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Topics - darcysarto

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It's been a while since I've posted but there you go.

Two pieces today in the Guardian and Telegraph suggest that the previously mooted scraping of local radio programmes outside of Breakfast and Drive are back on the agenda at the BBC.  The recent covert licence fee deal has left the BBC needing to save another £500m.  Yes Tony Hall did say it was a good deal.

The John Plunkett's piece on Iain Lee mentions it and Patrick Foster also picks up on it in the Telegraph.

There's nothing concrete in there but given they tried to get away with it before when they didn't really need to..

Worth pointing out for anyone who doesn't know, local radio is in the News division of the BBC.

Meanwhile, Tony Hall - here he is looking serious - has been speaking today..

..warning of the threat to the BBC's independence - no really.

Whilst in a bizarre looking glass moment Culture Secretary John Whittingdale took it upon himself to comment on what he sees as one of the BBC's priorities

The politician said news should be an 'absolute core central activity of the BBC, and it should be a priority'.

'There are savings within the BBC that don't require them to slash news budgets or close a channel', he said, adding 'news is not the first place they should look, in many ways it should be the last place'.

Everything as clear as mud as usual, anyone got a lasso?

BBC Management & BBC Trust / Death By A Thousand Cuts Part II
« on: December 21, 2015, 02:01:08 PM »
The Grauniad reports the BBC has hired a firm chaired by Gus O'Donnell to 'get over' the issue of having taken on responsibility of the free-for-over-75's licence fee.

'We want to explore the options, in particular on how voluntary payments might work,' said a BBC source. 'It’s early days, this work is only just beginning.'

Well, it would of course be churlish to suggest you tell people they have to pay and then either they do, or they don't.  But quite honestly, that's how it would work.  I imagine this isn't cheap?

BBC Management & BBC Trust / Death By A Thousand Cuts Part I
« on: December 21, 2015, 01:53:42 PM »
The BBC announced today it is <a href= "">cancelling it's coverage of Formula One Motor Racing from next season[/url].

A full explanation can be found on this BBC blog here.  The point is, they don't have the money to pay for it.  The comments are quite interesting, plenty of disenchantment unsurprisingly, people wondering why the Boat Race and London Marathon coverage continues plus plenty of other valid viewpoints.

Key to this I suspect is that it probably isn't a) cheap and b) with Channel 4 having stepped into the breach Ecclestone is doesn't need to hold the corporation to contract or sue the pants off them.

Radio 4 / You Are The Programme, Thank You - James Naughtie Signs Off
« on: December 16, 2015, 10:12:22 PM »
Mornings won't be the same without his Scottish lilt, his poetic way with words, his errant time checks and his sometimes rambling questions.  Despite telling me it was 6.30 at 7.30, losing John Major halfway through his last 10 past 8, James Naughtie made it through his last Today programme moved but intact, expect many were also moved by his final words.

BBC Management & BBC Trust / Life Without The BBC
« on: August 25, 2015, 09:10:42 PM »
The BBC has published the results of an experiment/research in which 70 households from different areas, with differing views of BBC output, went without the BBC for just over a week.

Astonishingly some of these people didn't realise their licence fee also pays for BBC Radio.. where on earth did they think it was coming from?

The full report can be found here:

The 70 households in the research – from 15 locations across the UK – comprised those that initially said, given the choice, they would:
 prefer to pay nothing and not receive the BBC (x 24) – reflective of 12% of all UK households
 only pay less than the current licence fee for the current BBC (x 24) – reflective of 16% of all UK households
 be willing to pay the full licence fee or more (x 22) – reflective of 69% of all UK households.

Here's a few of the things they had to say about Radio.

The households that changed their minds often also found BBC Radio hard to replace. They were especially frustrated at the high volume of advertising on commercial stations.  As the BBC station with the highest reach, the most missed BBC Radio station was Radio 2. In particular this was missed by older, regular listeners and those with long car journeys. These audiences admitted that they under appreciated the quality of the station’s talent, in particular during commuting hours. They missed their regular shows, the music mix within them and the features and familiarity of the voices on air. Despite trying numerous alternatives, audiences felt that they were unable to find content of the quality they enjoyed on Radio 2.

