|Don't believe everything you read...|
Julian Bray, Media Commentator writes: Sailing By, the haunting theme tune for the BBC shipping forecast ….is so apt, is the BBC really a 'rudderless ship'? Yes, as new state of the art 21st Century cruise liners, don’t have a rudder, but sport azipods....!
I have to declare an interest, my own BBC career was in the 60’s, 70’s and 80's. I still freelance for the Corporation, and many other broadcast outlets, these days by ISDN, FTP and Skype all around the world..
But in those early enterprising days, making a decent living out of something I loved, broadcasting, was not the prime motivator, (many hard working broadcast journalists in BBC Local Radio having just suffered a savage 20% cut in station funding, will tell you, in 2012, they are still well behind on wages).
My rapidly growing City & financial PR commercial business Leadenhall (UK PR WEEK Top 150 firm within 18 months of startup) provided the income stream. I was sucked into the business world and quickly understood the value of Profit and Loss. I was however, later to bid with HTV (now ITV Wales), for the emerging satellite news contracts, effectively combining both disciplines news and commerce. NOW Television News and CNS - City News Service was created.
Acres of newsprint and hours of valuable broadcast time is being devoted to the honourable demise of the BBC’s latest victim of Sir Jimmy Savile, the hapless, but technically talented, well respected, gentle George Entwhistle.
The role of Director General is something from a bygone and equally gentle age, the age of the White Star Line in turn swallowed up by the early Cunard and the analogy to cruise ships and rudders, is a good one.
The BBC operates around the clock, and around the world, so do cruise lines. Whatever part or discipline of a cruise line company, the function can be mirrored in the vast super cruise liner now being driven towards the rocks, if you can believe the red tops…. And like the BBC new cruise ships don’t have rudders. They have bolt on electric motors and steerable fans (azipods) and bow thrusters, both for propulsion ie direction and steering, the functions are one and the same.
But enough of this, and if I see Steve Hewlett or any of the other naysayers, trotting out the same world weary worn mantras then I will throw my yellowing copy of the outsourced Radio & Television Times at my five valve radiogram, just as soon as I have tuned into Hilversum and unplugged the Televisor. Yes, that was the true age of the grandly sounding BBC Director General, Editor in Chief. But the although the technology has moved on, the job specification of the Director General has stayed the same, cast in green granite.
But how do we resolve the current catalogue of disasters and create calm out of chaos, and see if crisis management can play a part, or do we shuffle off the problem, to an Inquiry and let it report back in a year or so? Hope that its all blown over….everything changes but it all remains the same…
No. Ownership of the BBC has to be regained, the pirates have boarded the ship over the last decade and have to be defeated….. amazing how the cruise line metaphors…work so well.
The solution: The job of DG isn’t fit for purpose and no one currently working at the BBC has the individual ability to perform all parts of the role. Or put another way the Cruise Director of the mega cruise ship Independence of the Seas explained his role thus: “This is a self contained floating City of five thousand souls, constantly moving around the world, I am all over this ship 24 hours a day, like a cheap suit, there is nothing going on, apart from hotel operations and the Bridge that I do not know about, it is the only way to work it. I only ask questions when I already know the answer. I work five months non-stop seven days a week, and then take eight weeks off, then back on again. It works as I’ve been doing it for nine years.”
Clearly Lord Patten and his BBC Trust have yet to come to terms with the many header hydra they have created. The cruise lines in the 21st Century have all but cracked it , but as we saw with the Costa Concordia, even cruise ship can capsize or run aground.
The role of Director General has to be recast along business lines so his /her job description would read as that of a Chief Executive Officer, the editor in chief remit is out of place and clearly unworkable and needs a dedicated Editorial Compliance Director, tasked exclusively with news management and not sidetracked by speeches, meetings with the Trust and consultants and not tasked with PR and political policy activities, to which all broadcast journalists and programme makers have direct and immediate access. It will certainly mean a clear out of senior news management, so Helen Boaden and her deputy might be sprucing up CVs, for pastures new ...
All programme editorial plans, at three stages of commissioning, will need to be signed off, thus releasing the financial resources required to complete that stage of the operation. No sign off, no budget, follow the money trail, and all else will come to light.
Nothing moves at the BBC, without an element of funding.
News agenda breaking news productions where the lead times are just a few hours would still; go through the process buit the stages would be rolled up into one simple compliance action. This will be a streamlined process, not involving more than say two sheets of paper.
The key being financial approval to proceed will have been examined along with the legal and news values of the story, programme or line of inquiry. The areas overlap, the story is strong so I will need extra financial resources and therefore I need the sign off from Editorial Compliance - am I winging this or following the BBC Guidelines? News Agenda short lead time productions such as Newsnight will also go through the same process.
But first the BBC Trust will also have to examine its own role in all this they could have after all refused to accept George Entwhistles resignation, Lord Patten admitted he had several meetings with George but claims Mr Entwhistle still wanted to jump ship. Perhaps the good Lord didn't try too hard?
Admittedly his previous role was that of Director of Vision so some mud from that function, was still attached when the DG role was offered, and perhaps the BBC Trust should have showed a far greater level of practical induction support. Even factory floor employees go through a period of induction and not just immediately thrown to the baying pack of rival news company newshounds, and an even greater public mauling from the corporations own well loved news rott,weillers. In future no early morning studio interviews, well until the sun is over the yard arm, would seem to be a sensible standing instruction.
Finally, move the entire news and current affairs operation back to London where it belongs and possibly move the BBC Trust et al to the celebrated 'gun and crime capital' of the UK Salford..... where do I sign?
Finally, re-employ George Entwhistle, within the corporation, good talent coupled with experience is still hard to find. Most senior roles in corporations have a built in trial period, so each side can see if the offer is all that it is cracked up to be. There is no disgrace in being both honest and honourable. George has bucket loads of each...
(C) Julian Bray 2012
+++ BREAKING NEWS: The full BBC statement on Boaden/Mitchell and the rest of MacQuarrie on Newsnight +++
BBC has issued the following statement:
Ken MacQuarrie, Director of BBC Scotland, has reported his findings into the Newsnight broadcast on November 2 2012.
The following actions have been announced:
1. To address the lack of clarity around the editorial chain of command, a decision has been taken to re-establish a single management to deal with all output, Savile related or otherwise.
2. Helen Boaden has decided that she is not in a position to undertake this responsibility until the Pollard review has concluded. During this period Fran Unsworth will act as Director of News. In line with this decision, Ceri Thomas will act on a temporary basis as Deputy Director in place of Stephen Mitchell.
3. To address the pressure on the Newsnight team Karen O'Connor has agreed to take on the role of Acting Editor of Newsnight.
4. Consideration is now being given to the extent to which individuals should be asked to account further for their actions and if appropriate, disciplinary action will be taken.
Contributor: Broadcasting, Media, Cruise Line , Aviation, Politics & Travel Expert, Broadcaster & Journalist Julian Bray NUJ, EQUITY UK Landline: 01733 345581 Mobile: 07944 217476 ISDN2 downline +44(0)1733 555 319 (UK HOME ISDN 017 33 55 53 19) G722/APT-X Dual Codecs Glensound C5 SKYPE: JULIAN.BRAY.UK