Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Long haul

Newspaper critics in general have welcomed Evan Davis' first show as main Newsnight presenter. Sadly, their tuning in - and Evan's arrival - doesn't seem to have boosted the figures too much. Unconfirmed versions of the overnights suggest 550k viewers. That compares with an average of 605k for the four months to the end of April 2014.

Good Morning Britain, perhaps not aiming at the same audience, hit 581k average last Wednesday.


75-year-old former station master, Richard Spendlove, still adorning BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's schedules, gets a pretty hard kicking from the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee, in its latest report.

They noted his comments during a phone-in discussion of  marine sergeant Alexander Blackman, jailed for the murder of an Afghan insurgent, which included...

“And this, for what it may be worth, is my view: we shouldn’t be there in the first place. That’s where I stand on it. And if that’d been the case, it wouldn’t have happened, would it?”

At one stage, he urged listeners to write to their MPs about the sentence of eight years in prison; but later added,,,

“…as I’ve said so many times before, you vote one lot of wasters out and another lot of wasters in…” 

In relation to the parts of the complaint upheld, the Committee noted.. .

"...the failings throughout the show of 7 December 2013 and it was concerned that they were of such seriousness as to suggest that there had been inadequate editorial supervision of the output. It noted BBC Cambridgeshire had already acknowledged the issues and required the BBC Executive to confirm that such supervision was now in place.

The Committee considered that some of the breaches in this programme had been unequivocally clear. Trustees regretted it had been necessary for the complainant to go through every stage of the appeals process to establish what should have been conceded by the BBC earlier. "

Tickets, at £9 each, are still available for Richard's performance at the Brook in Soham on October 3rd, entitled "A Nice Night In...".


Herald Scotland has some interesting stats about the Yes campaign. They'd apparently set a fundraising target of £24m, but have so far declared reaching £4.8m. Some £3.5m was donated by Euromillions Lottery Winners Colin and Chris Weir, now living in Troon, They picked up £161m in 2011.

Earlier figures to the Electoral Commission show that Dan Macdonald, a property developer and member of Yes Scotland's advisory board, and Mark Shaw, director of operations for the campaign. both gave £50,000. SNP  activist, Randall Foggie, gave £125,000. The Proclaimers Live Ltd dontated £10k. Elizabeth Topping, wife of former William Hill boss, Ralph, gave £50k.

Blair Jenkins, according to the Herald, was on a salary between £100k and £120k.  He was appointed Chief Executive of the campaign in June 2012.

  • Anyone else getting the impression that this year will see an increase in licence fee evasion in Scotland ?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Easing in

Bryony Gordon's Telegraph piece, an interview with Evan Davis preparing to occupy the main Newsnight chair full-time, is unequivocal. "Ratings are down", she writes, presumably without challenge from the BBC side.

Evan testing
So the rather high-risk strategy is to launch the new boy tonight with a David Cameron interview. Of course, you'd like to make headlines with it. Will Cameron surrender a news nugget of his own free will in joyful acknowledgment of/and congratulations for the Katz/Davis unilateral pact of non-aggressive political interviews ? Or will the soft cushion technique wrong foot Dave into a gaffe ?  (By the way, has Laura Kuenssberg signed the pact ?)

Either way, until the BBC shares some Newsnight viewing figures, we'll have to make our own minds up about success or failure. 5,900 10 to 14 year-olds was not enough to save the 4 O'Clock Show on Radio 4 Extra - is there a Bottom Line for investment in Newsnight ?

15.40 Update: All seems cosy, doesn't it ?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Davey lamped

It'll be entertaining to see where Alan Davey's salary ends up, as Controller Radio 3. His Arts Council England package was £186,000 p.a. in the last annual report. Gwyneth Williams, at Radio 4 is on a package of £191k; Jonathan Wall, at 5Live, approaches £143k; Ben Cooper, at Radio 1, close to £170k.

Roger Wright was on £227,450 - but then he ran the Proms, as well as four of the six "performing groups", the BBC Concert Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Alan, apparently, gets to run all six - adding the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. But even if Alan comes in for level money, that only leaves the odd £41k for a Proms director to keep the budget balanced. Doesn't sound like enough to me.

The performing groups are nearly always at risk - under the current Delivering Quality First cuts, they're saving 10%, while everyone else has a target of 16% or more.

Alan, as the outraged Norman Lebrecht speculates, could be in the job for some time; he's either 53 or 54, depending on your sources. I expect he won't be spending much money on Norman Lebrecht programmes.  

Table legs it

In the human laboratory that is the Telegraph newsroom, last week saw the exit of the Hydraulic Hub.

The table, at the centre of the spokes of desks in the Victoria aircraft hangar, adjusted for different tasks at different times of day. At full height, small meetings could lean in, as if taking un doppio at an Italian bar counter, making fast deployment decisions; half way, it could host a sit-down session for longer deliberations; and then down to coffee table level, to look down on first pulls.  It brought digital and print teams together, and meetings were open to all comers, provided you could get close enough to hear.

