Saturday, October 25, 2014

Move down inside

Residents of BBC Broadcasting House will be unnerved to learn that more occupants are piling in. Broadcast reports that some of the White City-based tv factual team are on their way. But there's no space for editing facilities, so their last bit of in-house post-production is going out to tender. 

Already, some 80 hours of London factual content, including Horizon and The Sky At Night, are completed by Halo's Portland Post operations. They've been operating out of premises in Great Portland Street, now to be converted to more lucrative flats - so the Portland team is off to Berners Street.

The tender is looking for firms to cover 70 hours of programming a year.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Meaningful metrics

Ah, the opacity of Anglo-American business language. BBC Worldwide boss Tim Davie has just sold 49.9% of cable channel BBC America (and presumably 49.9% of any future profits) to AMC, which runs a small cluster of channels of its own, but owes its current success to series like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead.

Daive says the new joint venture has “a very sensible, growing business plan,” that will work through “the electricity of premium content and great collaborations creatively.” And, on the choice of AMC as a partner: “There’s no doubt about it that scale is a meaningful metric. But we weren’t looking for scale at all costs.” AMC head Josh Sapan says “Because the editorial alignment and point of view is so similar in terms of smart, quality and premium, we think that we will find lots and lots and lots of places to join on things that we are not yet doing today," So that's all good, as we say in W1A.

The new joint venture will promote BBC World News in the States, although AMC takes no equity there. Tim Davie can reduce his directly employed headcount, and adds £125m to his 2014/5 balance sheet.  BBC America ranked in 66th position in the most recent total day viewing figures for US cable channels. I still can't find ratings for BBC World News across the pond.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


It's not entirely clear why the DCMS lighted upon David Perry QC to conducted the review of tv licence enforcement.  He's clearly a legal polymath, with expertise in all sorts of bad behaviour, and a record of advising governments on tricky issues - but there's little "meedja" stuff in his cv.

He's most recently been working in Hong Kong, as chief prosecutor in their biggest-ever corruption case. Indeed, he seems a go-to-guy for the Hong Kong Authorities - past cases include the re-trial of Nancy Kissel, the Milkshake Murderess, in 2010, and the prosecution of self-syled feng shui master Tony Chan Chun-chuen in 2011 for forging the will of former lover Nina Wang, dubbed Asia's richest woman.

He's worked as Standing Counsel to the DTI, then as Treasury Counsel, before taking silk in 2006, and now is joint head of chambers at 6 King’s Bench Walk, Temple.

He led the prosecution of Mulcaire and Goodman for hacking phones in the employ of the News of The World. Pre-trial, the worry was that members of the Royal Family might be called to court; that was avoided as the defendants pleaded guilty. In the Leveson Inquiry, polite enquiries were made to Perry about his understanding of the scale of the interceptions, and the possible involvement of others.

In 1999, Perry prosecuted Jonathan Aitken for perjury. In 2007, Perry's advice to was critical in the decision that there shouldn't be legal proceedings in the so-called "cash for honours" allegations against the Labour Party. He's recently been helping the Home Office with a review of extradition law.

All ears

Odds and ends from the latest quarterly radio listening figures.

The referendum did little to boost Radio Scotland, at 870k weekly listeners over the three months. Radio Cymru, where new boss Bethan Powys has been shaking up the schedule, fell 38k year on year, to 105k. Things are more worrying for Steve Austins at Radio Wales, down 76k to 398k, closer to the lows of 2009. The BBC Asian Network was up to 629k, from 555k last year, with Nihal's morning phone-in up to record figures; he's interviewing David Cameron today, which should be fun.

Radio 5Live is down at 5.8m - and the trend since 2010 peaks above 7m is not encouraging. The new daytime schedule needs to work for controller Jonathan Wall. TalkSport is off the top, too.

In popular music, Chris Evans is slightly down at Radio 2 and Nick Grimshaw largely unchanged at Radio 1 - though the average age of his audience has ticked up marginally, to 33.7. Heart in London seems to have lost 294k listeners year on year, with Jamie Theakston and Emma Bunton's breakfast offering apparently less appealing than it was.

On Radio 4, woop-woops from The World At One, where the audience is up 183k, to 3.5m.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No, but, no, but yeah

Readers from the world of radio have been in touch to ask whether there's an element of mischief in this Guardian online photo selection, atop a piece by John Plunkett, the human incarnation of Media Monkey.

Caroline came to comedy commissioning in 1997 from a background in drama, and, it is safe to say, divided opinion amongst light entertainment programme makers of that century.

Personnel personnel

The BBC has 231 staff working in its "in-house" HR team, as of August this year. That compares with 251 in January 2010.  In raw numbers that's a cut of just under 8% - the BBC-wide target in cash terms, set under DG Mark Thompson's Delivery Quality first plans, was to make savings of 20% by 2016/17, so there's a way to go for new boss Valerie Hughes D'Aeth.

In ratio terms, there's around 1 personnel member of staff for 72 employees, based on the full-time equivalent staff numbers for 2014 - and that's without adding the 300-odd people working in Belfast on a ten-year-outsourcing deal with Capita.

The average salary in the department works out at £51,142. Reed, a staff agency occasionally used by the BBC, calculates a UK-wide average of £37,215 for people working in personnel departments.

More maths

Just found this transcript from an RTS event last week...

Q: Lorraine Heggessey: Do you support decriminalising licence-fee evasion?

A Tony Hall: It's really good that we're going to get data on how many cases [and] how long they take... The question is how can we ensure that we don't lose the money without people going to jail... That's part of the Charter [renewal] process – because it's roughly £35m for every 1% of people who evade the licence fee. 

Q Lorraine Heggessey: Do you believe people should go to jail for not paying?

A Tony Hall: No, of course I don't. But... our evasion rate is 5.3% - 5.4%; for utilities it's 10%. We've got to work this through.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


The promised review of tv licence fee enforcement will report by June 2015, according to terms of reference published by the the DCMS today.

This could be more worrying for the BBC than the Charter Review itself. Decriminalisation looks inevitable, and forecasts of what will happen to evasion under civil penalties are going to be hugely inexact.  There's going to more evasion, of course, and the likely costs of recovering £145.50 in each individual case are never going to make economic sense. It's an easy way for Tories to deliver a smaller BBC. Maybe they won't be in power..

War Horses

Last night's Panorama - the first under Ceri Thomas' substantive editorship - was a difficult watch. An indie production from Jamie Doran's Clover, it used an Afghan journalist to report from "Inside The Taliban".  2.1m (9.1%) watched, according to overnight ratings. That's against an average of 2.3m for Panorama across 2013.

Meanwhile, Newsnight kicked off the week with a worthy but dull report and discussion on the NHS funding shortfall. This follows last week's arcane but "important" discussion on secular stagnation. Newsnight - Anything Can Happen. But perhaps not an improvement in the ratings.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Women of the world

Congratulations to Fran Unsworth (St Dominic's Brewood and Manchester) newly anointed as boss of the BBC World Service Group. In succeeding Peter Horrocks, she retains the role of deputy to James Harding, who has room to give her a £50k pa salary boost to match the Horrocks package.

Harding's new division of responsibilities now has a dominance of women (Fran, Mary Hockaday, Controller of World Service English, and Liliane Landor, running language services) in charge of news output outside the UK. We await with interest the appointment of a Controller 24/7 World, to run the tv channel BBC World and the news bit of, reporting to Jon Zilkha. The quartet will have the most specific objective in News - driving the collective audience to 500 million.

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