Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A bit quick

Latest minutes from the BBC Trust suggest the decision to move BBC3 from linear to online was a very late piece of book-balancing, rather than an entirely-measured strategic proposal.

The closure wasn't on the agenda of the regular monthly Trust meeting on 20th February, but a three-year budget was approved. (Anyone got a copy ?)

Less than two weeks later, an extraordinary meeting was called, and James Purnell, Danny Cohen and Lord Hall fronted up the proposals - which must have had the barest financial info...

33.6 The D-G stated that, once the proposal was made public, it would take the Executive at least until the summer to work up a fully costed and detailed proposal. The D-G stated the Executive wished to obtain approval to publicise the proposal the following day (6 March) so that detailed work could commence.

The minutes end thus: 

There being no other business, the Chairman closed the meeting at 1:55pm. 

Another lunch ruined. 


It's pronounced "Day-th".  The BBC's new HR supremo, Valerie Hughes-D'Aeth, unsurprisingly lists one of her interests as genealogy.

The first Hughes-D'Aeth I can trace was the Reverend Wyndham Charles Hardy Hughes D'Aeth, who graduated from Corpus Christi, Oxford, to the living of St John the Baptist Church in Buckhorn Weston (currently in Dorset) in 1877.  His father was Charles Le Narivel D'Aeth, born in Belgium in 1793.  That suggests the surname is a mangle of someone who came from the municipality of Ath, rather than anything more sinister.

Somewhere in the H-D tree there is Arthur Cloudesley Shovell Hughes D'Aeth, captain of HMS Minotaur in the 1916 Battle of Jutland. More later...

House house

I don't normally "do" south London, but neighbours of Baron Liddle and the Honourable Caroline Thomson, former Chief Operating Officer of the BBC and DG-manque, are intrigued to note their Kennington home is on the market.

It's priced at £1.695m (up from a 1998 purchase at £410k), and a trip to Zoopla will give you shots of the elegant salons and dining rooms where, no doubt, the future of both the Labour Party and the BBC, were discussed in soirees featuring Peter Mandelson, James Purnell, Andrew Adonis and many more. If you're interested, be quick; on the market for less than two weeks, it's already marked "Under Offer".

Death Becomes PR

It hasn't been on the bulletins - yet. Lucy Beale, a character in Eastenders, is about to die. To coincide with the show's 30th Anniversary, and as part of producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins' plans to re-invigorate the miserable sour, old cockney warhorse in the ratings; and to justify £15m+ investment in a new set.

So you get press conferences like this, held yesterday, in a bid to build up whodunnit speculation.

Meanwhile, in the Who Cares ? department, Lord Sugar, who decided he didn't like the new Carter Family (not that one) when they assembled over Christmas, is still grumpy.

Lord Sugar, an occasional BBC employee with 3.35m Twitter followers, will not be pleasing Danny Cohen with this continued sniping. It may also be difficult for Siralan's niece-by-marriage, Rita Simons, who plays Roxy Mitchell in Eastenders.

Meanwhile Hetti Bywater, who plays Lucy, is off to Downtown Abbey in 2015.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


At Telegraph Towers, the March winners of Jason Seiken "spot bonuses" are out (not, sadly, spot prizes - though the mega-newsroom owes something to the Strictly Come Dancing set, and there's plenty of tripping over).

Scoops ? Exclusive photos ? Gripping interviews ? Trend-setting op-ed ?  No, first out of the hat is Steve Huntingford, onlie begetter of the new Telegraph Cars - Car Buying Made Easy - mini-site, who has "overseen all of the content and written many of the reviews".  The site offers advice in big friendly print "Lots of car buyers struggle with this simple decision - petrol or diesel ? The truth is that there's no one right answer, but it depends on your priorities". Other pages explain "How hire purchase works", and there's a pledge: "Every car we write about has been driven and tested on British roads."

Next comes Andrew Oxlade of Telegraph Money (How to save £240 a year with LED lightbulbs, etc) who claims that their campaign for savers to be allowed to make their own balance between cash and shares within the total ISA allowance swayed George Osborne.

But wait, there's also a prize for Wonder Woman reporter (and author of forthcoming Mills & Boon novel "Virgin") Radhika Sanghani, who wrote about the "No make-up selfie" campaign.  Apparently the piece had 1m views in the UK alone over a day - which, I think rather embarassingly for Oxlade and the boys, "far outstripped our entire budget coverage the previous day".

