Saturday, October 31, 2015

Middle Aged

A fair chunk of BBC Drama Danegeld has been spent on The Last Kingdom. Auntie's contribution is put at £10m for the eight-part answer to Game of Thrones, filmed in Hungary, Denmark and Wales. BBC America presumably added more to the pot - they're running it a week ahead of the UK.

The money has bought some big names to the cast - but generally, they seem to last only one show each. Matthew MacFayden, Rutger Hauer and Jason Flemyng have all been and gone, and we're only up to Episode 2.

The UK overnight viewing figures so far are not sensational. 2.02m (10% share) for the opener drifted down to 1.54m (7.7%) for the second. BBC America are not currently making a fanfare about their return on investment.

Carnival Films, who brought you Downtown, are making it. John Lunn, who did the Downtown music, brings you the ululating soundtrack. IMDB puts "Special Thanks to Steven Gerrard" in the production credits. I can't find that on-screen, so presume someone's mucking about.

Next year, in the world of original and distinctive British drama, ITV will bring us Beowulf. Thirteen parts, at an estimated cost of £17m, currently being shot in a former Blue Circle cement limestone quarry at Eastgate in Weardale.

Free at last

The first full day without a paywall round The Sun's service of news and information. Love the third lead...

Friday, October 30, 2015


The latest BBC list of senior management salaries and expenses has at least one gap. No entry for Jonty Claypole, appointed Director of Arts 19 months ago.

Meanwhile, The Space, the digital arts partnership between the Arts Council England and the BBC, is looking for two "Senior Development Producers", to work in the wide-open spaces of the Mailbox, Birmingham. Salary - £70k pa each, which, as some of my commoner friends might say, sounds like a good screw. Jonty must be on more, mustn't he ?

Uber alles

The long tail of taxis, recently stamped on hard by BBC finance boss Anne Bulford, will twitch a little longer, as senior management claims filter through over the next four quarters. The most recent sees Alan Yentob spending £1,491.99 over the three months.

Although he's declared within Anne's team, Alan comes very much from a tv culture, which is where ordering a cab seems effortless.

In my unofficial and in no way comprehensive leader board, I still have Faith Penhale as Queen of the Cabs, at £1,607.35, down from £2,225.91 last time. Previous King of the Cabs, Bal Samra, is down to a mere £697.07, just ahead of Controller BBC2 Kim Shillinglaw, on £668.44, and happily below Mark "Mr Entertainment" Linsey on £759.95. New entrants are Nathalie Humphreys, Controller of Daytime Property and Antiques, on £1,005.24, the departing Danny Cohen on £1,127.79, and Katie "Mrs Entertainment" Taylor on £1,158.48.

Travelling in comfort over the quarter were News' Jonathan Munro to New York for £2,578, Peter Horrocks, now with the Open University, to Nairobi for £3,103.96, and CTO Matthew Postgate to Seattle, with a San Jose side trip, for £6,228.16.

TV Executive Producer Susan Hogg claimed £78.00 for her Times subscription.


They can't quite shed those BBC connections. Former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and his colleagues Richard Hammond, James May and Andy Wilman have taken a three year lease on 5,495 sq ft of office space at Power Road Studios, Chiswick.  From 1958 to 1993, the building was known as Avenue House, home to the BBC's Equipment Department.

ED made stuff to the specification of the Designs Department. It also included the BBC's Central Stores, Transport and the Receiver Section which installed and maintained television sets for important people, including royalty.

The office space will be the home for production company W Chump & Sons, which will be making the trio's new motoring show on Amazon Prime. It's a subsidiary of Chump Holdings.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I think someone at ITV reads this blog.

ITV evidence to the Culture Select Committee on Charter Renewal: "It is hard to see the case to spend the licence fee on a 42nd series of Bargain Hunt, the 19th series of Homes Under the Hammer, the 16th series of Escape to the Country or the 11th series of Antiques Road Trip.”

The problem for ITV supremo Adam Crozier is that his team are not really delivering appealing alternatives. This despite the combined BBC experience of Peter Fincham, Kevin Lygo, Richard Klein, Elaine Bedell, Niall Sloane and Tom Giles in his commissioning team.


It looks like the UK has now worked out DAB Radio, and is enjoying pushing buttons and touch screens as much as spinning FM dials. The digital success story of the latest RAJAR listening figures is Radio 4 Extra, leapfrogging 6Music to become the nation's favourite digital-only station, reaching 2.2m listeners in the most recent quarter - 35% up year-on-year.

There's some amusing spin from Radio 1, which is practically stable year-on-year, about breakfast host Nick Grimshaw. Controller Ben Cooper said "I’m delighted to see Nick firmly established as the number one youth presenter in the country". Radio consultant and practitioner Matt Deegan points out that Nick returned the lowest ever 15-24 reach for a Radio 1 breakfast host. Matt's analysis of the Radio 1 video offering is also sharp - it seems to stand alone, rather than drive traffic to the radio.

Looking at other year-on-year figures for the quarter, Radio 5 Live is down nearly 5%, to 5.5m. That compares with 6.24m for the same quarter in 2011, as the move to Salford was underway. TalkSport stood at 3.1m in 2011 - it's the same now.

Radio Wales is down 4%, at 384k, whereas Radio Scotland is up 9%, to 948k.

Nationwide, LBC is up 15%, to 1.5m. Spookily, BBC World Service returned almost exactly the same results. BBC Radio Devon, now with added Simon Bates, is down 9%, at 180k. Total BBC local radio in England, with added women at breakfast, is down 2.5%.


The BBC is familiar with National Audit Office reports. The BBC's Creative Director will be pleased that "Yentob" doesn't not come up on a word search of their latest report, on the Government's funding of his charity, Kids Company.

The NAO does note one serial behaviour as part of its key findings.

We observed a consistent pattern of behaviour each time Kids Company approached the end of a grant term. We are not able to comment on causality, but in 2002, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2014: 

• Kids Company lobby the government for a new funding commitment. If officials resisted, the charity would write to ministers expressing fears of redundancies and the impact of service closures. Around the same time, Kids Company would express the same concerns in the media. 

• Ministers ask officials to review options for funding Kids Company. 

• Officials would award grants to Kids Company, whether through a wider grant programme or – from 2013-14 onward – as a direct grant award.

Anyone running a division or department in the BBC note any similarities in behaviour when it comes to cuts/budget carve-up time ?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On brand

How are things going at BBC America with our new co-owners ?

From 12 midday til 8am tomorrow (Eastern Standard Time) there are back-to-back episodes of that UK classic, Star Trek. More Star Trek episodes run from midday Friday until 7pm, when they are followed by The Silence Of The Lambs, and The Exorcist.

Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK, eh ?


I'm sure the BBC scoured the world looking for a video streaming partner to showcase recordings made for Radio 1's Live Lounge.

Radio 1 Controller Ben Cooper and BBC Worldwide Radio & Music boss Dominic Walker lighted upon Vevo, where CEO Erik Huggers arrived in March. Erik was in charge of matters online and technological at the BBC from 2007 to 2011. Earlier this month he announced the appointment of former Radio 1 Controller Andy Parfitt as interim head of content and programming. Andy was Ben Cooper's boss for five years.

Vevo is jointly owned by Universal Music and Sony. Universal Music's artists include Adele. Adele has lighted upon the BBC to make  a paean of praise  a programme which will showcase her new album. It will be distributed by BBC Worldwide, who will make two versions available, one with and one without Graham Norton.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sixer ?

"We had a top class field to choose from but Gary's vision and ambition for where he wants to take BBC Scotland News in future was crystal clear."

Thus BBC Controller Scotland, Ken MacQuarrie, on the appointment of 54-year-old Gary Smith, (Kelvinside Acadaemy, Glasgow University and Cardiff post-grad), as Head of News at BBC Scotland. Gary has been in the Westminster bubble for most of his media career, with Channel 4 and the BBC's Millbank operation. More recently he's been James Harding's UK News Editor.  (Derek Bateman tipped Gary three weeks ago.)

So BBC staff, politicians, and viewers north of the border will look forward to an articulation of this crystal clear vision asap. Does it include a Scottish Six ?