Radio 4 was especially difficult for audiences who listened to this to replace, in particular the 'Today' programme. These respondents cited a lack of credible commercial speech radio alternatives, to the extent where they no longer listened to talk radio during the task period.

BBC Radio 5live could be replaced to a certain extent by TalkSPORT for sports news and information, but audiences still missed 5live's tone of news and sports coverage. As a substitute, TalkSPORT was not felt by these households to deliver the same calibre of discussion, debate and insight.

BBC Local Radio (relevant to their area) was also missed owing to the mix of localised news,  weather, traffic and sport live commentaries. Often audiences relied on this information to plan their days / journeys and without it were forced to seek other methods of finding this, which they found difficult to do – especially to the level of detail (and reliability) that the BBC Local Radio
station provided them with.

BBC Asian Network was missed by some of the BAME households because they enjoyed the mix of music and news from Asian communities without interruptions. Typically, they had to go online to replace this (news especially).

Finally, the young er audiences who missed BBC Radio 1 did so because of specific DJs they tune  in for as well as the ability to hear the latest music and new music not confined to the charts. Also audiences commented how they relied on the station to create or fit their mood at certain times of the day or week, for example getting ready for a night out on a weekend. The younger audiences replaced Radio 1 with commercial alternatives, their own music system or by using streaming services or YouTube. Although they were more accepting of the commercials, they still valued the advert-free nature of Radio 1 and missed the ability to have a single station that they did not have to keep re-tuning when adverts came on.

Whilst it was impossible it would seem for Lord Tony Hall, George Osborne, John Whittingdale and Rona Fairhead to include any of the Great Unwashed in the recent outrageous covert deal covering the latest licence fee settlement, there are no less than 4 public consultations to get involved with concerning the future of the BBC.

We should make no mistake, cuts are going to happen.  Cuts arising from DQF and the last covert deal have still yet to be completed and with somewhere between another 10-20% in light of the latest, um 'deal' things are going to be for the chop. 

That said, it's still important for people to get involved, as Tony Hall only recently remembered, the BBC does indeed belong to the people of the country, so the more who use their voice the better.  So what do you want to keep?  What's important to you and the nation?  Would you like a more independent BBC, a more accountable one??  Then tell 'em...

First off is the Tories Green Paper, which can be found here:

And the associated Survey which can be found here:

All the links can be seen here:

Secondly, the BBC Trust has launched it's response to the Green Paper here:

Along with it's own consultation in which it requests the public's opinion as to what they wish the BBC to be in the future, take part here:

Thirdly - The House of Lords Communications Select Committee.

Scope of the inquiry
The Committee is to conduct an inquiry into the public purposes of the BBC and the mechanism by which the licence fee is set. The current BBC Royal Charter expires at the end of 2016. While the formal process of Charter Renewal has yet to begin, the report published by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee entitled The Future of the BBC has laid out many of the key issues and conflicting perspectives. The intention of this inquiry is not to cover the same ground as that report but to look in detail at two specific areas of the BBC: what should the public purposes of the BBC be, and who should set the level of the licence fee?

Make a submission at the link below.

Finally, the Culture Media and Sport select committee are running their own Inquiry in BBC Charter Review, unfortunately the site seems very slow tonight so if you want more info, try the link below

Are They Finally Putting The Local Radio Playlist Out Of It's/Our Misery?

Can it really be true?  No more Hungry Eyes??

Discussed as part of the upcoming changes to the BBC local radio network in the latest Radio Today podcast between Trevor Dann and Rod McKenzie, they certainly hint that the play list has finally had it's day!  Have a listen, see what you think.

So this weekend I had intended to write a round-up post of all the goings on in the last couple of weeks and try to make sense of them.

