Sunday, February 19, 2017

No six, but....

The Herald is unequivocal: "Scottish Six plans dumped by London broadcasting chiefs".

The paper says the 20-year campaign for an hour-long bulletin of international, UK and Scottish news at 6pm weeknights produced in Scotland is over. BBC DG Lord Hall is expected to appear before the Scottish Parliament's Culture Committee on Thursday, accompanied by new Director of Scotland, Donalda McKinnon. As the Herald puts it, "It is not known whether Hall will cite lack of quality or finance".

I'm guessing that Lord Hall will not claim lack of quality in the various pilots that have been made, but the year-long operational costs of "dual running" at that level (which could be quadrupled if Wales and Northern Ireland also demanded their own mixed bulletins). It's a good bet he'll also wave some audience research suggesting there might be lower overall BBC1 viewing in Scotland between 6pm and 7pm. And he'll come bearing some other, slightly less expensive, goodies, like an extra channel for Radio Scotland, with which he'll hope to distract the MSPs.

Lovable former BBC presenter John Nicholson, SNP MP for East Dunbartonshire, tells the Herald, “BBC newsroom staff have been led up to the top of a hill and led back down again. The staff were working incredibly hard, working on pilot programmes. Reporting Scotland will remain stuck in a 1970s time warp. The argument for having a Scottish Six is unanswerable."


Should we be concerned about churn in the BBC's leading edge HR Department ?

Current vacancies:
HR Business Partner, Design & Engineering
Lead Advisor, Training
Continuous Improvement Root Cause Co-ordinator (x2)
Continuous Improvement Co-ordinator (x4)
Change Co-ordinator (Continuous Improvement)
HR Specialist Team Leader (Continuous Improvement)
Training Co-ordinator
HR Business Partner, Reward

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Coming soon

Piers Morgan is, as you would expect, cocky about the overnights for his Life Stories with Boy George - 3.25m, 16.6% - and the show's highest rating since Gary Kemp in 2014. On the other hand, we should note that Good Morning Britain has been pretty solidly above 600k without Piers Morgan this week - doubly good because it's half term.

Tracy Ullman, on BBC1 at 9.30pm, is fading away, down to 2.32m (12.2% share). The BBC News at Ten suffered - 3.16m (19.0%), while the ITV version had a rare nudge over 2m, at 2.08m (12.5%).

Eight days until ITV's new Nightly Show attempts to bust all this wide open for Kevin Lygo.

Casting off

'Jeremy Paxman and his partner separated last year,’ confirms his agent. ‘They retain a mutual respect for each other and a deep love for their children.’  Thus the Daily Mail this morning.

Jeremy got together with Elizabeth Clough some 35 years ago, when Jeremy was a globe-trotting reporter for Panorama. Liz, like Jeremy, had been a BBC News trainee, though was working at ITV at the time they became an item. They have three children - Jessie, now 26, and twins Jack and Vita, 19 - brought up in the family home in the Chilterns, twixt Henley and the M40.

In 2012, Jezzer dedicated his book Empire "For Elizabeth, Jessie, Jack and Vita, for whom the imperial project meant long periods of either physical or mental separation. Independence is at hand".

Elizabeth is president-elect of the Old Marlburians. She is also a non-executive board member of Wild Blue Cohort, a group of angel investors in West London. She is about to join the Independent monitoring Board for Bullingdon Prison, her local nick in Oxfordshire.

In 2005, Jeremy bought a flat in a mansion block in Kensington Park Road - portered, with lifts and private access to Ladbroke Gardens - for just under £600k, which looks like excellent value at today's prices.

Next week Channel 4 brings us the first of four "River" documentaries filmed by Paxman last summer. They cover the Tweed, the Severn, the Mersey and the Thames.

Enemies of the people

Does Donald Trump finally have a sub working on his Tweets ?  Probably not.

Screenshot of first version, now deleted...


Second version comes much later in the evening. People gets a capital letter, the list is longer, but clearly someone in Trump Towers thinks "SICK" is offensive. So that's all good.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Peter Skellern

Peter Skellern was born in Bury, Lancashire on 14th March 1947. He said he felt a calling to the priesthood at 9, but did nowt about it. At 11 he went to Derby School in Bury - in Peter's time it was a combination of a grammar and a technical school. He also joined St Paul's Church in the town as a chorister. By 16, he was organist and choirmaster. And played the trombone in the school orchestra.

It was his keyboard skills that took him to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, from which he graduated in 1968. He then joined a band called March Hare, which had a couple of singles on the Deram label, and earned some money backing Billy Fury on tour. March Hare renamed itself Harlan County in 1970, with an album on the (British) Nashville label. Peter played piano and organ, and contributed to the writing of four songs. But the group split the same year.

