Monday, January 15, 2018


As the BBC Ideas Service sallies forth into 2018, ('Managing Your Mind At Work', 'Why the Millennium Bug didn't actually bite', spare a thought for BBC iWonder, the last stab at this sort of thing. 

Like 'Ideas', iWonder was billed as a digital product for curious minds, 'a new way to tell stories on the web'. It was based in the BBC Knowledge and Learning department, and was launched in January 2014. Short guides to burning topics were 'presented' by Rachel Riley, Gemma Cairney, Tom Service and Anita Rani, amongst others. It seems to be frozen in time now.

Andrew Pipes was the 'product manager'. He's now moved on, to help the Co-op re-imagine funeral care. 

Sorting office

Who's leading on equal pay for the beleaguered BBC ?  Until November this year, Sally-Anne Borrill carried the title Head of Reward - she's now landed a job with Kellogg's European operations, based in Manchester.

There was an ad for a Director of Reward, back in March last year, but I can find no subsequent announcement of an appointment. Dale Haddon, ex-Royal Mail Group, is HR Director, News and Employee Relations, on £191,000 - more than the US Ambassador, The Prime Minister, Carrie Gracie and a few others mentioned by incoming Culture Secretary Matthew Hancock. HR supremo, thought-leader and Member of The Court of The Guild of Human Resource Professionals, Valerie Hughes D'Aeth is on £310,000.  That puts her in the same pay band as Nick Knowles, Sue Barker, Eddie Mair and Lauren Laverne, which surely has to be right. 


Gaslighting, to mean manipulating a vulnerable target to make them question their own memory, beliefs and perhaps sanity, comes from the play Gas Light, by British writer Patrick Hamilton, born in Hassocks in 1904.

His parents were writers, but hit hard times (alcohol may have been involved), and Patrick moved with his mother to boarding houses in Hove and Chiswick. He was taken from Westminster School age 15, and, after trying his hand at acting, started writing. His first novel, Monday Morning, was written at 19, and published two years later - it featured Comedic Capital Letters, which followed in most later works. Craven House (life in boarding houses) and Twopence Coloured (19-year-old leaves Hove for a try at the London stage) followed.

The 1929 play Rope (Rope's End in the USA) was later adapted for Alfred Hitchcock's film, starring James Stewart. Gas Light, 'A Victorian Thriller in Three Acts' was first performed at the Richmond Theatre in December 1938, before a West End transfer to the Apollo, where customers during the six-month run including George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Re-titled Angel Street for thre Americans, it ran on Broadway for four years - and afforded Patrick a whisky-based lifestyle which eventually killed him.

Gaslight has been filmed twice. George Cukor’s 1944 version for MGM starred Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. The 1940 British black-and-white film directed by Thorold Dickinson starred Diana Wynyard and Anton Walbrook.

The key bit of the plot for today's readers: Victorian villain Jack Manningham's hunt for hidden jewels in an adjacent flat causes the gas lights in his own apartment to dim; but he keeps assuring his paranoid wife Bella that she's just imagining it.

Getting it right

BBC World, the advertising-funded international news channel, has a new woman at the helm of its news programmes, after the departure of Anna Williams back in October.

Liz Corbin has three years experience as an Assistant Editor on the channel, and has been running the Singapore bureau (where lumps of overnight broadcasting are now produced) for nearly five years.

She came to the BBC News machine early, after a degree in Maths and Psychology at Leicester. The first job on her cv is as a broadcast assistant; in 2001, she says she was "BBC News 24's first text producer. Working in the control room on 9/11 writing the on-air captions".   Most recently she's been writing again, as Editor of the BBC's Reality Check. "The claim that the UK sent £350m per week to the EU is wrong."

She's giving a lecture on fact-checking at Oxford University on Wednesday afternoon.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mine's a lime and soda

I hope Charlotte Moore, BBC Director of Content, is having a dry January. After a stonking Christmas, the fizz of Saturday nights has gone flat.

The second episode of Wedding Day Winners showed only a slight drop on the first, at 2.18m. But 2m million viewers who'd been watching Pointless Celebrities found something better to do.  And drama Hard Sun (part filmed on Parys Mountain, Anglesey) dropped from 3.43m for the opener to 2.19m. Co-production partners are the streaming service Hulu. Money doesn't always guarantee success.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

January transfer window

Rebekah Brooks seems to have doshed up TalkRADIO in a bid to get more listeners for her investment. The station, less than two years old, is stuck at around 256,000 weekly reach. Now station boss Dennie Morris has enough money to strike a deal with a new production company, Sixty Billion Broadcast, co-owned by Eamonn Holmes, Sam Delaney and tv and radio producer Ben Rigden.

They will provide Eamon Holmes as drivetime host (spookily replacing Sam Delaney), and the producer will be multi-award winning Mark Sandell (We worked together launching 5Live Breakfast), lately toiling with Vanessa Feltz at Radio 2 for Wise Buddah.


A grim, unrelenting week for those toiling in BBC News. I'm afraid I might add to it.

Former BBC newsman Roger Mosey has a column in the New Statesman. Roger might well have counselled some of those seeking the job of Director of News, and everyone knew that that interviews would require answers on how to make big savings. "The official figure is £80m over the next three years; and candidates for the top job were interviewed on the basis that up to £50m of savings could be needed in the next financial year."

It's difficult to put a scale on what cutting £50m in one year might mean. The spending on BBC News as a whole is never published in one lump; it takes money from the networks that carry its output, as well as getting some money direct from the Corporate Centre for News Online, BBC Parliament etc, so its hard for outsiders to calculate what the total budget at Fran Unsworth's disposal looks like.

These cross-trading complications are replicated internally in News, with the most expensive unit, Newsgathering, sucking up money from other news departments (and taking a hefty slice of the new Foreign Office funding).

Cuts in News are always job heavy - the vast majority of News spend is on salaries. £8m a year is soon to be providing 150 'free' reporters for local papers, putting their total cost per head - pensions, training, overheads, at around £53k each. Taking that as a median, you might save your £50m by cutting over 900 jobs, out of an effective full-time headcount around 6,700.  That's just over 13%.


Friday, January 12, 2018


Expert property developer and genius Donald Trump seems to have lost sight of how long major building projects can take in capital cities. The decision to move the US Embassy in London was taken under George W Bush in October 2008, after several years of option evaluation.

The Trump Tower in New York took a mere four years to deliver, though it cost double its original estimate.

Hole in the ground

Ofcom has yet to issue guidance on use of the word 'shithole' by broadcasters.

After extensive research in 2016, it categorised 47 words as either 'mild', 'medium', or 'strong', reminding broadcasters that context was important, as was repetition and 'aggression'.

'Arse' - mild, generally of little concern.

'Arsehole' - medium, potentially unacceptable pre-watershed.

'Shit' - medium, potentially
unacceptable pre-watershed. Common language used in everyday life but problematic when used aggressively or repeatedly. Concerns about children learning the word.

Of course, there is no watershed for radio. 'Shithole' was heard loud and clear on Radio 4 this morning in the 0700 and 0800 bulletins.

BBC subs and US Preidents seeking to push boundaries might like to consider some other words classified by Ofcom as 'medium' for future broadcasts...

Pissed Off
Son of a bitch

Anchors aweigh

The UK's leading news anchors have had a mild pop at Donald Trump this morning.

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