Tuesday, March 28, 2017


The latest saviours of ITV's Nightly Show, Gordon Ramsay and his hairdresser, attracted an average of 1.48m viewers on Monday, according to the overnight ratings. If he follows the pattern of preceding weeks, the only way is down. Dermot O'Leary finished his run on Friday with just 635k viewers.

Over on ITV Encore, the new period romperama Harlots launched to an average of 64k - that's aparently more than double the network's usual performance, but makes the economics of an eight-part-costume drama hard to understand. Presumably co-purchasers Hulu, an Netflix rival, will make more money out of the show in America.


Amongst the 200 on the BBC's New Talent Hotlist, revealed yesterday, we find Susan Calman, 42, Chris Harris 42, Rita Ray (ex-Darts), 62. Slightly surprised there wasn't room for Miriam O'Reilly.


The broadcast union BECTU says, in the wake of losing the Songs of Praise contract to a pair of indies, the BBC's Religion and Ethics department is now shedding five posts 'not directly linked to Songs of Praise'.

That will leave a total of just four people tasked with the internal production of other output across the BBC - my guess is that they're minding Thought for The Day, Sunday and religious services on Radio 4.. A cynic might say that if the BBC needs to close 55% of a department down in one go, either there was some cross-subsidy going on (in which case, no wonder the contract went to indies) or tough-guy James Purnell, onlie-begetter of Compete or Compare and Current Custodian of R & E, is playing hardball on the next stage of cuts.

A four-person radio team might find it hard to compete credibly for the Songs of Praise contract when it comes up again in 2020....

Monday, March 27, 2017

Driven HR

Another indicator of how the BBC is transforming itself. It is setting up a "Resourcing & Talent Contingent Workforce Team", and needs no less than four Resourcing Advisors. Reading between the lines, their job is to ensure that freelance hires don't end up with staff rights and, en passant, upset the Taxman.

"The Resourcing Advisor will have demonstrable knowledge about current best practice, especially around temporary and contingent workforces. You will have some knowledge of Jurisdictional law [sic], regulation and policy in relation to talent & resourcing. The Resourcing Advisor will analyse information rapidly and be able to make informed judgments and provide advice on the best option to progress in line with established process."

"Tenacity is a key attribute of the Resourcing Advisor as you will be driven to achieve the right result despite challenging internal / external circumstances".


Mark "Two Brains" Damazer refrained from signing the "we're frightened by Brexit" round-robin that was produced from Oxford University a fortnight ago.  The Master of St Peter's and former Controller of Radio 4 is still a BBC Trustee until April 4th, and wanted to maintain impartiality.

However it seems he was prepared to share some thoughts with members of the Royal Geographical Society in Hong Kong, at an event last week sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank, and entitled, in typical Damazer*, "The BBC: A Study in Imperfect Nobility; Post Truth & Digital Chaos". I'm sure we have some readership in Honkers, and details will flood in soon-ish.

*Damazer was a semi-official internal language during his time at BBC News, with its own constantly-updated dictionary.

Investor news

Variety reports 'exclusively' that former BBC Director of Television Danny Cohen is investing in former BBC drama executives and their indie venture.

Access Entertainment, Danny's bit of Len Blavatnik's empire, is taking a 24.9% share in film and tv production company Bad Wolf, run by Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner. The company is based in South Wales and Los Angeles, and its current pipeline includes His Dark Materials, for BBC1; A Discovery of Witches, as yet unplaced; and The Warlord Chronicles, with HBO.

Bad Wolf are trying to seal a deal with the Welsh Government, to turn a giant shed in Cardiff Bay into a studio for His Dark Materials, planned to run for five series.

No coverage

When Mothering Sunday and clocks forward meet up with an anti-BBC protest at Pacific Quay. Just 1 minute 28 seconds. Another weekend protest that failed to make BBC News...

Sunday, March 26, 2017


With much less noise than the Songs of Praise deal, the BBC announced this week that the BBC would continue to make Holby City for the BBC for the next three years.

No names of competitor companies have emerged, but the BBC spoke warmly of the BBC's innovation and efficiency plans in awarding the tender. The scale of the BBC's financial advantage - with a complex set already built via the licence fee at Elstree - is also undisclosed. At around £370k an episode, the new contract is worth around £50m.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Good to see that the Radio 4 schedules over Easter will feature a new play by James Runcie, "The Great Passion". It stars Simon Russell Beale as Bach and is set in Lent 1727, during the run up to the first performance of the St Matthew Passion.

It's a highlight of the spring schedule, announced this morning. It was announced a little earlier on James's blog. James is the Commissioning Editor for the Arts at Radio 4.

Today, on Radio 4, you can hear a new play, "House of Hosts: A case for Inspector Morse", written by Alma Cullen. It's directed by James Runcie's wife, Marilyn Imrie.

Will either work be reviewed by their daughter, Charlotte Runcie, who writes on tv and radio for The Telegraph and Prospect Magazine ? Or perhaps they'll get a stage production at the Traverse, where James' step-daughter Rosie Kellagher is literary associate (whilst available as a freelance radio producer).

Wrong direction

Whilst the money raised seems to go up and up, the viewing figures for the big night of Comic Relief are going down.

Overnights for the key 7-10pm slot...
2013 9.6m
2015 8.1m
2017 6.25m

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