Thursday, November 27, 2014

Value judgement

I'm sure it was a triumph. Lord Hall and Anne Bulford of the BBC paraded their hair shirts in front of a lunchtime seminar today at the Reform think tank (self-defined as independent, others think differently, I merely note its June 2014 paper saying the NHS could learn lessons from Tesco, which with hindsight.....).

The hashtag for the event, looking at the BBC's record on efficiencies (nee cuts) was #moreforless, but it's hardly caused a Twitterstorm.

The headlines they want you to take away: more than 90% of income is now spent on content, and there's a big funding hole coming in 2016/7.  In the full report we learn that, taking the inflation hit of the current fixed licence fee and adding new cash obligations like broadband roll out, S4C, World Service, Auntie estimates she'll be worse off by 26% in 2016/17 compared with 2011/12. Note: 2016 falls after the General Election; the BBC may then also have to absorb reduced income post-decriminalisation of the licence-fee.

Staying with the gloomy side, the proportion of cuts that come from "scope", i.e, things you and me enjoy, increases through 2015 and 2016. In support, HR and Technology (both heavy-metal and computer-based) are heading for big cuts.

For a communication organisation, there's a couple of 0/10 infographics. This would make a nice IKEA rug.

And this, headed "Current Status of Efficiency", really records what Ms Bulford has checked and what she has not, rather than indicating, through bigger columns of light blue, which divisions are basket cases.

Elsewhere I was tickled to note that BBC Northern Ireland has benchmarked its content spend against BBC Scotland and BBC Wales, showing "BBCNI to be operating at the lower end of the Tariff ranges".  Triumph.

Search me

With an average weekly reach of 96.6% of the UK's 16+ population, the BBC has the most powerful advertising self-promotion platform in the land. (Anyone else tired of Frank Skinner exhorting you to "Be Curious" ?  I wonder.)

Yet Private Eye reveals this week that Auntie is paying Google to make sure that an "ad" for BBC Radio 3 comes out top of the pile when you search for "Radio 3".

The Eye fails to mention that Auntie seems to be forking out to solve a non-existent problem. Radio 3 comes out top, just below the "ad", in searches this morning.


The risks of posing for "going in" and "going out" shots at first nights, etc, without total awareness of how the background might look, are admirably demonstrated in this training shot featuring the BBC's Alan Yentob.

Fleece hunter

Sometimes, in social media, you while away idle moments fiddling with things.

Jason Seiken, The Telegraph's Editor-in-chief-in-a-nuanced-relationship-with-content, has just updated his Twitter profile. Where before it was a short litany of previous employers, it now adds "transformed" PBS digital, "founding editor", and "executive" aol.

Printable suggestions for a past participle which might reasonably be put in front of The Telegraph when he leaves are welcome.

Meanwhile Jason tweets wistfully about the appointment of Kinsey Wilson, late of US broadcaster NPR, to the New York Times; Wilson and Seiken worked together on new media collaboration when Seiken was with PBS.

And he shares one of those philosophical apercus you find on social media when you've got time on your hands.

Sally Hardcastle tribute

Readers who remember Sally Hardcastle, or who just want to listen to a great reporter, will enjoy this.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Music makers

It's as if someone was reading my mind. I was musing over the diversity of the announced performers at the inaugural BBC Music Awards, just a fortnight away on BBC1, Radio 1 and Radio 2 - and lo, this morning Labrinth was added to the line-up. Signed to Simon Cowell's Syco, he will be performing something in collaboration with Syco's Ella Henderson.

The other performers are One Direction, Calvin Harris and Paloma Faith (all on Sony labels) and Coldplay, Clean Bandit and Ed Sheeran (Warner). If diverse means coming from Llandudno, then Catfish and The Bottlemen count, coming up via BBC Introducing to a record deal with Universal. All, unsurprisingly, have "product" available this Christmas - and one can probably bet the words "latest single" and "latest album" will pepper the introductions from Chris Evans and Fearne Cotton.

The executive producer for the BBC is Guy Freeman, who most recently brought us a rather bedraggled pop concert from Edinburgh Castle, for the Commonwealth Games. He also produced the Brit Awards from 1999 to 2004.

I'd be mildly diverted to read through the business model for this event, the penultimate at Earls Court before demolition starting in the New Year. 13,500 tickets have been sold at prices between £25 and £45. Respectable websites are now offering them at £80 to £350; the BBC has previously done good work by insisting on photos embedded in tickets to some pop events, but that seems not to be the case this time.

There are apparently only three awards to be handed out - Best British and Best International Artist and Song of The Year. Song of The Year will be decided by a public vote - the mechanics have not yet been published. I can find nothing on how the other two categories are being judged. Radio 2 have fended off a year's worth of inquiries about the identities of the  people deciding their Folk Awards.

More scoopy-do

Some more recent exclusives from BBC News...

"In an exclusive series of diary instalments, residents describe what life is like in Mosul since IS took over. The diarists' names have been changed to protect their identities."  Brave, but were they really turning down other offers ?

"In an exclusive interview, UKIP leader Nigel Farage told the BBC's Nick Robinson that the number of seats UKIP could win in next year's general elections has 'probably doubled' ".  It's a nightmare trying to get that man in front of a BBC News microphone.

"Fuse ODG [Off Da Ground - Ed]says he pulled out of recording the Band Aid 30 charity single because he feels it's a quick fix to a bigger problem. In an exclusive interview the rapper told Newsbeat: "... I feel like in the long term it's quite detrimental to the continent." 18th November, the day after Mr Fuse tweeted the same sentiments, picked up by The Voice.


An (the ?) Intruders fan has pointed me to its new slot. 2245hrs local on Saturday nights, BBC2, for the remaining four episodes. Ratings for that time of night are not usually shared on the various websites with an interest in these matters (cf Newsnight). Intruders last outing at 9pm attracted just 472k viewers.  Guardian blogger Graeme Virtue offers an explanation from tv history.

Meanwhile Panorama returned to its 8.30pm Monday slot this week, and scored 2.15m viewers, 9.1% share. That's below the 2.37m average for 2014, but hearteningly, just above the repeat of panel show Room 101, which replaced the current affairs warhorse the previous week.

The programme is promoting past episodes on iPlayer, but a check on the YouGov Profiler for Panorama suggests Auntie may be pushing uphill. Their take on the typical viewer - male, over 60, from the West Country, who chooses comfort over style when buying clothes (at M&S) and whose favourite personalities are Kirsty Young, Danny DeVito and John Simpson.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


As we approach the festive season, this old ITN (suppliers of talent to BBC News) Christmas video has suddenly surfaced on YouTube. Some very nice moments...


Talking, as we were, about emerging themes from recent BBC Executive Minutes, September saw the arrival of new non-executive director Dharmash Mistry, who, I'm guessing, is the first BAME member of that Board.

Perhaps building on that, the lunchtime learning session was about reaching out to UK communities. I suspect that venture capitalist Dharmash found the rest of the day pretty hard pounding. He missed the June discussion on drama - which could have been enlivened with his board experience at LoveFilm, now Amazon Prime.

But from his tweets, he may yet bring a spark of life to Auntie. He's recently shared this Google presentation, which explains how success comes from hiring the best people and, largely, giving them their head. Almost like the BBC of the 60s and 70s....

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