Sunday, December 28, 2014

Outage schedule

For BBC insiders, one of the early anxieties of 2015 will be the revelation of  detailed "BBC Production Proposals". TV production teams will learn which of them are to be switched to "NewCo", the half-baked idea that you can have a BBC-created 'super-indie' which will maintain BBC employment and training standards in a commercial world, supplying both the BBC and allcomers.  The history of BBC sell-offs - OBs, costumes, studios and post-production - points to staff in NewCo finding few guarantees about contract terms, career development, location and pensions in the welcome pack.

The Executive have given themselves til the end of January to agree a scheme, with a view to putting it before the Trust in March. Delivering the plans is Anna Mallett, described as Director and Project Lead (pleonasm ?). Her salary in her previous role as Director of Studios and Post Production was undisclosed; for this project, she's on a healthy £240k.  She's joined Mark Freeland (£234,800) and Nathalie Humphreys (£210,000) in thinking things through, and has brought a communications manager with her from S&PP.

The timing of this manoeuvre couldn't be worse. The short term benefits of getting things "off the books" will weigh heavily with the cash-strapped Executive. The obvious endgame is a BBC that is simply a group of commissioners and schedulers, with a news department attached. That's not what makes public service broadcasting in this country great. The politicians won't care, so this represents a vital intellectual and strategic conundrum for Dame Rona Fairhead and The Trust.

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