Civil Society has found another example of how much support was given from central government to Kids Company.

Two civil servants were seconded to the charity for thirteen months starting in 2011. They made 82 funding applications to local authorities, as part of an agreed strategy to move from central government support. All the applications failed.

Meanwhile the Public Accounts Select Committee has announced its own 'short inquiry'  into government funding of Kids Company. They've called Richard Heaton, former Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office and Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, for questions next Monday.

  • Alan Yentob, BBC Creative Director and former Chairman of Kids Company, was spotted at the Royal Opera House last night, where Carlos Acosta opened in his new production of Carmen, in his last season as a ballet dancer. There's to be an Imagine film about his future plans. Carlos is also signed up to help with a new feature length edition of Imagine, about the culture of his native Havana. The film will also feature Mick Jagger (The Stones are expected to play Havana in March 2016), and is being made by Alan's Somerset neighbour Julien Temple, and may well be ready by the next Venice Film Festival.

It's only words...

There's an iridescent immaturity shining through John Whittingdale's understanding of the world's media. Apparently, at last night's Media Show debate on the future of the BBC, he said Auntie shouldn't do "news content that looks like newspapers".

"They have expressed the view that the fact that you can access content which looks like long-form journalism on the BBC website is clearly something they are unhappy about, and raises this question as to whether or not the BBC should be essentially entering the printed news market and that, I think, is a legitimate concern for them to express. 

“I think there is a strong case for the BBC to look at online provision and say, 'Is this simply making available the kind of provision we have traditionally done on broadcast media – following the viewers online and providing them with the same service?’ That seems to me entirely sensible. 

"But if they are going to go beyond that and provide news content that looks like newspapers’ – that’s where I think newspapers are entitled to express concern.”

A quick whizz round some of the world's news websites in English this morning shows CNN,  ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, France 24, Fox News, Russia Today, CCTV (China), New Delhi TV, NHK (Japan) have written word versions accompanying all their lead stories, quite as long as many UK newspapers are running online. Whittingdale presumably imagines a BBC News online future with video, audio, and a maximum, say, of 200 words per piece ? Or is that too close to tabloid coverage, John ?

Own devices

I grateful to "Unknown" for a nudge on this: TV Licensing say 26,000 people aged between 18 and 25 were caught watching live TV without a TV licence last year. That's actually down slightly, from 27,000 last year.

6 people aged between 18 and 29 went to prison, after non-payment moved up through the courts.

The current publicity campaign, largely aimed at students, is targeted at, (and clearly embraced by) local media. Who says the BBC isn't sharing stuff ?

Monday, October 26, 2015


Looks like a late one for the production team of The Media Show. Recording a Charter Renewal debate tonight from 6.45pm in the Radio Theatre at Broadcasting House (all tickets taken) and to be turned round to 43 minutes for broadcast on Radio 4 after the 9am news tomorrow.

Beaten by a Sherlock trailer

The gap between XFactor and Strictly in the overnight ratings widened on Saturday. Even The Sun noticed there was a poor ratio of singing to barracking in this year's tweaks to the basic Cowell format. And the introduction of formal pleading ("Dis means everything to me, more than my life, Simon") builds on the Roman arena atmosphere.

An ITV source tells The Sun “We’re damaged no one takes catch-up into account. Strictly’s watched by pensioners who stay in. We appeal to a younger audience who watch the next day.”

Not as many of this younger audience catch-up as perhaps Cowell would like. X Factor did indeed beat Strictly in the most recent BARB catch-up league table - Strictly was in 36th place, with 84,000, with Xfactor 25th with 121,315. But look at all those BBC programmes way ahead....(Click to go large).

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dolour ?

Presumably a water taxi wasn't available....

Abreast of things

When musing on what the BBC might do less of, perhaps Director of Strategy and Digital James Purnell might light upon blogs. (It's been done before.)

Nowhere near as fashionable as they were inside Auntie, there are still a few hanging on - but only just. The 5Live blog and 606 blog haven't been updated since June - the same is true of Anne Diamond's insights (promising to give temperatures only in Centigrade). Children in Need, Greg James and the BBC Radio Comedy Award are stuck in 2014 - as is BBC Cymru Fyw, ('Live') last changed in Ebrill (April) that year. 

Still stuck in 2013 - the BBC Music Blog (come on, Bob), and River City, the Scottish soap opera.

Promises, promises

The BBC Trust Charter Renewal Roadshow is underway - this week they visited Wales, and a panel of BBC Taffia, plus Director of Strategy and Digital, James Purnell, faced a crowd largely made up of interested professionals, rather than ordinary listeners and viewers.

James made a commitment: "Wales is an incredibly important part of the debate. We are going to cut Wales less than everywhere else, but if we are going to address some of the issues raised today we are going to have to make our money work harder.”

I wonder which Executive member will make the same sort of pledge in roadshows still to come - in Belfast, Birmingham, Sunderland and Glasgow ?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Off plan

There's another chance to get your hands on a flat at Television Centre this weekend - if you happen to be in Singapore.

Stanhope, Strutt & Parker and Savills are putting up stands at the Four Seasons, offering potential buyers "a genuine opportunity not only to invest into an iconic development which will benefit from extensive amenities and leisure facilities, but also to take advantage of what we would classify as the regeneration uplift effect by getting in at an early stage."

In total there'll be some 950 new homes, of which 432 will be delivered within the next three years. Prices range from S$1.4 million (£650k) for a one-bedroom apartment to over S$13 million (£6m) for a luxury penthouse. Let's hope they flog enough to trigger a little extra dosh for Auntie.

Fresh talent

As we reported last week, self-effacing BBC Director of News James Harding is returning to the microphone. He's been commissioned by the World Service (which seems to found more money for a wider range of programming recently) to co-host a six-part series called On Background, starting next month. To add to the rich diversity of presentation, the white 46-year-old Oxbridge-educated financial journalist and editor will be joined by white 48-year-old Oxbridge financial journalist and editor Zanny Minton-Beddoes.

"On background" is a term largely used in American journalism, to set the rules around conversations between sources and reporters. It usually means the thrust of the briefing may be reported, and the source characterized in general terms (such as 'government insider'), but direct quotes may not be used. Associated Press says their reporters should object vigorously when a source wants to brief a group of reporters 'on background', and should try to persuade the source to put the briefing on the record.

I'm guessing that James won't take a presentation fee. He's on £340k pa. Will his producer make a tenth of that ?

Friday, October 23, 2015

What Tyler ?

BBC TV entertainment commissioning has been handed to Alan Tyler, nee Taylor, while his boss, Mark Linsey looks after the whole divisional shebang.

Alan spent 9 years at St Andrew's University, acquiring a degree in experimental pathology, and a PhD for leukaemia research. He wrote gags and did stand-up in his spare time.

He presented his own quiz show Beat The Streets on BBC2 Scotland, and fronted live doco Maternity Hospital alongside Sue Cook and Anna Ryder Richardson.

He's enthusiastic about his latest commission, Can't Touch This, filling the huge hole in everyone's lives left by the end of Total Wipeout. It's presented by Zoe Ball and Ashley Banjo, with voice overs from Sue Perkins. “We are really excited to be bringing the stellar combination of Zoe, Ashley and Sue to audiences on BBC One. Their natural enthusiasm, passion and wit are completely infectious, willing our intrepid contestants on as they hurtle over every obstacle, across every pool and into every wall.”

I know which button I'll be touching.

Old Waconian

Katie Derham has quietly moved to a 6/1 third favourite to win Strictly - from a pre-programme showing with most bookmakers around 40/1.

Is she a raw talent, shaped entirely by Anton du Beke (Anthony Beke) ?

At Cheadle Hulme School in 1984, aged 14, she took up synchronised swimming, as it became an Olympic sport. 'For a few years synchronised swimming was my greatest passion', she says. She dedicated hours to choreographing routines. to tunes like Radio Ga Ga and I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and designing the sparkly outfits to go with them - and revisited the sport for a Radio 4 documentary in 2012.

