Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Overflow rooms

"The BBC’s total spend in the 2015/16 financial year on hiring external meeting/conference rooms across the UK was £438,633".

Oliver's twist

Will it go to press before unemployed Craig Oliver becomes Sir Craig ? Hodder & Stoughton say they'll be publishing his first book, Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of the EU Referendum, in the autumn.

The former No 10 Director of Communications' agent is Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown. The book is said to be based on detailed notes that tell the story of every key moment from the decision to call a referendum, to the subsequent civil war in the Conservative Party and the aftermath of the shock result.

Oliver was "in the room at every key moment during the EU referendum campaign", according to Hodder, "interacting with key players David Cameron, George Osborne, Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Theresa May, alongside international leaders Barack Obama and Angela Merkel." Many would like to know if he was hedging his bets about his own financial future in creating such detailed notes. Many more would like to know the extent of Craig's 'interaction'.

"So many people have asked me what really went on behind closed doors during the campaign. It was the most extraordinary, exciting, exhausting time for all of us. I believe that by telling the inside story I can help everyone understand better what happened and why."

Mr T

Congratulations to Tarik Kafala, the new Controller, Languages at BBC World Service, replacing the excellent Liliane Landor, who departed in less than transparent circumstances last month.

Tarik left Libya at the age of ten; early education in an American oil company school probably prepared him for Millfield, then St Andrew's University. There he met his wife Sarah, now a librarian.

Tarik signed with Auntie in 1993, and early tasks included working on Arabic versions of Wuthering Heights and Look Back In Anger. (Maybe if the BBC had kept up with that sort of cultural leadership, all this recent Middle East bother might never have happened). Thence to BBC News Online, where he eventually was billed as Middle East Editor, and most recently to running BBC Arabic. He spent a year back in Libya giving media training for the first elections after the overthrow of Gaddafi.

Tarik lives near Colchester and enjoys cycling with his kids.


32,000 readers of the Radio Times have opted for a Scottish lilt in voting for their favourite wireless voices of 2016. Topping the poll are Eddie Mair, Dundee born and bred, and Kirsty Young, born in East Kilbride, but brought up in Stirling, just 50-odd miles away.

Regulars of YG1, the W1 radio training school which doubles sometimes as a working pub, the Yorkshire Grey, will note at least three alumni in the Top 20. I'm not telling you who they are.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Comfort break

Thankfully, there aren't many live programmes from New Broadcasting House on a Sunday - but it was no comfort to staff that the building was without running water for a time yesterday. Group emails asked staff to use toilets in 'Old' Broadcasting House instead.

The business of "broadcast continuity" gives well-paid employment to many in the BBC, and grand committees sit and ponder pompously on a weekly basis - but the discussion is usually about security, electricity, computers and air-conditioning. Maybe they should add a new column to their checklist.

Southern timetable

Former BBC Sports Editor David Bond, now patrolling the media beat for the FT, had a mini-scoopette on Saturday.

His sources are saying Ofcom won't be ready to take over regulation from the BBC Trust at the end of the calendar year, and it looks more likely to happen at the start of the next financial year 2017/18. Part of this is because the incoming DCMS ministerial team have pushed back publication of the new draft charter to September - John Whittingdale had promised it before the summer recess. Some of the delay is because of continuing discussion of the make-up of the new unitary board. Some is because of disagreements about how many BBC Trust apparatchiks should be 'entitled' to a move to Ofcom - and until that's resolved Ofcom can't started wider recruitment for its special BBC wing.

In may ways, a handover at the end of a financial year is cleaner in reporting terms. Does a delay matter ?  It will irritate Lord Hall, who may be moving from frazzled to fatigued, if all the planned changes are moved three months into 2017. You can't really start a hunt for a new DG until the new board's in place...

  • Ofcom's Annual Report shows at least eight employees paid more than the Prime Minister; how many will be needed to mind the BBC ?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Executive recruitment

How much does it cost the run the BBC ?  This time last year, the BBC-employed members of the top team numbered seven. Now, there's eight. Anne Bulford is awaiting a pay increase, to cover her new status as Deputy Director General; Charlotte Moore is still due an uplift as Director of Content, taking on Sport to her portfolio.

And Danny Cohen, the former Director of Television, who left on £327,800, has effectively been replaced by Charlotte and Mark Linsey, running BBC Studios. Charlotte's currently package added to Mark's comes to £635,000. The balance has swung big time to tv, and looks to swing further if Helen Boaden retires, making way for a Director of Nations and Regions.  Anyone seen the job advert yet ?


A year of disruption ahead for those BBC News staff who avoid the "efficiencies" chop. The division is looking for an "Accommodation manager" to shuffle desks over the next 12 months. "Moves of teams will be logistically complex and could affect large numbers of people."

Key task: "To develop and maintain a detailed seating plan and co-ordinate a dynamic accommodation plan which can be adjusted in response to strategic, programme and operational changes and which enables the divisions to move staff with zero disruption to broadcasting; to manage the transition to a new operating model effectively."

Making it up...

On a balmy summer's evening, the four-hundred strong studio audience for Mrs Brown's Boys at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, were joined by a remarkable 6.45m watching live on telly around the country, putting it top of last night's viewing charts.

37,000 applied for tickets. The Telegraph's review gets it about right.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Not up to it

BBC wags used to say there were only two things you could be sacked for - not having a tv licence, and fornicating in the office on an election night.

It turns out that the BBC does sack staff - but not very many. 97 people lost their jobs over the six years to March 31st "for reasons related to conduct and capability".  An average of less than one in 1,000 each year.

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