No prize next month, however, for Jason's team: the email of award winners went out with "Draft" still in the header - you can never find a good old-fashioned sub when you need one, eh ?

Suddenly you love me

Sky's Director of Entertainment Channels Stuart Murphy (St Mary's Menston and Clare, Cambridge) has clearly enjoyed today. The first controller of BBC3 at its launch in 2003, he has moved in to hire the current incumbent, Zai Bennett.  Zai might otherwise have been left forlorn in the 6th floor "Albert Square" kitchen in Broadcasting House to oversee the channel's move from linear broadcasting to a reduced heap of yoof-orientated content aggregated in some yet-to-be-defined manner.

Zai will become Controller of Sky Atlantic, where he'll be allowed to pick a few things as long as most of them are from the HBO catalogue.

D'Aeth Becomes HR

The wags in newsroom are going to have fun with this one. Valerie Hughes D'Aeth is the BBC's new HR Director. Via Nottingham High School for Girls and the University of Birmingham (B. Comm), her previous employers include Selfridges, EDS (in the Netherlands and then the UK), Xansa, Steria (suppliers of financial services to the BBC), and for the past five years Amey.

Here she is describing what she does there (notice there's no guide to how to pronounce her name..) - she's flattened grades from 15 to 7, which will have endeared her to Tone.

Much nodding

I'm so excited - I may not be able to take a holiday this year.

The BBC Trust says it will publish its review of News and Current Affairs "in spring or summer" this year - and then, gasp, "the public will be able to watch live online streaming of the Trust and the BBC Executive discussing the findings and implications of the report."

Topping up

The licence fee started paying for the World Service on 1st April 2014. On 4th April 2014 we finally got the "rules" on alternative funding that will supplement its income. I've lifted them in full, because they may become important in discussions about sponsorship and ads in domestic output in the future. The BBC Trust is to be the "policeman"; if this commercial income is deemed not to taint the BBC's reputation abroad, why should it damage Auntie at home ?

14. The BBC may include paid-for advertising in services provided by the World Service which are not targeted at audiences in the UK; such advertising must comply with the BBC’s Advertising and Sponsorship Guidelines for BBC Commercial Services, and must take account of the likely expectations of target audiences, regulatory requirements and local market norms in the relevant territory.

15. The BBC may include sponsored content on the World Service.
Sponsored content may be—
 (a) sponsored content commissioned or acquired by the World Service (i.e. the sponsor may provide funding to the World Service directly);
 (b) sponsored content that has been broadcast previously on other services provided by the BBC or BBC companies;
 (c) sponsored content funded via the charity BBC Media Action16 (i.e. the sponsor may provide funding to BBC Media Action which then provides the content to the World Service).

16. Current affairs content may be not be financed by external funders, except that the BBC may include for broadcast on the World Service democratic governance content financed by external funders, including content dealing with current affairs, provided that it is consistent with the policy on appropriate funders set out in the Editorial Guidelines for BBC World Service Group on External Relationships and Funding.

17. The BBC may include in the World Service other externally funded content which is not sponsored content such as is permitted by paragraph 15 but which is either— (a) funded by BBC Media Action, provided that any relevant external funding provided to Media Action for the purpose by external funders has been approved in accordance with the applicable compliance procedures in accordance with BBC Media Action’s constitution, or (b) externally funded by other appropriate external funders, provided that it is consistent with the policy on appropriate funders set out in the Editorial Guidelines for BBC World Service Group on External Relationships and Funding.

18. In order to comply with state aid rules, the BBC Trust must keep under review the total amount received by the BBC and its subsidiaries by way of alternative finance, and ensure that it does not exceed an amount appearing to the Trust to be proportionate to the cost of fulfilling the public service remit of the World Service, having regard to the licence fee funding also available to the World Service.

White van men

There's often been scepticism that the BBC "detector vans" actually do the job - a suspicion that the equipment inside and on top of the old vehicles were props borrowed from early episodes of Dr Who. Now an FoI response confirms that the BBC has invented and manufactured gizmos that can find televisions in use - but can't exploit them commercially. That would require a patent - which would make public how they work - and allow licence-fee evaders a chance to work out how to block them.

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