Before that, she was awarded honours in the Grade IV exam of the Royal Academy of Dancing, which is aimed at primary school pupils, and at that level goes up to Grade VIII.

She studied economics at Magdalene, Cambridge, going up in the first full year of the college admitting women undergraduates. She found time to perform in The Gondoliers at the Cambridge Arts Theatre, and with the Cambridge University Light Entertainment Society.

In 2010 Katie took to the floor for Newsroom's Got Talent (sadly there was a mic failure). (Stay with it for Mary Nightingale in latex).

Sadly Katie's microphone worked in the same contest in 2009.



The stand-off between BBC DG Lord Hall and DCMS Select Committee Chair Jesse Norman, over the luvvies' letter which really ought to have come with a BBC letterhead, ended in stalemate.

Lord Hall said the activities of his staff in organising it didn't merit investigation; and suggests he knew all about it in advance: "I was content for the staff of the BBC to make the case for the organisation they are proud to work for, and also to approach people they know across the industry to do likewise."

Meanwhile Danny Cohen, Noreena Hertz, Simon Schama and J K Rowling have been doing some more letter writing.  

Cap and gown

It's Dr Peter Allen now, with the 5Live stalwart awarded an honorary degree by South Essex College.
Here he is with college principal Amanda O'Donoghue, on the prom at Westcliff.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Marky Mark

As November approaches and Danny Cohen departs, it looks like Mark Linsey will be the BBC's interim tv taste-maker for a while.

He has a BA in Performing Arts, Arts Administration from Leicester Polytechnic, and met and befriended Dale Winton at Radio Trent when working on a dissertation on commercial radio. He got his first job at Trent, as "station dogsbody", and has remained close to Dale ever since (Dale is godfather to his three boys, and there have been a number of family holidays together.) He moved from Nottingham to Beacon Radio in Wolverhampton, and then got unpaid work on the Pamela Armstrong show on BBC2, produced at Pebble Mill, which ran through 1986 and 1987.

Some programmes from his production portfolio: Pets Win Prizes and Simon Mayo's Confessions at the BBC; Beat The Crusher, with Freddie Starr and Melinda Messenger, while with Tiger Aspect, which ran for 10 shows in 1998. He started the conversation with Chris Evans that led to him taking over Top Gear.

He remembers two failed pitches to Jay Hunt when she took over BBC1 - a Lee Mack quiz show which was to be called Evolution, and a programme featuring synchronised swimming. He enjoyed watching Total Wipeout (which he commissioned) with his sons; he lives in a semi-detached villa in a leafy avenue in Sevenoaks with wife Sarah, who teaches yoga.

One down, three to go

UTV - (as was ?) - has one less new digital radio station to launch. It's surrendered its own proposed talkBUSINESS DAB slot on Digital 2 in favour of a deal with the existing London digital station, Share Radio.

This will sound quite familiar to those who grew up with BBC radio finance voices - featuring Nigel Cassidy, Ed Mitchell, Simon Rose and Sarah Pennells, and other staff with BBC Business links, like Juliette Foster, Mark Johnson and Linda Lewis.

The station started nearly a year ago, with a staff of just 20, based in studios in Pimlico. It's wholly financed by Stuart Oldham, who made his money setting up online trading operation The Share Centre. Some of the output reflects his choices - he's a former Church Commissioner, so the Choir of York Minster opens live broadcasting every day, and overnight, you get a selection of instrumental folk music tracks.


Some interesting stats from Newswhip, trying to track which publishers have had the most impact with their content going straight out on Facebook, via Facebook Instant. The bald figures are from their counting machine, Spike, covering the month of September, showing interactions via ordinary social media linking, and so-called 'native' interactions which share the publisher's content from Facebook.

An in-bred culture of sharing, general 'talk-ability' and the sharing nature of its social-media-savvy users drives BuzzFeed to the top, with a smaller number of stories having a much bigger multiplier effect.

The Mail is ranked just below the BBC, which suggests the BBC is not exploiting enough of its much bigger portfolio of stories - or they're just dull and not worth sharing. The Mail secures many more photo and video links. Click on the graphic for improved legibility.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Choo chew

As Lord Hall moves to take (claimable) first class rail travel away from BBC employees, we note that (unclaimable) first class has been taken away from him.

From the start of the new GWR franchise last month, the company has declassified first class accommodation on Class 165/1 Networker Turbo trains, to increase capacity. These are the trains normally used for Lord Hall's favoured start to the working day - the 0744 Henley to Paddington, one of the UK's most crowded services.

Worse for Lord Hall - whilst some of the old 1st Class insignia remains, the sliding doors to the compartment have been secured open. More or less any Tom, Dick or Harry can now express views on last night's tv. He may be wearing dark glasses by now....

We are where we are

The BBC Trust has published a report commissioned from KPMG, seeking to assess whether or not Auntie has been "crowding out" commercial broadcasters or local papers.

The accountants' bald answer: The general finding from our analysis is that there is no clear evidence, from the available data, that any increase (decrease) in the level of BBC activity has resulted in a decline (increase) in commercial broadcasters’ viewer hours or revenues, or local newspapers’ readership or revenues. For local papers, the argument turns on a view that social media, such as Tweets about amateur football results, and local ad websites like Gumtree, are doing more damage.

The report is not a direct rebuttal of the Osborne concern, that the BBC online seems to be "imperial" in its ambition. Competitors will continue to sulk over the fact that Birt got there first, and there's now little point in them developing apps to compete with BBC Weather, or services like the Live Football Page, which grew out of radio's Saturday Sport and CEEFAX. And they'll continue to sulk over general interest pages that the BBC is surging ahead with, thanks to funding, which they instinctively 'know' are taking a slice of 'their' market, because they have words and pictures.

So, in the end, unless the BBC quickly describes more carefully what its purposes are online, it looks likely that Osborne and Whittingdale and their advisors will move to circumscribe online output that is not directly related to 'programmes'.

The contents have it

Broadcast tells us that Lord Hall is mulling over the idea of creating a Director of Content post, as Danny Cohen departs as Director of Television.

We've been mulling over that idea for five years on this blog, and this may be the best yet window of opportunity. Cohen going, Yentob not long to go - leaving Helen Boaden, Director of Radio and England, and a news animal for most of her career, as the Executive Board's sole 'creative' - saving the good Lord himself.  James Harding, current custodian of News, would regard himself as creative, but has yet to grasp tv scheduling - watch later this year as he pushes for a 45 minute 10pm bulletin to send the nation to sleep, and thus destroys his multi-million pound investment in Newsnight. Tim Davie would also regard himself as 'creative', but will be better paid at BBC Worldwide than any Director of Content.

In the online field, Director of Strategy and Digital, James Purnell is a soi-disant creative, having helped to produce a film once, but hardly a credible Director of Content.

Moneywoman Anne Bulford will have noted the savings that are beginning to flow from the "merger" of Engineering, Digital and Worldwide Technology. In output, there are myriad separate teams in online, radio, tv, sport, factual, entertainment, drama, arts and music making short-form video, playing social media games and launching digital initiatives and partnerships, and it is frankly out of control. Heritage work practices are protected in radio and tv, with budgets based for as long as anyone can remember on what we had last year - attempts at zero-based budgeting lead to obvious briefings to the press about "the death of built radio" or "the end of serious tv drama".

The creation of a Director of Content is the right move - but will depend on identifying a strong, credible and brave enough candidate well before Lord Hall goes public with such a structure.

Meetinged out

What does/did Danny do all day ?  An FOI enquiry asked for details of the outgoing Director of Television Danny Cohen's diary from 1st to 15th July. The BBC said you can't see some of it, cos it's to do with 'journalism, art or literature'. But they did provide other bits...and you can see two things. One, there's been no real Bonfire of the Boards, or slashing of the meeting/routine command and control culture that stifles the BBC. Two, why Danny, in his forties, might have decided enough's enough...

Danny Cohen is the Director of Television, a content division, with the majority of his appointments being programme or strategic discussions about aspects of our output. This information is out of scope under FOI legislation. However as a member of the BBC Executive team and an industry figure we can provide information about those appointments that concern pan-BBC or industry-wide business and that fall within the scope of the Act.

