Tuesday, May 31, 2016

It's all about the music...

Things can't be too bad between Whittingdale and the BBC, if the esteemed hacks of Exeter Living were right, and the Culture Secretary was enjoying some pork products and Coldplay at the Radio 1 Big Weekend in Exeter.

Also on hand for the festival: Ed Vaizey's DCMS Twitter Guru, Selfie with Stars Specialist and Special Adviser, Jonathan Badyal.

Fighting off allcomers

The BBC has done much to publicise the Brompton bicycle in recent years, so might have a special place at the head of the extensive queue seeking exclusive access to its new factory in West London. Lo, the scoop was achieved on 22 May.

The company's boss Will Butler-Adams gave our video journalist Dougal Shaw an exclusive tour, which he filmed on his smartphone.

Yet Dougal was there on March 7th as well... was that, in some way, less exclusive ?

BBC News was given an early glimpse inside the company's brand new factory in west London, for this edition of CEO Secrets. Follow video journalist Dougal Shaw on Twitter.

Laurels and resting

At midday a week on Wednesday, delegates to the Media Summit (66% from the C suite, whatever that means) will pile into the lecture room at the Royal College of General Practitioners in Euston Square to hear from BBC Director of Strategy (and formerly Digital) James Purnell.

He'll walk a difficult line - there's no doubt that securing a licence fee deal for 11 years, albeit with similar financial deprivation to that handed out to most Government departments, is a triumph. But in that tricky period between White Paper and Printed Charter, there's renewed to-ing and fro-ing with the DCMS, trying to adjust definitions of the unitary board, distinctiveness, the NAO audit process and Ofcom's BBC wing into words that Lord Hall likes. Special assistants and BBC policy wonks have a few more sandwiches to eat, and there'll probably be some mild entertaining to be done at a higher level down Great Portland Street. Rona Fairhead will want to play her part, too.

More interesting for Mr Purnell will be the questions, and the session is hosted by former BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas. He and the audience will be keen to know more of James' future plans. Is he really going to be installed at the head of a BBC-content-producing-division-with-a-funny-name ?  Without challenge ?

Monday, May 30, 2016


My Top Gear two-pence-worth. Between Chris Evans and the sound supervisor, the mix in the aircraft hangar was uncomfortable. Chris, a radio professional, seemed to think he needed to shout, rather than let the mike do the work. Irony isn't shouty, and irony is Top Gear's biggest asset. Matt Le Blance coped better.

Kevin Duff, a widely experienced sound man, was at the panel, having recently worked with Chris on the reborn TFI Friday. It looks like his first Top Gear. A range of people have mixed the 'old' Top Gear, most recently John Clements, who had worked on over 33 editions from 2011.

  • 4.34m in the overnight ratings, whilst not the 5m Chris Evans hoped for, is not a disaster for a Bank Holiday weekend, and the share, at 22.6%, was good.

Pushing the boundaries of tv journalism

They probably think there are no suits watching. BBC Breakfast just boasted an "exclusive interview" with Alan Shearer.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Cambridge student organ Varsity describes alumna Rona Fairhead, Chairman of the BBC Trust and anointed chair of the first BBC unitary boad, as "an effusive figurehead and advocate of the organisation, about which she waxes lyrical....a poised and commanding presence, clearly well-versed in responding to journalists’ questions."

Maybe she should have thought a little longer on her leadership message about Charter renewal.  “I think the White Paper is a recognition. I think it’s, you know, to do a really thorough review and come out and say ‘actually that’s a good thing to do’ is actually the right thing. You know, to do. And that’s the point of it. It shows democracy working.”


"I didn’t write or see the entries on my website, which was a work in progress, and wasn’t meant to go public. The idea that I am earning £800,000 a year is a wild fantasy...Two years ago I was given a new agreement which restricted me to 125 days a year with a commensurately deep cut in salary. I was given permission to work for any other organisation as long as it didn’t contravene the BBC’s guidelines, and I received an assurance that I could work for as long as I wanted. Throughout my long career I’ve never once transgressed the BBC’s guidelines.”

Thus BBC World Affairs editor John Simpson on the hoo-ha over a website and other elements of a Daily Mail story this week.

Is John struggling ?  His current digs are a luxury four-bed flat in Oxford's "most renowned side road", which last changed hands for £1.3m in 2014, and, if rented, probably runs at over £2.3k a month. In April he set up a limited liability partnership, Kruger Simpson, with his wife, Adele, known as Dee.

Some of John's days off from the BBC are planned well in advance. For example, you can join him on "The Danube in Depth with John Simpson", a Telegraph/Emerald Waterdays cruise starting at £2,395pp, in October. Other top journalists are involved - here's the blurb.

John Simpson in Bucharest 
Visit the capital of Romania in the company of John Simpson who covered the overthrow of Ceausescu for the BBC in 1989. 
Martin Bell in Vukovar 
A guided tour of the Croatian river port at the centre of the Balkan conflict with Martin Bell who often reported from there. 
Nick Thorpe in Budapest 
The BBC’s resident correspondent gives a talk and answers your questions during a traditional Hungarian dinner as you cruise through the city.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


It's possible there's been some qualitative thinking in BBC News. The early referendum "debates" are bringing heat not light to the campaign. Now it seems there's suddenly space in the BBC1 primetime schedules for a series of four Andrew Neil interviews - and at least one politician booked so far, George Osborne.  Both sides in that first one will want to be on their mettle.

Makes sense to me

David Baddiel has a new one-man show running at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. It's called My Family: Not The Sitcom.

Apparently he refers to himself as the love-child of Jenni Murray and Alan Yentob. I may have to become a subscriber to Ancestry.co.uk, and get this sorted.

Friday, May 27, 2016

How it works these days

I'm having a high old time with journalists' websites at the moment. I've just come across one for Jake Wallis Simons. "They call me Associate Global Editor at Daily Mail Online...."

Born in London in 1978, Jake went to St Peter's College, Oxford, getting a 1st in English. Thence to a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. He's a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts (you pay them), and a Visiting Fellow at Bournemouth University. He lives with his family in Winchester.

It's the 'creative writing' line that interested me. Regular readers will know I go all funny when I read the word 'exclusive'. Regular readers will know where this 'exclusive' started.

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