to run BBC News, played a key part in bringing back Bashir to his department, reporting on religion. 

Title deeds

Is it time for a review of the status of the WGLFC * ?  Current holder John Simpson put a brave face on last week's failure to make it all the way to Kabul, filing from the Afghan border, before turning back to interview Imran Khan in Islamabad. Thence back to the UK, to present a new secret-squirrel show for BBC2. 

Meanwhile other BBC lines of communication got Secunder Kermani in and out of Taliban-controlled Kabul, and at the end of the week managed to fly in Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. Maybe it's time to take the 'travel anywhere' off Simpson's twitter profile. 

* World's Greatest Living Foreign Correspondent

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