Wednesday 1st July 2015 
0930-1000: Meeting with HR 
1000-1100: TV Approvals Group 
1200-1300: Commissioning Team Meeting 
1400-1500: Routine with Corporate strategy 
1500-1600: Routine with Head of Development 
1600-1700: BBC Three Steering Group Meeting 
1700-1730: Routine Weekly Meeting with DG and his team 
1730-1800: Executive Team Meeting 

Thursday 2nd July 2015 
0900-1000: DG’s Senior Leadership Team Meeting 
1100-1200: TV Board 
1200-1245: Conference Call with TV’s Leadership Team
1430-1500: Routine with Controller BBC One 
1500-1530: Routine with Factual production 
1530-1630: Routine with Drama Commissioning 

Friday 3rd July 2015 
0930-1030: Attended a News Awayday 
1030-1100: Executive Board 
1100-1130: Diary catch up 
1500-1630: TV Leadership Team Meeting 
1700-1730: Meeting with Controller BBC One and Director of News 

Monday 6th July 
1130-1200: TV Planning Group 
1200-1230: Executive Board 
1330-1400: Routine with TV’s press officer 
1630-1700: Routine direct report 
1800-1830: Routine with DG 

Tuesday 7th July
0930-1030: TV Board 
1030-1230: Executive Board 
1500-1600: TV Leadership Team Meeting 

Wednesday 8th July 
1000-1200: TV Editorial Group 
1200-1300: BBC Three Steering Group 

Thursday 9th July 
1100-1130: Routine with Strategy 
1130-1200: Diary Catch up 
1200-1230: Routine with Director of Sport 
1630-1700: Routine with TV’s press officer 

Friday 10th July 
1000-1200: Silent Witness Set Visit 
1430-1500: Routine with direct report 

Monday 13th July 
1030-1100: Routine with DG 
1400-1600: BBC Trustees Meeting 
1630-1645: Meeting with Factual Operations 
1645-1730: Routine with Comedy production 

Tuesday 14th July 
0930-1030: BBC Annual Report press Briefing 
1100-1200: DG’s Senior Leadership Team Meeting 
1230-1300: Routine with direct report 
1300-1400: BBC America Meeting 
1500-1600: Routine with Entertainment commissioning 

Wednesday 15th July 
0900-1000: Routine with Marketing 
1000-1030: TV Approvals Group 
1030-1100: Routine with BBC Three 
1200-1400: Visit to Tracy Ullman Set 
1530-1600: Meeting with Business operations and HR

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Tony Hall's financial fixer, Anne Bulford, has unveiled a raft of measures to save BBC money without hitting programmes. The elephant in her latest email is "merging divisions", which will have everyone twitching.

There is some detail on smaller matters of house-keeping - no first class rail travel, no claims for lunch in the UK, no taxis for staff use during the day in London Zones 1 to 3; a reduction in the mileage allowance for late night and early morning taxis - from 40 to 25. Thus, for every mile beyond 25 you live away from your base, you'll pay £1.60 back to Auntie on every taxi journey. This is tougher on shift-working lower-paid support staff, who often move well out of the centre to get to affordable homes.

In the air, flights less than six hours will be economy; over six, you can go premium economy.  First will still be allowed for overnight and flights lasting more than eight hours, if you can demonstrate you're hitting the ground working.

There's a worrying phrase used - "subsistence alcohol", which will no longer be claimable. I presume this means staff can still buy a drink for a contributor, but not for their own habit.

Standby for the traditional late October issuing of job cuts targets to be achieved by March 2016. That'll have even more people wincing.

Martin Cox

Martin Cox, who was a calm and wise thread running through the sometimes frenetic patch-work of BBC radio current affairs for many years, has died, aged 74.

He went to St John's Cambridge, and then joined National Opinion Polls (NOP), a subsidiary of Associated Newspapers. His expertise looked useful to Steve Bonarjee, boss of the BBC Current Affairs Group (Sound) in 1969, who took him on as a producer.

In 1970, this department was split up, and the newsy Current Affairs side took Today and what became The World Tonight, whilst Martin went with Current Affairs Magazine Programmes, CAMP by name if not nature. Martin stayed with CAMP, producing Nigel Rees (who's helpfully filled in this detail) in his first presenting job, on You and Your Money – one of the precursors of You and Yours.

Martin then surfaces in the Radio Times as a producer for the Special Current Affairs Unit run by Bernard Tate from later in 1970, on programmes like Saturday Briefing and Analysis, with presenters like Robert Carvel and Bob McKenzie.

By 1973, when I signed on with Auntie, he was a duty editor on The Today Programme. It was going through a fairly bouncy, confident period, and the production team seemed to have fun, on and off air. Martin liked to wear a fishing-smock type top for night shifts.

In 1976, he was still there, working with Nigel Rees as presenter in London, as Brian Redhead broadcast from Manchester. He rose to Assistant Editor, as the programme went through the turmoil of "Up to the hour" and back. In 1978, Nigel remembers Martin presiding over his leaving party - every other senior figure on the production side unavailable, ahead of yet-another re-vamp. "One always felt in safe hands with Martin. He knew what he was doing – which was not always the case with Today staff", he writes.

He became Editor of The World At One in 1987, in the wake of the arrival of John Birt. John selected Jenny Abramsky to lead Radio News and Current Affairs, and Martin stepped up in the shuffle that followed. He oversaw the installation of James Naughtie as main presenter in 1988. Things were still analogue, and the World At One /PM team worked pretty closely - colleagues remember his enjoyment of a quick razoring of an odd tape to fill the FM slot at the end of PM, whilst Long Wave went to the Shipping Forecast. No grandeur for this Editor.  He also exercised another skill, acquired on Today, of carefully constructed rotas, drafted in pen and ink, which took delicate account of the ever-changing interpersonal relationships (or not) of a large team of self-assured presenters and producers.

In 1989, he moved to join Jenny Abramsky's cabinet, as Managing Editor of Current Affairs. In 1994, he was Commissioning Editor for News for the nascent Radio 5Live. He would sometimes bring me a calm version of Jenny's view of my latest Breakfast pilot, when Jenny was too exasperated to deliver it in person.

After leaving the BBC, he came back in 1999 as a consultant, to review the radio commissioning process. From 2007 to 2010, he was Chairman of the BBC Pensioners' Association.

Weds update: Tribute from Jim Naughtie: “Martin was my first daily editor at the BBC, and a brilliant one. Funny and wise, dry and tough, with a brain that could bulldoze its way through any obstacle, he was what all our editors should be. All at once, he had a feeling for political folklore, the here-and-now and the future. He never made a suggestion about a script that didn't make it better. On top of it all, he was a decent and good man who cared deeply about our trade, and its values. Every time I met him after he'd retired, I felt better: Martin gave our game a good name. Everyone who worked with him knows that, and I remember him fondly and with admiration that will last.”

Monday, October 19, 2015


It sounds like Alan Yentob is "on report" inside the the BBC for his activities in support of Kids Company, from Trust Chairman Rona Fairhead's answers to questions at the Society of Editors' conference in London today.

Asked about Alan's call suggesting Newsnight postpone coverage, his appearance in the Today cubicle to "listen" to Camila Batmanghelidjh's interview, and his phoning of World At One presenter Ed Stourton ahead of a Kids Company programme item, Rona said there had already been a provisional report from The Trust's Editorial Standards Committee - and so far, they were satisfied there'd been no on-air breach of 'editorial integrity'. That suggests there might be a final report, with perhaps either some new guidelines emerging, or, heaven forfend, sanctions against a senior manager using internal contacts to put improper pressure on news programmes.

Rona also said there had been explicit and direct conversations with the DG about Al, which are continuing. Will he be gone before Jeremy Vine leaves Strictly ?

Bit rate

Well, at least they've got the Twitter bit working in Autumn.


For balance, here's the BBC bit of Alan Rusbridger's speech to the Society of Editors.

....And, of course the BBC must be slashed because it’s destroying the national press, or so I read. You might argue, if you were picky, that the American press is as deeply challenged as the British press - and they have nothing resembling the BBC to explain their decline. So blaming all our ills and anxieties on the presence of a public broadcaster may or may not be justified. 