In 1972, Terry Wogan took over at breakfast on Radio 2, and picked up on Peter Skellern's first solo single, "You're A Lady". With Tel's support it got to number 3 in the UK Charts. Andrew Pryce-Jackman arranged and conducted on the track; the producer was Peter Sames; and the brass came from the Hanwell Band (with euphonium intro from Johnny Luckett), later to work with Wogan on his version of the Floral Dance.

Subsequent singles didn't fare so well - but there was other stuff to do, like work on theme tunes - Radio 4's Stop the Week, from 1972. Peter also contributed weekly topical songs for the early years, and made occasional appearances through to the late 1980s. In 1975, Peter worked with John Burrows, John Harding and Mark Wing-Davey on a series of revues at the Royal Court Upstairs, called Loud Reports. There followed a full musical, Dirty Giant, starring Geraldine James, which ran at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.

In 1975, Peter got back into the charts with Hold On To Love, which became an unlikely favourite of John Peel - he rated it at 15 in his Festive Fifty for the year. The single, and album, were produced by one Meyer Shagaloff, a pseudonym for Geoff Haslam, probably on holiday from a contract with Atlantic Records.

In 1980, there were six autobiographical shows for BBC tv, half-hours with musical illustrations recorded in front of a live audience around the UK.  Then came the distinctly odd Happy Endings, again with songs - five playlets featuring Peter in roles ranging from country vicar Septimus Meek to Harold the Handbell Ringer.

1984 saw the formation of Oasis [not that one - Ed] - an easly listening super-group with Julian Lloyd Webber, Mary Hopkin and guitarist Bill Lovelady, but the records didn't sell.

Skellern had become friends with Richard Stilgoe; they found themselves both on the bill of the Royal Variety Show in 1982, and watched pianos being pushed on and off stage for them; the solution seemed obvious. Three years later they formally joined forces for Stilgoe And Skellern: Stompin’ At The Savoy, a show in aid of The Lords Taverners. This led to successful tours over 18 years and a two-man revue, Who Plays Wins, which ran both in the West End and on Broadway.

There was also plenty of solo work on tv and radio variety shows, a series on piano greats for tv, and regular record shows on Radio 2. In 1990, he was cast as Carter Brandon, in the radio version of Peter Tinniswood's Uncle Mort's North Country.

In more recent years, the Skellern family lived in Waterside House, in the heart of Polruan. At one time a shipyard (which inspired Daphe Du Maurier) it had a spell as a bistro, before conversion to a family home. In 2000, they moved inland, to a converted corn mill. Peter enjoyed sailing, sometimes with performing partner Richard Stilgoe, and was the owner of a Fowey River class dinghy. Peter's music moved on from nostalgia and pastiche nostalgia through to choir arrangements and (back to) full-blown hymns. In the local community, he also helped with the Polruan Theatre Club.

In 2005, Peter and Richard Stilgoe were together again for the Queen's 80th birthday party at Windsor. Richard says "We did our notorious line-dancing demonstration, which made the Queen laugh a gratifying amount".

Just over three years ago, Peter begain to train for the priesthood - and his local Bishop fast-tracked everything when the diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumour came through. He was ordained as a deacon and a priest on the same day last October, under a special dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Peter Skellern RIP


BBC News needs a new Chief Operating Officer, now Charlotte Moore at Content/TV has nicked the old one, Richard Dawkins (no, not that Richard Dawkins).

So someone has written a job advert. I just hope it's not James Harding, Director of News. You'd have thought he'd at least read through a pitch for a top right-hand operative. It's a remarkable confection of grammatical errors, infelicities [my bad - wrong first time round] and general all-round bollocks.

"The Chief Operating Officer will be passionate and excited about BBC News & Current Affairs and the content we are producing and to communicate and transmit this enthusiasm. They will bring the ability to foster constructive and influential working relationships at a senior level, having the experience and gravitas to influence and direct colleagues and peers, without having direct line management authority over them."


Latest website stats from the ABC, as reported in Press Gazette, say the Mail Online has a total of 243m unique browsers per month - 66m in the UK and 177m in the rest of the world.

Latest website stats from the BBC says has 98m unique browsers per month in the rest of the world.


"As a TV programme Channel 4 News is growing, with audiences of between 700,000-1 million, well above those of its old rival Newsnight on BBC2." From yesterday's piece by Ian Burrell in The Drum, interviewing Ben de Pear, Channel 4 News editor.

Last night's overnight ratings: Channel 4 News 0.66m, a 3.5% share.

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