Sunday, September 24, 2017

Take that

Smart, aggressive scheduling on BBC1 saw Strictly monster the XFactor. Over two hours and twenty minutes, Strictly attracted an average of 9.35m (47.3% of the available audience), with a peak of 10.19m (50.2%). The X Factor averaged 4.79m (23.7%) with a peak of 6.00m (30.5%).

Last year the first-live-dance-opener was split over Friday and Saturday, with average audiences of 9.26m and 10.1m; the BBC expects more payback next Saturday, when Strictly runs to a mere two hours and five minutes.

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Nearly four months after it happened, we get the summary minutes of the June meeting of the BBC Board.

Now stretching to eight pages, they chronicle what must have be an achingly dull session. BBC News boss James Harding got off lightly, contributing only by phone. The minutes remind us that the BBC still hasn't formally settled on a new complaints procedure; that the NAO is really inside the organisation as auditors; that the World Service, on its knees three years ago, is spending Foreign Office money hand-over-fist; and we still await a formal set of Operating Licences from Ofcom.

The sparring, over whether impact in various required genres, should be measured by spending or hours of broadcasting (preferably both, in my view) continues, with the BBC hoping for wiggle room not previously allowed by the BBC Trust.

Friday, September 22, 2017

More lawyers

The Times tells us that the BBC has brought in former Appeal judge, Sir Patrick Elias, who retired in March, to cast an eye over the gender pay gap work underway with PWC and Eversheds. As a barrister (in the last century) he was dubbed "the leading silk in employment law.”

Elias, born in Cardiff, studied law at Exeter University, part-funded by six months work as a bus conductor. He's now based in Cambridge.

Is Auntie feeling vulnerable to a legal challenge ?

Sands storm

A mild pincer movement is underway this week on current Today custodian Sarah Sands, with The Times having a pop at Today-Lite, and former editor Roger Mosey handing out a B- (?-) from the Master's Lodge at Selwyn College, Cambridge.

Should the programme be like "an ambassador's reception" ? Book star names first (Martin Amis, Judi Dench, John Le Carre, Mel Brooks, etc) then work out what to ask them ?  Can the old leviathian really do light touch wry humour (Nigel Havers on the unpopularity of his Christian name) ? Where have NACRO, the Joseph Rowntree Trust, the IPPR all gone ?

The programme over the last two years has started boxing itself in with regular slots - the puzzle, Nature Notes, anniversary features, Jim on books, and a semi-official arts slot around 8.20, as required by the DG. There are fewer and fewer news blanks for the day and night team to fill. Sarah has self-avowedly tilted the rudder to fashion (without the photographs that made it an obvious win for the Evening Standard), but her other manouevres will be confusing staff and listeners alike.

The programme has a very healthy roster of presenters - so why try out Stephanie Flanders (days before she moves to broadcaster rival Bloomberg) and Christiane Amanpour of CNN, in full-term rather than August ? Can Sarah express her editorial direction for the programme clearly and succinctly - or does she just talk ?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

People people

There will be a few who might welcome born-again HR thought-leader Lucy Adams back into the BBC. She's continuing her series of articles on what she used to do all wrong; it's worth a full read.

"I think the main problem with all of these wastes of effort was that I was aiming to make an HR process more efficient, more accessible, or easier to complete – rather than questioning the value of the process in the first place."

Meanwhile her successor Valerie Hughes D'Aeth has been sharing her wisdom in Dublin, with a Powerpoint slide that has two adjacent boxes, one marked "Flexible - less rigid approaches" and alongside "Consistently applied policies". Mmmm.


You have just over a week to pitch in for the chairmanship of Ofcom (three days a week, salary 'appropriate' but apparently a secret, which is ripe for someone charged with poking around the BBC).

Shortlisted candidates can get a chat with Sharon White, Ofcom CEO or Deputy Chair Baroness Noakes. Baroness Noakes, an accountant by training, is a Conservative peer, who has been deputy to Patricia Hodgson, one-time Conservative candidate for Islington, for three years. Activist website Conservative Home has been urging 'qualified Conservatives' to apply.

  • Ofcom has yet to published its 2017 pay report. The 2016 edition showed the organisation's gender pay gap at just under 14%. The BBC claims its gap to be 10%.  

FOI factoid

Some 1,790 staff at the BBC work part-time. 79.1% of them are women.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


BBC HR supremo Valerie Hughes D'Aeth has tumbled from second to third place in HR Magazine's 2017 list of Most Influential practitioners. Zooming in at number 1 is Siobhan Sheridan, civilian HR director at the Ministry of Defence; and at number 2, is Althea Loderick, strategic director for resources, Brent Council.

Graciously accepting her third place certificate, our Val said  "I started my HR career when I was a Saturday girl at Sainsbury's, and then I moved into the personnel department, and I love this profession. But there's no way we can do what we do without a fantastic team around us."

Young chums

"We recently held the first session of the Radio and Education reverse mentoring network."

As the BBC's thought leader James Purnell acknowledges, it's probably just as well the latest series of drama-documentary W1A is in the can. Mr Purnell has taken up Jack Welch's idea from 1999, when GE executives were paired with staff under 30 to help them get a handle on the internet.

From October, every member of the Radio & Education management team will have a mentor from the division who is under 30.

I'd particularly like to hear, anonymously of course, from those paired with Bob Shennan, Alan Davey and Graham Ellis. I'll keep it secret, honest.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


The BBC has backed the wrong one of two dramatic offerings by the prolific Williams brothers.

The second episode of still-bewildering Rellik fell to 2.09m in the overnights (11% share) while over on ITV, Liar was up to 5.38m, including +1 (28.4%).

This brought the two 10pm news bulletins even closer. The BBC averaged 3.08m (20.5%) with ITV on 2.24m (14.9%).

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