You could close down the BBC entirely and still not discover the silver bullet for newspapers.

But that doesn’t stop the BBC being treated to a daily monstering that feels at times disproportionate and obsessive - never mind the multiple undeclared conflicts of interest. 

I certainly feel conflicted when I think about the BBC. As an editor, many things about the BBC did irritate and annoy me. They had no business dabbling in some of their commercial ventures. The fact that they were essentially “free” (once the licence fee had been paid) is, I can see, a complication if you’re trying to build a subscription model. 

The organization is quite often extremely bad at partnerships and collaboration. It can be slow moving, intransigent and arrogant. More concerning still, I sometimes worry about its dominance, influence and journalistic bravery. So I don’t need convincing about the troubling aspects of the BBC. 

But - both as a journalist and as a citizen, I can’t ignore its immense virtues strengths. Nor would I want to. In thinking about the BBC, I also see probably the greatest news organisation in the world. A newsroom of incomparable depth, range, talent and knowledge. Journalists of seriousness, huge professionalism and the highest ethical standards. One of the few news organisations in the world still dedicated to being based out in the world telling stories globally because so many of the stories that affect our lives today are global.

So, as well as being very suspicious of the BBC I’m incredibly grateful for, and proud of, and trusting in, the BBC. Does no one else feel this? It doesn’t feel like it from the compulsively negative coverage we serve up almost daily. 

And, in a sense, the more the national press behaves like a journalistic battering ram on the subject the more I feel a need for the BBC. Of course, there’s no requirement for the press to deal with anyone fairly, impartially or in a balanced way - and, quite often, Fleet Street, relishes the freedom to be as aggressive and biased as it likes. That’s as it should be. 

But when Fleet Street is in fully cry you don’t half appreciate the BBC’s still small voice of calm. I wouldn’t want the BBC without Fleet Street. But nor would I want Fleet Street without a strong BBC.  
Ironically, the licence fee is currently the only provably successful business model for delivering extremely high quality general news internationally and nationally. There may be reasons why it’s not ultimately sustainable. If so, surely there’s all the more reason to hold a reasonable discussion about the best way to keep BBC journalism proud, independent, strong… and confident. 

In whose interests – apart from politicians and other centres of power which deserve to be scrutinized - is it to have a cowed BBC? I’m actually amazed it’s not more cowed. Imagine if, on a newspaper, a mistake of the sort that most of us make in our careers led to a full-scale judicial inquiry. The editor and chairman sacked. A thousand headlines, millions of pounds in costs. If any newspaper survived such attention at all the subsequent culture would surely be one of extreme back covering and caution. That would be only human. 

It’s something of a miracle that the BBC, under such scrutiny and attack on a continuous basis, is still capable of producing robust, independent journalism. I would sometimes like it to be still more brave and still more independent - but that’s another story.


I have filleted John Whittingdale's speech to the Society of Editors for the BBC bits, so you don't have to read the rest of it.  This may be a section he has actually written himself.

The BBC is not the cause of the problems facing local newspapers. But it has not helped. Newspapers have rightly complained when the BBC has taken their stories and reproduced them without attribution. 

But the BBC’s declared intention to get more involved in local news coverage through collaborative work with local papers is welcome. Commissioning content about councils, courts and public services from local media outlets can support local newspapers and help to increase accountability. In fact, this is something the Select Committee proposed last year. 

That does not mean the BBC employing local journalists, which would further undermine local media. Instead the BBC would commission local news content from local news providers which would then be available to all media outlets. I am delighted that the working group set up by the NMA to take this idea forward is making good progress.

It seems David Holdsworth's 100 journalists idea is dead and buried.

U Radio ?

UTV now has £98 million in its coffers to make a go of its existing portfolio of radio stations, and to launch TalkSport 2, TalkRADIO, TalkBUSINESS and Virgin Radio. It will also probably have to find a new company name - ITV, which has bought the UTV TV operations north and south of the Irish border, plans to keep the current title.

There are still plenty of new radio jobs to apply for - many with close closing dates.


I'd like to enlist the power of readers to find out more about Baron Jan Otto Wilhelm Stahl Von Holstein, who was a director of Kids Company for ten years from 1998. Company records suggest he was born in June 1939. He's been a director of three other companies I can find, Cerebrum and Rampus International (both dissolved) and Franka Couture.

Franka Couture is the dress-making operation of Baroness Franka de Stael von Holstein (slightly different spelling, but presumably a relation). The Baroness made the wedding dress for Lady Rose Windsor; a gown for Ava Gardner; and some of her creations are in the V&A. She's said to have come to London in 1961, and worked initially for one of the Queen's favourite dress-makers, Norman Hartnell.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Double your money

You will hardly be surprised to learn that MG Alba, which brings you Gaelic TV across the UK through BBC Alba, would like more BBC investment in Gaelic TV as part of a new BBC Charter. Ideally, more than twice as much as at present.

Chairperson Maggie Cunningham (ex BBC) says “We should not be downbeat about BBC ALBA given what it has achieved but with the BBC’s help, we can build for the next stage of the channel’s life and increase the number of hours of high quality programmes per week, matching the contribution made by the BBC to other platforms such as S4C in Wales.”

This is the "me-too" call from their Charter Renewal response...

On current funding, only 1.7 hours of originations per day, including News, are possible. This compares to other autochthonous language services in the UK and Ireland as follows: almost 8 hours of originations per day on the Welsh channel, S4C (S4C, 2014/15), and 5 hours of originations on the Irish language channel, TG4 (TG4, 2014). 

The lack of originations results in a high repeat rate. BBC ALBA’s current repeat rate is 73%.

In addition to an unsustainable repeat rate, this funding gap creates significant deficiencies for BBC ALBA audiences: 
• there is no weekend news available in Gaelic;
• there is a significant lack of original programming for children and young people; 
• there are gaps in comedy, entertainment and programming for learners.


A Notting Hill schism of major proportions: Rachel Johnson, in her Mail On Sunday column, says bestie Alan Yentob must share the blame with Camila Batmanghelidjh for the collapse of Kids Company.

"It doesn’t help their case that the charity was run by the same people for two decades, while even at my small sports club up the road, nobody’s allowed to sit on the membership committee for more than two years in case they begin to think the place is their personal fiefdom."

"The point is not their generosity with their own money – Camila put up her flat as collateral, Alan gave £250,000 – but their carelessness when it came to other people’s. Ours."

"Why did the trustees and directors not ‘refresh’ the leadership, despite evidence that the CEO had lost her sense of accountability to her loyal and long-serving chairman? Where were they ?"

Perhaps Rachel should be reminded that some of the trustees seem to come from the Yentob-milieu, including Sunetra Atkinson, former BBC make-up artist and wife of Rowan, and Erica Bolton, of arts PR company Bolton & Quinn.


Former BBC COO Caroline Thomson has acquired another non-executive post, this time with The Vitec Group - who make the robotic cameras that patrol BBC News studios, the Autocue systems that make presenters look like they know what they're talking about, gizmos that fix iPads to posh cameras, and much, much more.

Caroline Thomson is currently Chair of Digital UK, a Non-Executive Director of CN Group, Deputy Chair of the National Gallery,  a Trustee of Tullie House Gallery and a Non-Executive Director of the Advisory Board to the Shareholder Executive, where she may have some insight into the sale of another former employer, Channel 4. She's Executive Director of English National Ballet, from which she will be performing a glissade en arriere next year.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


A majority of people favour an 'updated' licence-fee which will presumably include some sort of sanction against people watching or catching up on BBC content on computers and other devices for free.  The finding is the most important conclusion from the BBC Trust's analysis of nearly 40,000 contributions from the public - the big picture is way below (click to go large).

However, I still can't find anyone saying how this online update will be made effective. I hope someone's got a smart, cheap idea.  This Tweet from yesterday's seminar on BBC funding makes it clear that geo-blocking isn't the answer. Helen (sic) has a longer blog about the issue here.

1050 am: The BBC says the VPN problem is over-estimated, but clearly has decided to take action, with some collateral damage...