How Helen Boaden - onetime Director of News before the now infamously spiked Newsnight exposure of Jimmy Savile - now Head of Radio announced plans to give away thousands of hours of BBC radio production to independent companies.  Wonder if many of them will be run by ex-BBC staff like Wirefree Productions, makers of the insomnia cure that is the Mark Forrest Show?

Or the announcement by Tony Hall that a thousand jobs are to go, those who watch these things closer than I have time to may point out that 1000 jobs is only going to save a third of the headline £150m figure, so the rest will be coming from elsewhere...  John Myers hits one of many nails on the head in his blog when he asks 'who will be doing the cutting?'  In the last few years we've never seen the turkeys in BBC management vote for Christmas, so why should this round of deck re-arrangement be any different.

Then there was the rumour that Ofcom were being lined up to take over some of the duties of the BBC Trust, a few days before  the announcement that the very same Trust was rubber stamping the BBC management decision to close BBC 3 and move it online.  Listen to BBC Trustee Richard Ayre on the Media Show as he tries to explain to Steve Hewlett why the Truss ignored their own research - that showed licence fee payers didn't want the shift of BBC3 to online - despite their reason for existing being to represent those very same people.

But how do you make sense of any of this when you wake up to find the BBC has, according to the Sunday Times been engaging in covert deals with the Government?

Here's the link to story, note, it's not behind the paywall Osborne hits BBC to pay welfare bill.

GEORGE OSBORNE has launched a £650m budget raid on the BBC to help cover Britain's benefits bill, forcing the corporation to meet the cost of free television licences for the over-75s.

Senior government sources say a deal is close that will force the BBC to take on the cost of the 4.5m licences - worth £145.50 each - from the Department for Work and ­Pensions (DWP).

The move is part of a package of £12bn of promised welfare cuts, at least £8bn of which will be unveiled in the budget on Wednesday.

In return, the BBC will be allowed to make up some of the lost revenue by charging for use of its iPlayer and other online catch-up services to try to stem the loss of revenue caused by people abandoning their televisions. That will return at least £150m to BBC coffers, but the £650m benefits bill represents the loss of around a fifth of the corporation’s £3.7bn licence fee income.

The details, including the timing of the change, are still under negotiation but it is likely to be phased in after 2017, when the number of over-75s claiming a free licence will have risen further.

Discussions about the free TV licences over the past week involving Osborne, BBC director-general Lord Hall and senior figures in the DWP and culture department mean a deal is expected before budget day. The plans were confirmed by four different sources in Whitehall familiar with the negotiations.

Under the move, the free tele­vision licence will remain in place until 2020, honouring a pledge in the Tory manifesto. But it will then be up to the BBC, which has prominently reported criticism of welfare cuts, whether to maintain the free licences or impose its own cut to pensioner perks to plough the money into programming. Senior BBC staff are concerned that such a deep cut in revenues will put services such as Radio 2 and the BBC news channel at risk. Hall wants a rise in the licence fee, which has been frozen for five years, to offset some of the costs, but that is unlikely and will be decided only as part of the process of renewing the BBC's charter.

Ministers believe the deal will put the BBC on a firmer financial footing by allowing it to charge people viewing BBC catch-up content online.

A government source said: 'This is not us hammering the BBC. It is a deal. The big win for them is this iPlayer fee. If you're watching BBC content, you’re going to have to pay.'

'The truth is that the licence fee as it is currently structured means the BBC does not have a long-term guaranteed revenue stream, because in 10 years' time more and more people are going to be using catch-up services. They have been asking for this for a very long time.'

A second source said the BBC 'can’t be immune' to the public spending cuts.

Hall announced 1,000 job losses last week because projected revenues have dropped by £150m as a growing number of people refuse to pay the licence fee because they watch only catch-up television online.

The deal has the strong backing of Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary. But the plan has caused irritation in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is already in tense negotiations with the BBC over whether to decriminalise those who refuse to pay the licence fee, which could cost the BBC a further £200m.

