Thursday, November 26, 2015

Three IP stories

The BBC Trust decision on the Executive's plans to take BBC3 "off-air", to delivery by Internet Protocol, comes this lunchtime. Sadly, I am otherwise engaged - but the interesting element will be the number of "protestors" acknowledged by the Trust, who will still back the Executive. This could prove a formula for future decisions, likely to arise in the New Year, with big money to be saved in traditional transmission costs - and The News Channel, BBC4 and CBBC in the spotlight.

The BBC's new building in Cardiff could use IP technology to move programme material around. It should do, but the BBC engineers of a gun-metal background, of whom there are still too many, still prefer co-axial cable, and lots of it, preferably in huge raised floors. These cold war warriors also love bunkers, giant busbars, beards and blazers. Move on, Auntie.

IP also stands for Intellectual Property. In a sleepless night, I was wondering what sort of Intellectual Property an editor or presenter of a tv arts programme might claim ? Surely, there have been programmes profiling artists and art issues for years - from Monitor through Omnibus to Imagine ? The concept can't attract IP rights, can it ? Residual payments to a presenter might - but then Tim Davie, at BBC Worldwide, says he doesn't pay such rights unless he has to. So, maybe a cheaper presenter could be found - but then, that decision might normally be taken by the editor....

Linking drinking

I've heard tell, in days gone by, of BBC radio current affairs producers and presenters enlivening the compilation of worthy but dull weekend output by playing a game of getting specified unlikely words into scripts. Can't be true, can it ?

Now, watching Click on the BBC News Channel, I'm wondering if somebody was seeing how many pubs they can get into link backgrounds. The George, The Cock and The Yorkshire Grey made this week's show.

In a good light

I was pleased to see the issue of "native advertising" on raised at the DCMS Select Committee hearing yesterday, by a bright young lad from The Guardian. He focussed on a continuing gripe over the BBC's online efforts in Australia. For the BBC, Fran Unsworth put up a robust line, saying, yes, there were news staff in the former colony, funded by either advertising or the advertising opportunity, creating a "front page", but everything was done under fair trading guidelines. And, she said, her CEO had contacted The Guardian with some suggestions about collaboration, but there had been no reply.

There's more to be done about "native advertising"on the BBC Worldwide sites. You can see in this country; it boasts 17 columns, though it's not clear whether or not that means 17 authors. In any case, that's a substantial commitment. BBC Capital, also viewable here, currently features  an article entitled "How the rich stay rich", written by a Canadian freelance. It mentions Momentum Advanced Planning, Fleming Family & Partners, Doric Sky Cloud funds (you can invest in airline leasing), Stonehage Investment Partners (spookily, part of the Fleming Group), RBC Wealth Management, and has a hyperlink to another Capital story, 'How to buy fabulous fine art'.

The art story features The Sydney Art Exchange, Sydney's amBUSH gallery, the BMO Financial Group of Chicago, Australia-based art consultant Amanda Love (available on a $2,000 retainer per client) and a New York gallery offering a 10% discount. It's written by Megan Snedden ('adventure and authenticity').

The site is not visible in the UK. BBC Future is, and has helpfully put up a list of seven editorial staff and 12 regular columnists (though it has more regular features). Items (surely not clickbait) include "Why do dogs look like their owners ?" and "Five ways to have a skin orgasm".

I'm not suggesting that any of this is paid-for, or 'advertorial'. But it's definitely not traditional BBC territory. If hits to this sort of story count towards 500 million users, then the target is meaningless.

On transparency, it would be interesting to read a list of "native advertising"clients for for stories living within both Worldwide and BBC pages. Are there, perchance, any clients that are governments ?  The culture of political parties paying for newspaper stories in Africa and Asia is deep and long (including payments to not to publish).

If a hack worthy of the name is ever asked to write anything that might present a government or company "in a good light", they should run a mile, pronto. BBC hacks further and faster, in my view.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Dark clouds

The stocky, stubbly shadow of Yentob brought dimness once again to a Commons Select Committee hearing today. Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Worldwide, was harassed by two MPs on the DCMS brief, and came very close to admitting that the Great Unimpeachable Creative Director might have some Intellectual Property in the BBC programme he presents and edits, Imagine, and thus a share, however small, in the revenue from sales abroad.  Someone will get to the truth of this eventually, and then, I predict, there'll be hell to pay.

Meanwhile cheerful Tim complained about the dearth of programme ideas in the BBC (what say you, Lord Hall ?) and the wider UK tv production community; was vague about whether or not BBC Studios, under CEO-elect Peter Salmon, would be obliged to give Worldwide their existing 'first-look' deal on new shows; and said BBC Studios would attract and retain better talent because, as a commercial operation, it would be allowed to pay people "in different ways".  Oh, and he said 'jeopardy' a lot.