It's a year since the BBC's Director of News, James Harding, deemed himself a suitable radio presenter, and found time in his diary to front a documentary about Pope Francis.

A man who likes his newspapers folded a certain way (by someone else) is unlikely to be riddled with self-doubt, and I understand a more structured and regular return to the microphone for this emerging talent is imminent. (Or perhaps he's filling a hole that was offered to Peston, now twiddling his thumbs til a January launch with ITV ?)

The BBC already boasts one very senior manager who also presents; maybe one at a time is enough.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The limit

A second pioneer of yoof television is moving on in his forties. Stuart Murphy, six and half years with Sky, and currently leading Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and Sky Living, is stepping down. He has no specific job to go to, but is reported to have signed a content deal with his former employers to develop his own scripts.

Sky 1 gets about 1% of tv viewing, and its top show in September was down 90,000 on its top show in September 2014.

Murphy, (St Mary's Menston and Clare, Cambridge) was the first Controller of BBC3, from 2003 to 2006. Here's his current, somewhat prescient, thoughts on business and creativity - "brilliant businesses work when they replenish and refresh fast".


The BBC Trust has welcomed a new Head of Policy, Tristan Pedelty, to what may be a short appointment - given that the current policy of the Trust is to close itself down in favour of a new model of regulation.

Tristan's qualifications in the world of media policy are unclear. He made his way from darkest Powys to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he was JCR Entertainments Officer (Technical). He was also Entertainments Officer for the Cambridge Union (in charge of garden parties) and spoke once, on the topic This House Believes Britain is Still Great.

He joined the Civil Service, and was Private Secretary to The Lord Adonis at Transport. When the Tories came in, he moved to Deputy Head of Crossrail, then in 2011 it was off to No 10. He helped compile the Prime Minister's record of journalistic contacts for the Leveson Report, and, when the full report was about to be published, was part of the team that stayed up all night reading it, so that DC didn't have to.  Most recently he's been setting up DC's Implementation Group, successor to the Delivery Unit, enforcer of making sure political pipe dreams become reality.

He's chair of the Governors of Paddington Academy, and has the endorsement of the Daily Mail as a "civil service high-flier".


I'm not sure if Camila Batmanghelidjh is a paid-up member of ACEVO, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations. They submitted written evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee investigating Kids Company, saying the organisation suffered "serious and systematic failures of governance and leadership".

The next key report will be from the Charity Commission (strategic priority 2015-18 - 'improving the speed and effectiveness with which we investigate wrongdoing, applying our regulatory powers robustly and transparently').

The Times today says "well-placed sources" expect Alan Yentob to leave the BBC by Christmas. One notes these sources are not specifically placed within the BBC. Alan says any suggestion he's leaving is "ridiculous and completely untrue". Nonetheless, a Charity Commission report challenging the competence of the one and only Kids Company chairman would make continued BBC managerial employment for Al very difficult - even if he only line manages his PA.

Eventually, the Dame Janet Smith Review will be made public - there's no, repeat, no suggestion that Mr Yentob is in line for criticism, but as the oldest member of BBC management, he'll be much in demand for media interviews, which seem not to be his current forte.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Down with the Kids ?

Sadly, Yentob and Batmanghelidjh came to their grilling by MPs laden with tales, rather than evidence. "5 days after Kids Company closed, a boy was murdered, there were stabbings and four suicide attempts", said Al. This loose, unscientific approach to causation and correlation continued throughout nearly three hours of uncomfortable to-ing and fro-ing.

And their memories seemed very poor. If you are given money by local authorities to provide specialist teaching, you know about Ofsted. And, I would argue, you would know how they rate your services, especially if you win an "outstanding" or "cause for concern" rating. Camila thought the most recent Ofsted might have been in Bristol, but wasn't sure.

If you are in a charity dealing with children, you know all about the legal requirements of "safeguarding". It should be a regular agenda item at executive level. Neither Al nor Camila seemed to get what Bernard Jenkin was on about.  Maybe Al missed the BBC Executive meetings when the Good Corporation reported on child protection standards at Auntie in July.

If you are in a charity short of funds, you balance expenditure against income, and hope to find long-term routes to deliver a surplus. It is not a long-term strategy to rely on Coldplay, or your artist mates flogging odd bits of art. Or arguing that there'll be riots unless the Government coughs up. Remember Kids Company only operated in South London, Bristol and Liverpool. I can't remember any recent riots in areas living without a Batmanghelidjh safety-net.

If you are charity which takes "clients" through self-referral, you institute clear and detailed guidelines that ensure you are not taken for a set of soft-ollies by streetwise teenagers or their mentors, who recognise  and learn the phrase-making required to win regular envelopes of cash.

If you are the chairman of a charity, you learn about best practice, and the need for fresh eyes to scrutinise the work of the management team. You might remember what happened at the ICA.

The trouble is stats. In the 2013 annual report (which first used the concept of 36,000 clients) it was reported that "Kids Company staff record every significant interaction with the children and young people on our custom-built database – which a government minister described as being better than anything he had seen nationally."

Maybe Al and Camila should have done a little bit more database research before their interview.

In Residence

A correspondent in Scotland seems disappointed I haven't had a pop at BBC Scotland's investment in a Poet in Residence. Rachel McCrum, originally from Northern Ireland, but now living in Edinburgh, was appointed earlier this month, in a partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library.

You have to say that she's up and running, with two poems delivered so far. The same cannot yet be said of Thomas Small, a Dundee-based choreographer, selected as Radio 2's first-ever Artist in Residence. Tommy has a bursary of £15k plus £20k for materials and expenses and a "golden pass" to Radio 2 events for 12 months in return for a minimum of "four artistic creations". He was selected by a panel comprising Sir Peter Blake, Claudia Winkleman, Bob Shennan (Controller, BBC Radio 2) and Anthony Lilley (interim CEO and Creative Director, The Space). That was in June. I'm sure something's coming.


Some late reading for members of Bernard Jenkin's Public Administration Select Committee as they prepare to interview the Kids Company Duo of Batmanghelidjh and Yentob, courtesy of Newsnight and Buzzfeed. I hope the Parliament Live servers can cope at 9.40am. 

Meanwhile, a contribution to those settings odds on the next BBC Director of Television from former BBC PR man-now-with-Burberry Julian Payne, tipping Jay Hunt, Peter Fincham, Charlotte Moore, with a side bet on Alan Yentob.  Al's daughter Bella made her Burberry catwalk debut in London last month.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Tracking Piers Morgan's presenting career at CNN provided me with many enjoyable blog inches. So let's establish a new baseline for his three-morning-a-week contract with ITV to host Good Morning Britain.

The programme has averaged 582,000 viewers in the year to date – a 15.7% share. In the same period last year, it stood at 546,000, a 14.9% share. Piers said: “I’m hopeful we get a bigger audience generally.... You’re up against the BBC who have a great brand name, and have done very well in the ratings in the morning for a long time, and ITV has lagged behind... I’m not coming here to go down in the ratings. That would be disappointing.”

BBC Breakfast, which has yet to announce a long-term replacement for Bill Turnbull, averages around 1.5m viewers.

Piers has already taken a pop at one other breakfast host, Eammon Holmes, who's Sunrise show on Sky News hovers around 200,000 viewers - surely a contest already won, Mr Morgan?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

You can't just walk out of a drive-in

Good heavens. Danny Cohen is to leave the BBC in November.

Long tipped as a future DG, it's possible he's off to acquire external experience for future candidacy. But it's a deuced unsettling time to change horses at the top of BBC TV.

Why now ? Well, the luvvies' letter was not an unalloyed PR success, and Lord Hall is writing to Jesse Norman at the DCMS Select Committee to explain more. BBC Television may be a less attractive place to run, if, as planned, BBC Studios become a separate division under Peter Salmon. There can be no continuing reason for Danny to run a 26-strong Television board under these circumstances, and sensible job analysis would say his successor ought to earn less than £327,800.