It's gone - to be replaced by a ring of desks for the new editorial leaders, circling the wagons against the possibility of incoming arrows from a new generation of multimedia hacks. There is, apparently, a seat for Jason Seiken - but he hasn't been seen at it yet, at least not in normal operating hours.

Meanwhile, around the perimeter, all the prized glass boxes which provided cover for the old regime have been taken out - apart from the Seiken duplex. We'll let you know if we spot any journalistic improvement resulting from the new layout.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


To think it was only seven years ago. When James Purnell was Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport; when Alan Davey was Director of Culture within the DCMS; Paddy Feeny (not the Top-of-The-Form/World Service sport one) was Director of Communication; and when Jon Zeff was Director of Broadcasting.

Jim's now Director of Strategy and Digital at the BBC; Alan Davey will soon arrive as Controller Radio 3; and Jon Zeff is Director of the BBC Trust. Missing out on a reunion in W1 is Paddy Feeny, Alan's partner. He was Head of Communication at BBC News from September 2012 til December 2013. He's one of the dramatis personae in the Pollard Report, helping to re-write Peter Rippon's blogpost about the decision not to run a report into Jimmy Savile on Newsnight. Paddy now works for Christie's.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Wavey Davey

Born an electrician's son in a council house in Billingham-on-Tees, Alan Davey has made a circuitous journey to Controller of Radio 3.

He went to The Grange School, and sang in the school choir, but says he was "more of a receiver, an engager" than a participant in the arts. The first of his family to go to university, he won 1st Class Honours in English Language and Literature at Birmingham University. It was there he went to his first "proper" concert, conducted by Simon Rattle: "I'd never heard a professional orchestra before, so I was just bowled over and went every week in the two-quid seats,"

He revisited the experience in a recent blog post:  "I'll never forget my first orchestral concert, the noise like nothing else, and its effect on me. It made me, steeped in pop music, see what classical music was and could be. I delved and discovered, and it added to the things that gave my life depth. And still does, the effect of orchestral sounds on my psyche and emotions not anything less than the effect of seeing Canadian genius Tony Dekker and his band the Great Lake Swimmers in a small venue in Shepherd's Bush. They are both excellent, life-affirming and life-questioning forms of musical art."

Here's a sample of the Great Lake Swimmers - a tad R.E.M like for my taste.

Post-Birmingham, he went to Merton College, Oxford, picking up an M Phil. for work on an edition of the shorter Gautreks Saga in Icelandic. He then joined the Civil Service, and was sent back up north to be secretary to Cleveland child abuse inquiry. Eventually he ended up in the Department of National Heritage, later DCMS, and thence to the Arts Council England.

Now he likes modern dance, Spurs FC, and "emerging folk/roots music from the UK and Canada." He's been spotted in luvvy hangouts like 2 Brydges Place, and is chums with BBC and Olympic arts advisor Ruth McKenzie.  He may not be a singer or a player, but apparently can spot a Joni Mitchell guitar tuning at some distance. Gr8, as he's prone to say on Twitter, under the monicker @armslengthal.

CA chief

What do we know about Fiona Campbell, new Current Affairs boss at BBC News ?  Educated at the Dominican College, Fortwilliam, Belfast (later attended by Katie Melua), she studied economics at Jesus College, Cambridge, and then spent two years at the Bologna Center of John Hopkins University, in their department of Advanced International Studies (is there any other sort ?).

Detail from 1994 to 2004 is sketchy - a researcher and producer for BBC Current Affairs. She then becomes a commissioning editor for Channel 4, and moves back to the BBC as an executive producer for indies in 2009.

Recent tv work that had Campbell involvement - Young Voters' Question Time with Richard Bacon; Free Speech with Jake Humphrey; other credits include The Future of Food, The Batman Shootings, Tulisa: The Price of Fame, Britain's Gay Footballers and Is Oral Sex Safe?

She lives in a cobbled street in Stepney, and, according to her Twitter feed, has dined and sung with Alan Rusbridger, and explained vajazzle to him.

Flow stemmed

Broadcast technology consultants Mediasmiths, one of the early tenants of The Landing at MediaCityUK, have gone into voluntary liquidation. Operations in Sweden and Australia have been hived off, and continue to trade.

Set up in 2007, they became go-to guys for tapeless workflow, working with BSkyB, and up until recently acting as a preferred supplier for the Digital Production Partnership, consisting of most UK public service broadcasters.

In June 2011 they formed part of a consortium brought in by CTO John Linwood to deliver parts of the BBC's doomed DMI project, working alongside Computacenter and Vidispine. They were tasked with re-working and "enhancing" an earlier, unstable version of Media Store Control.

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