It's OK, it's ODA

BBC staff have been briefed that the new Government funding for the World Service is coming from the Official Development Assistance budget, channelled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. So that's alright, then.

The Government has a commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on ODA; that came to a total of £11,775m in 2014. The biggest single recipient in 2015/16 is classified as "Aid-related front line diplomacy", at  £132m; then comes the British Council, at £115m; and the "Diplomatic Influence and Values Programme" at £90m. The "Prosperity Programme" follows at £30m. We dosh up the UN with £15m and the Council of Europe with £10m. These figures were issued before the BBC funding programme was announced.

There are international "rules" on what should be classified as ODA spend, held by the OECD, which stresses it must have "the promotion of the economic welfare and development of developing countries" as its main objective. "Cultural programmes in developing countries whose main purpose is to promote the culture or values of the donor are not reportable as ODA."  You decide.

Morning all

They can't be that good, or he'd have tweeted them. The only overnight figure we have for Good- Morning-Britain-with-Piers-Morgan-all-over-it is from Monday, with an average of 610k viewers. It represents a 17% share of the available audience (which was set as the original first target of the most recent GMB relaunch). BBC Breakfast sailed on with 1.6m.

610k is, at least, up from the best average of Piers' trial run, at 591k. Like many part-time presenters, he may be disappointed with other weekday results - let's see what happens when Ben Sheppard returns Thursday and Friday. One other question - is he editing parts of the show as well ? Is the fact that cricketer-buddy Kevin Pietersen is to be a father for a second time really news ?

Meanwhile in Salford, no news yet of a long-term replacement for Bill Turnbull on the BBC Breakfast red sofa. Jon Kay, who spookily started at the BBC in Bristol at the same time as Susanna Reid, looks by far the most comfortable of the regular stand-ins, and some might wish he got the "big chair" rather than Charlie Stayt.

Just count them

The Mail reckons that Comic Relief donated £1.4m to Kids Company between 2000 and 2014.  The charity's broadcast partner is the BBC ("With the BBC’s help, Comic Relief has achieved more than we could have ever thought possible.") Current BBC Trustees of Comic Relief include Tim Davie and Peter Salmon, alongside Danny Cohen, currently seeking new opportunities. Here's another BBC supporter.

The only reference to KidsCo in formal Comic Relief documents I can find is in The Trustees report for year ending July 2012. It notes that "83% of the 11,500 children that Kids Company works with across 40 schools in London, achieved a positive education outcome – many of these young people have profound difficulties caused by traumatic events in their lives."

Samsung UK is another donor that may have been swayed by the numbers game: "Kids Company works with over 17,000 children in London alone every year, offering them emotional and educational support. Samsung opened its first Digital suite at Kids Company’s Urban Academy in October 2012, and in 2013 opened its second facilities at their Kenbury Centre."

US Olympic athletes also lighted upon Kidsco at the 2012 games.

Good pub guide

Tickled more than I can say by the thought that this pub, on Pentonville Road, and my bus routes to and from W1, is said (not proven) to be where a group of pensioners planned the Hatton Garden safe deposit robbery of April this year.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Double your money

Look, I am genuinely joyful at the arrival of new Government funding for the World Service - delighted if it secures the continued employment of existing journos, even happier at the potential employment of new staff here and around the world, and immensely cheered by the belated recognition that the BBC's deserved reputation for independent, fair-minded news coverage is an asset to the UK and its position in the world. (Would that Whittingdale felt the same...)

However, I continue to be amazed at the breathtaking arrogance of the Cameron/Osborne duopoly. £238.5m of FCO funding to WS dumped on licence-fee payers in April 2014; all funding for over-75 tv licences dumped on the BBC in years ahead; and now, a commitment to spend an additional £289m of taxpayers' money over the next five years, on additional, specified services to be delivered by the World Service.

Lord Hall wants a major opinion poll if there are any big changes to the BBC in years ahead, but is happy to cheer this financial entrechat with Government. Just because it is the right thing to do doesn't mean it has been done in the right way. And there's still a strand missing - is the BBC going to be able to match this £289m  - as promised in "British Bold Creative" ?

"We would aim for any increase in public funding for the World Service to be matched by external income for our other global news services over the Charter."

The BBC stresses it retains editorial control - but I wouldn't mind betting that the Government has been able to pick and choose from a longer, private wish list of expansion provided by Auntie. I rather hope that some of the first funding is used to restore an Editor of World Service News, so that, when something like events in Paris 11 days ago happens again, as it will, there's someone around to drive coverage, with staffing capable of providing it. Otherwise the reputation will fall away.


The deal that gave operating control of BBC America to AMC Networks was struck just over a year ago - in October 2014. AMC paid $200m for 49% of the business.

Cable subscriptions to BBC America have fallen by more than a million over the year, to 77.1 million.

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