It is possible that Lord Hall's promised restructuring might not leave room for both Danny and James Purnell, though that would required a display of radicalism beyond most people's expectations of the DG. Lord Hall will have a number of reasonable internal candidates to consider if the vacancy at tv does arise - not least Charlotte Moore at BBC1, who nurtured the Bake-Off and didn't buy The Voice.

Danny's move to the Executive tier, from May 2013, hasn't been without bumps; one hears that his tv colleagues have fallen a little out of love with their former prodigy.  His Twitter account shows the stratospheric level of his current circle - J.K.Rowling, Will I.Am, Stacey Dooley and Robbie Savage. Has he sorted a new berth already ?

Dress sense

Presenter, producer, creative director, HR operator, and PR man Alan Yentob has gone in to bat for Alan Yentob ahead of Thursday's parliamentary hearing about the collapse of charity Kids Company.

He's briefed The Independent's Media Editor Ian Burrell thus:“This needs to be told – the idea that [the charity] was not well-managed is really unfair.”

"There’s a denial about what’s going on in relation to child protection. It’s ridiculous, terrible and tragic that [the closure of Kids Company] has come about in this way.”

Mr Yentob's Select Committee grilling will be led by Bernard Jenkin MP, whose wife, Anne, is model of frugality. Now Baroness Jenkin, she appeared in the recent BBC1 series, Britain's Secret Spending Habits, revealing that she buys her clothes on eBay.  Not something you could say of Al or Kids Company CEO Camila Batmanghelidjh.

Monday, October 12, 2015


I'm often behind the learning curve when it comes to modern HR thinking. The BBC is looking for an HR Administrator (Onboarding). Familiar only with surf- and water- variations, I had to look it up.

Onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and behaviors to become effective organizational members and insiders.

I think we used to call it induction.

Non metropolitan

The BBC is looking for a new non-executive director with an eye on life outside the capital. First requirement for the ideal candidate - "Executive experience gained within a major organisation that is largely based outside of London, or that delivers services to customers/clients across the United Kingdom".

Ear wigging

Occasionally, the UK's listening post learns of its own diminution third hand.

BBC Monitoring (in future of uncertain address, but currently in Caversham) reports a story from the Azerbaijani news website Haqqin headlined "BBC leaves Azerbaijan". Haqqin in turn reports a source talking to Sputnik Azerbaijan, saying that BBC Monitoring is going to wind up its operations in Azerbaijan within six months and relocate to Tbilisi.

According to BBC Monitoring, their Baku office refused to comment on this, as did BBC HQ in London. The Monitoring outpost in Azerbaijan has been in business for more than 15 years.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


I look away from the information highway for just a matter of moments, and Peston appears to have grown some stubble.

Etsi ketsi

Some odds and ends to sweep up, after a week on dodgy Greek wi-fi.

BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie, who's been doing good work on trade delegations, has been rewarded with a four year trusteeship at the Tate, appointed by the Prime Minister.

Jeremy Clarkson reveals in The Sunday Times that it was Alan Yentob, HR Director to The Stars, who picked up the phone to tell him his BBC Top Gear contract was at an end, following the Yorkshire hotel "fracas".

Jay McGuiness, now favourite to win Strictly with most bookmakers, went to the Charlotte Hamilton School of Dance in Balderton, Newark, as a teenager. The school offers "instruction and practice for Cheerleading, Ballet (English), Tap, Stage and Stage Dancers." They knew Jay as James. As did the Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama, in Carlton Hill, Nottingham, where he spent three years from 2006.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


After a soft launch with repeats on Ai Weiwei and Oliver Sacks, the winter season of Imagine was promulgated this week.

We are promised a repeat of a film by Gracie Otto on theatre impresario Michael White; a documentary on the stage version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, made by former Arena director Adam Low; and an updated film on Wilko Johnson, made by Alan Yentob's Somerset neighbour Julien Temple.

There's also new film on architect David Chipperfield, who's been redeveloping the Royal Academy - Yentobs have holidayed at the Chipperfield summer home in Northern Spain.  And a whole film on Imagine regular Sir Antony Gormley, one of several artists who donated art for auctions to help Kids Company when it was in trouble ahead of its collapse. Sir Antony is filmed in Florence, preparing for an exhibition.

Plus, as we promised, Howard Jacobson and Alan visit Venice for a learned discussion on Shylock, ahead of Howard's new novel on the topic.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Former BBC COO Caroline Thomson has let it be known that she's pirouetting away from the English National Ballet next year.

Her most significant contribution to UK terpsichory has been a deal to shift HQ to Docklands - but she'll be gone before the move.

And she'll be available for a range of entertaining job opportunities likely to emerge from a new BBC Charter, from non-executive chairman of a new unitary board, through leadership of a new BBC-specific regulator, to perhaps even Ofcom chair.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Success factor

The Panorama investigation into shaky witnesses and paedophile hunts attracted an average 1.9 million viewers in its late night Tuesday slot.

Indeed it was the most popular programme at that hour of the evening. Cast your minds back to the outrage amongst "serious tv journalists" when the current affairs flagship was moved from Sunday primetime to Monday at 8pm, then reduced to a mere corvette of 30 minutes.

BBC1 schedulers are more relaxed about the later, longer Tuesday slot. Audiences at 8.30 Monday have been dropping below 2m.

So 'winning' late at night with fewer viewers is hardly progress for Panorama. And must divert viewers from the ailing Newsnight. Director of News James Harding needs to sort his post 10pm offer pronto.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

x 4

The Daily Mail may have discovered an additional line of BBC income paid to Alan Yentob - a share of the overseas sales of Imagine.

The BBC has refused to confirm or deny the story. Previously we knew he receives a salary as part-time Creative Director, and presentation fees for Imagine, and is likely to be drawing on his BBC pension.

A share of overseas royalties for a staff member would be unusual.


In what must seem (at least to BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob) another example of the self-flagellation Auntie enjoys so much, the Corporation is buying a documentary on the collapse of charity Kids Company.

More details from Broadcast.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Number crunchers

OK, let's get the next book started...BBC Economics Editor. The vacancy may once again tempt Director of News, James Harding to bring in another of Fleet Street's finest. How about Sam Fleming, who he hired at The Times in 2010, now with the FT in the States ? Or a bigger fish, Gillian Tett, also of the FT, and beloved Newsnight panellist ?

Longer odds, I'd guess, on Sky's Ed Conway bringing his DJ mixes to Broadcasting House, or indeed, Sky's City Editor Mark Kleinman, whose every tweet seems to be an exclusive.

Insiders I'd like to see given a run: Simon Jack, from Today, and the indefatigable Mickey Clarke, of 5Live's Wake Up To Money. Plain speakers, both.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pine nuts

That tinker Peter Fincham has actually snaffled Robert Peston, with the offer of a Sunday morning show on top of the job of Political Editor ITV News.  Now he has to find something to drop from the current schedule to make space. This morning's proud offering was a repeat of Murder She Wrote, and three back to back repeats of the Jeremy Kyle Show. I hope Pesto got some assurances of a programme budget against that big-spending line-up.

Now James Harding should afford Runaway Robert the briefest possible period to collect his haid-dryer and back-comb from New Broadcasting House before gardening leave.

Then, I trust the BBC Westminster crew will greet his appearance on the lobby cabranks with the appropriate level of helpfulness and camaraderie to a former colleague, whatever that might be, eh, Kuenssberg, Landale et al ?  Sotto voce chanting of Lynam, Chiles, Bleakley, Trinny and Susannah, and Kilroy-Silk might be fun.

It's all about the money, money

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale will be speaking on the under-bill to Chancellor George Osborne at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester tomorrow morning.

Rather depressingly, he's lumped together Eastern Europe-stylee in a section called "Party of Working People: The Economy." And it's an all male build-up to George, with Sajid Javid and Patrick McLoughlin also at the podium of rationality rousing the faithful to the required level of euphoric anticipation.


The more I think about it, the more I worry about the Amazonification personalisation that will be offered if you sign up for a myBBC ID. I've lost sleep constructing possible "recommendations" one might get from Auntie.

