Monday, December 22, 2014

Known unknowns

I've held off as long as I can. But now I need lists to keep the blog going. Here's a weak one to start with.

Things we won't know in 2014.

The new director of the Proms. Edward Blakeman, acting chief, will have the 2015 season pretty much nailed down, before Alan Davey, new Controller of Radio 3, actually arrives at the BBC. He's currently in a festival of leaving events at the Arts Council. Left, Al surrounded by a huge crowd of well-wishers, cuts a cake in the form of a record-player.

The results of the Dame Janet Smith Review. Her inquiry, into the activities of Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall, enters its third year in 2015, with Dame Janet now 74 years old. BBC bosses expect "severe turbulence" when it is finally published.

The number of people graded Band 11 at the BBC. Dubbed "SM3" by the unions, this growing band is either growing too fast for HR to count, or being paid too much for Auntie to reveal.


Former Five Liver Shelagh Fogarty has decided to settle down with LBC in the New Year. She departed Five in early September, and since then has sat behind the mike for LBC, PM on Radio 4, Newsday and World Have Your Say on World Service.

At the Leicester Square HQ of LBC, she'll cover weekdays from 1300 to 1600, taking over from Julia Hartley Brewer. Can't really remember who she'll be up against on Five Live...

Sunday, December 21, 2014


BBC Director of Television  Danny Cohen has popped over to Jerusalem for the Comedy for a Change Festival.  He's been interviewed by Yonat Levi, news anchor on Channel 2, Israel's first commercial channel.

Deal or no deal

The BBC has paid out an average of £17,000 to 49 people who brought unfair dismissal cases since 2005, avoiding tribunal hearings in nearly 55% of cases brought.

From a response to an FoI inquiry, the BBC reveals that

  • 90 employment tribunal or industrial tribunal claims have been brought against the BBC since 1 April 20
  • 14 of the 90 claims were withdrawn
  • 25 of these claims proceeded to tribunal of which 24 were dismissed (i.e. won by the BBC) or struck out and one was upheld. Two claims are still ongoing.
  • the BBC settled 49 unfair dismissal claims without admission of liability and before a tribunal judgement and that the total figure paid to claimants in such cases over the ten year period of your request was £840,341
  • the BBC is not charged for the time that is spent on each case by the BBC’s Employment Law Department;

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Our local American digital guru Jason Seiken, of The Telegraph, seems to wear his heart on his sleeve, at least as far as retweets go...


I bet she didn't expect to be playing the Freedom of Information game so soon. The BBC has turned to "qualified person" Dame Rona Fairhead, Chairman of The Trust, to validate its refusal to release further correspondence and emails about the Dame Janet Smith Review.  She argues that, under Section 36 of the Freedom of Information Act, disclosure would be prejudicial to the effective conduct of public affairs.

This particular wrangle has gone on since August, with Dr T Jackson seeking to establish whether or nor any senior BBC staff members sought to exert any pressure on the review team to delay publication. The findings, into BBC behaviour around Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall, are now expected in the New Year, and Rona has asked for Trustee volunteers to come forward, to form a sub-committee to deliver a Trust response.

Dr Jackson, meanwhile, is still pursuing the matter with the ICO.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Exclusivity a go-go, as the BBC News year sails to an end.

The tennis star Martina Navratilova has married her long-term partner Julia Lemigova in New York. In 1981 she revealed she was bi-sexual but in an exclusive interview with the BBC, shortly after her wedding on Monday, she told Katty Kay that gay sports men and women were still fearful of coming out.

Last week on the News at Ten, Nafiseh Kohnavard from the BBC Persian service was given exclusive access to the army operation taking in food and supplies to the Yazidi refugees on top of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, escaping from ‘Islamic State’  - James Harding speech at City University yesterday.

Hugh Bonneville reads exclusive short story by Paddington creator.
Well actually, a letter. 350 words.

Looking ahead

Plenty for BBC News boss James Harding to mull over, after a 'future of news' conference at City University yesterday. Mr Harding was in bullish mood, but others had doubts.

Lord Birt said the BBC tv was not making enough space for weighty examinations of the big issues facing the UK - like wot he used to have. “I am not going to make James’s life a misery by going through his team of players,” he said, proceeding to make his life a misery by a side swipe and gentle threats indicating some people think the same as Birt.  “If you take current affairs as a whole it doesn’t have sufficient presence at the moment. I am not alone in thinking that.”

David Lloyd, who used to edit the Money Programme for Lord Birt, agreed, saying the Money Programme should come back. The bloke from Vice said BBC current affairs was "beige"; new current affairs boss Fiona Campbell said she could do cheaper shows for BBC1 and BBC2, as she had done on BBC3.

Ian Katz, editor of Newsnight said "The truth is that almost certainly BBC News has to do less. The output is vast.”  And it doesn't help when you blow your budget before the end of the financial year. James is right behind Katz - "Once again, if you miss Newsnight, you’re out of it."  Sadly, more and more people are out of it, preferring The Agenda, on ITV, or This Week on BBC1. Some recent editions have been returning overnights closer to 400k, so the Key Performance Indicator of cost per viewer needs a brilliant first quarter of 2015, with extra competition coming from an extended regional news bulletin on BBC1.

Accompanying James' speech comes a piece of work by researchers Mediatique. Here's a graph I can understand.

And here's one that's a little harder.

They note that the BBC is losing share in the online news market as competition increases, but that the likely future scenario for online news – Evolution – "is expected to render the BBC’s role as impartial and trusted provider of news of increasing rather than decreasing importance". So that's all good, then.


BBC house organ Ariel is now doing a good job in its quarterly scrutiny of management expenses. But there's still plenty of little stuff left for me !

We welcome the Fleet Street skills of Keith Blackmore, this quarter. He's James Harding's sidekick, brought to keep him company from the Times.  Keith had some business at The Connaught on the 1st of May, and so took a taxi, at £5.50. He explains "The Connaught is in Mayfair.. not near a tube".

Google suggests it's 0.4 mile from Bond Street, 0.6 mile from Marble Arch, and a mighty 0.9 mile from Broadcasting House, which might have taken 17 minutes out of Keith's busy day.

The Mail has spotted that Danny Cohen and Charlotte Moore both made it to the Sunset Marquis in LA in May. Their top get-the-BBC-team missed drama boss Ben Stephenson checking in, too.

Northern Ireland boss Peter Johnston still shares details of his eating preferences. This quarter it's Giraffe at Heathrow and Nando's in Great Portland Street.

Director of Music Bob Shennan managed an August trip to Nashville, via JFK, for £1,762.25. And he charged his subscription to the Country Music Association, at £62.55. You'd have thought he did it for enjoyment.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Party on

Continuous re-invention may be the order of the day at Telegraph Towers - but the watchword doesn't extend to the Christmas Party, at the Cafe De Paris as ever.

However there was a morale-boosting pre-loading session at the office, with a range of Pillars presenting on progress. No sign of Jason Seiken, but a telling line from Chris Evans, current Editor of The Telegraph: "From now on we will be hiring people who can walk the walk as well as talk the talk".

For those interested in technology, Edwina Currie's brother, one Henry Windeler Cohen, has emerged as Interim Chief Information Officer....

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