"Hi, we see you're over 55 and live in Redruth. 1.2% of people in Cornwall over 55 with a BBC ID have signed up for BBC Playlister, and of those, a further 0.5% have added a Frank Sinatra track. You might like to catch up with the James Watt Show on BBC Radio Stoke, where James talked to the author of a book about Frank Sinatra. Frank would have been 100 this year had he lived. The show is available for 27 days on iPlayer Radio. "

"Hi, we noticed you voted to save former sprinter Iwan Thomas in this week's Strictly Come Dancing elimination, via your new myBBC ID. Another sprinter, Christian Malcolm, will be on A Question of Sport, this coming Wednesday at 2235 on BBC1.  Lord Coe is another former sprinter, and Zeinab Badawi interviewed him for HardTALK in December 2014; the programme is still available."

"Hi, we noticed your name is Dilys Williams, which suggests, though you live in Todmorden, you might have Welsh heritage. And you're 30, which falls into our vital 25-34 year-old demographic, and even more importantly, you're classed as socio-economic group C2DE. The One Show, co-hosted by Alex Jones, who is Welsh, is very popular with viewers of that age and class definition. Alex will shortly be presenting a brand new BBC1 primetime series 'Shop Well For Less', with Steph McGovern from BBC Breakfast, which is aimed at that same demographic. The programme team are keen to hear from viewers who might like to take part...."

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Journey's end

There are a number of interesting betting markets in Strictly. The straightforward win still has Peter Andre as favourite, but with most bookies Jay McGuiness has moved to second place, ahead of Helen George. And the longest odds are still on Carol Kirkwood and Jeremy Vine.

But if you look at the market for first elimination, the shortest odds are on Iwan Thomas, who, in the training video for this week's show actually looks as if he may have been kicked into shape by Ola Jordan. The bookies, of course, take the popular vote into account - by their reckoning, Iwan, Carol Kirkwood and Daniel O'Donnell will all leave before Jezza.

  • In July, Chancellor George Osborne accused the BBC of being imperial in its ambitions for its online services. Jeremy Vine's new comprehensive website can't be far behind. It's peppered with important videos, and has been built by Natasha Courtenay-Smith, who has provided similar glossy offerings for Cerys Matthews, Adil Ray, Mary Nightingale and Samantha Simmonds.  
  • Meanwhile Paddy Power still thinks Robert Peston is odds on to be the next Political Editor at ITV, at 1/3, despite the blandishments of Lord Hall and Eddie Mair.  Sharing second spot, at 5/1 are Allegra Stratton, Cathy Newman and Tom Newton Dunn.

Janet and John

The Dame Janet Smith Review may be among the BBC's most expensive-ever undertakings, especially if it sets the scene for extensive compensation.

But the Dame and her team are still clocking up the payment schedule, with constant vigilance and rebuttal the name of the game, as we await publication. Here's a bit of yesterday's website update...

"The Review notes further recent press speculation in relation to its findings, all of which is premature and speculative and is not endorsed by the Review. In particular, the recent statement in the media that Dame Janet has changed the conclusions in her Report after receiving objections to her findings is inaccurate.

"Publication of the Review’s Report remains delayed solely as a result of the Metropolitan Police’s concerns that publication of the Report could prejudice its ongoing investigations into sexual abuse. There is no other reason for the delay."

At least some of the recent speculation has come from that exemplar of clear thinking, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, who helpfully told the Evening Standard, "I don't know what's in the report but by all accounts it is going to be pretty shocking."

Friday, October 2, 2015

More meetings

Nice to see that Renee Zellweger is taking a balanced approach to her research for the next Bridget Jones film, which may feature our heroine once again on the tv production team of Sit Up Britain.

A fortnight ago she was spotted at ITV Studios, where she was said to have sat in on planning meetings for Good Morning Britain and Lorraine. Today, she attended the 3.15pm news meeting in the News bit of Broadcasting House. It'll be a minor triumph if she can synthesise that into anything funny...

Studio tour

If you pop your head round the mighty doors of Studio 1, Television Centre in the next six weeks, you're in for a mild surprise.

Developers Stanhope have been allowed to use the space (which is being refurbished as a proper tv studio for the BBC) as a marketing suite for the flats which will replace old BBC production offices in the listed-doughnut at the heart of the site.

Models and mock-ups of the finished flats, complete with faux 50s interiors, are on show, and top-end purchasers can discuss various configurations of the biggest apartments. Here's the living/dining area of a proposed 3-bedroom number. You can almost see Bill Cotton in the armchair.

What is Elastic Beanstalk and why do I need it ?

A good question, well posed, and answered by its purveyors, Amazon.

And, as we suggested here, it's perhaps no surprise that the myriad consultants working on myBBC have turned to Elastic Beanstalk for their "personalisation"/marketing needs. Maybe the BBC might have found it's own way there.

But, of course, the BBC wants better - if you get can get your head round this current job description for a myBBC Service Owner, Recommendations.

Service owners play a key role in our engineering function providing whole life technical ownership of our development. Working closely with Product Leads the Service Owners ensure that development is consistent with our world-class quality values and total cost of ownership concerns. They are empowered to recruit, mentor and lead a pool of talented engineers defining the standards, design patterns, tooling and processes to deliver to our audiences. 

The Recommendations proposition will deliver to our top priority products (iPlayer, News, Sport, Music…) providing an enhanced personalised experienced and so is a core component of the myBBC strategy.

Demands will be high regards security, appropriate protection of personal data, and meeting the business’s performance thresholds. Audience trust is at the foundation of the BBC and hence data security is paramount. The Service Owner must be able to promote best practise with respect to security and ensure all deliveries adhere to that best practise. 

To meet the service’s high performance demands we are delivering on the AWS elastic architecture with a view to establishing a continuous delivery approach. This is an exciting time to join us and to influence the shape of software development within one of the UKs most influential organisations.

Goals at when ?

Plain-speaking ITV Director of Sport Niall Sloane and schedule-meister Peter Fincham are not having much fun with their investment in Champions League highlights. 1.30m (9.1%) tuned in at 10pm on 16th September. This week, the figure was 1.26m (8.7%).

Maybe John Whittingdale's market impact team won't noticed the news shifted to 11pm.

Transfer deadline

Just drafting the Pesto press release. Bloomin' wantaways. Thank God CBeebies and 6Music came through with those presentation shifts.

“I am delighted to be starting this new chapter in my BBC career. I have always enjoyed working with my fellow correspondents, in front of our fantastic audiences. The BBC is a special organisation and Broadcasting House is an ideal place for me to continue to develop my skills. I’m looking forward to putting a difficult summer behind me and concentrating on working hard to improve my game and help my teammates to be successful.”

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Invisible ink

It's a modern miracle. The luvvie letter signed by 29 celebrities who feared for their country under a "diminished BBC" was constructed without writing anything down, at least inside the BBC. Director of Vision, Danny Cohen and Controller of Radio 1 and 1Xtra Ben Cooper's records are clean, says Auntie, in response to a Freedom of Information inquiry.

Q: Under the transparency afforded me by the Freedom Of Information Act please provide me with a list of all persons who were asked by Mr Cohen, Mr Cooper or anybody else to sign the letter including, of course, those who chose not to sign it. Please also provide copies of any emails or other documents generated by Mr Cohen (specifically) in connection with the letter.’ 

A: Searches have been conducted of both Mr Cohen’s and Mr Cooper’s records and nothing relevant to your request has been found.

The rather terse answer doesn't cover all of the question. I don't think a reply like that will satisfy Jesse Norman at the Culture Select Committee, who has asked Lord Hall for a fuller explanation.


BBC Worldwide has hired Jackie Lee Joe from Skype to be its new Chief Marketing Officer. She will arrive in mid-November (will that be before or after the 'autumn' launch of the BBC Store ?).

Jackie is from Australia, where she learnt her marketing skills courtesy of Ansett Airlines and the University of New South Wales. When Ansett collapsed in 2001, she headed to the UK, and has worked for Orange, Car Phone Warehouse, and Virgin Mobile.

At Skype, one of her initiatives was partnering with Victoria Beckham to promote online collaboration and working (via Skype, of course).  If you've got nine minutes you think you'll never need again, there's a video all about it.

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