If you feel a little dizzy reading that don't be alarmed, it's just that's so full of government spin you can be forgiven.

However the question needs to be asked, what the hell is the BBC playing at?  The BBC and it's Trust did a deal 5 years ago, behind closed doors, it was wrong then and is wrong now.  It's our Public Service Broadcaster and is it not supposed to be free from political intervention?  What is this if it is not political intervention?  And why is the BBC seemingly complicit in this?  It happened not too long ago too..

Worth reminding ourselves here that 5 years ago, Jeremy Hunt, a man famous for hiding behind trees, allowed a member of his staff to leak results of similar covert discussions, as discovered during the Leveson Inquiry.

And with yet more cuts to add to their, ahem, Delivering Quality First initiative the result, things didn't exactly work out well did they?

And yet here they are, at it again.  Fair play to the Tory party, as evil geniuses go, they take some beating, they may largely be a bunch of swivel-eyed sociopaths but you have to take your hat to them, they are bloody good at it.

The BBC for it's part needs to get a grip, it needs to remember that it exists for every single person in this country, it doesn't exist to give middle-managers a salary for moving paper clips around a desk, it should not be capitulating to a government it should be holding to account.  If the government wishes to legislate against the BBC it should do it through the Commons and the Lords, not through the back door.  Sure the BBC is in a difficult position but all the time you're making covert deals, there's only one tune you'll be dancing to and it won't be one you'll hear on Strictly.

James Harding's appearance at the Voice of the Listener and Viewer Conference is covered in The Grauniad, The Indy and The Torygraph holding forth with effectively such gems as The BBC is not left-wing biased - because the Tories won the election...

At the same time he says The BBC's coverage of the general election became 'infected' by widespread speculation over the prospect of a Labour government propped up by the SNP.. and goes on 'with the benefit of hindsight, we would all have been better off with less discussion of deals and allowed the dissection of policy to speak for itself'. 

Seriously, if James believes he requires hindsight to recognise this then the BBC is in deeper trouble than anyone thought.

He also questions whether the media 'did enough to hold in check' the increasingly sophisticated political machines of each party. He said: 'embargoed stories, dropped just before the.. 10 o'clock news went on air.  Sometimes, the result wasn't news, but messaging.' 

James here showing his finger well and truly on the pulse.. did he see any edition of Newsnight during their election coverage, there were times when Evan Davis looked like he was about to gnaw his own leg off rather than have to sit through yet another pre-prepared soundbite.  You were being played James FFS and it only occurs to you after the fact?

And on threats from Politicians he says...'There were people from all parties who made the connection between their dissatisfaction with the election coverage and the fact that the next government will set the licence fee and the terms of the Royal Charter,'.

Then name and shame them James, you're a journalist FFS, that's a scoop right there you muppet, they'll soon stop doing so.

Meanwhile Sherlock Harding is overseeing 415 job losses from BBC News... what on earth are we going to be left with?

According to Media Info, Jenny Barsby's Late Show in the East Midlands is to finish on the 21st May.  After that listeners in Derby, Nottingham, Lincolnshire and Leicester will join listeners to 5 other stations and enjoy Graham Torrington's late night show.

A BBC spokesperson said: We have taken the difficult decision to stop producing the Late Show on local radio in the East Midlands in order to refocus resources on delivering more digital journalism and more original journalism across all platforms to our audiences.

That's what you need late at night, digital journalism on a platform!

This piece by Professor Steven Barnett of the University of Westminster, taken from his LSE Blog originally published on his blog at the Huffington Post

Within hours of the election result, we should have a clearer picture of whether the BBC will survive in its current form. With the current BBC Charter due to expire at the end of next year, the next government will barely have 18 months to consult on the terms of its renewal. It is perfectly possible, if results are only slightly worse for Labour and the Lib Dems than polls suggest, that an unholy alliance of Conservatives, Ulster Unionists from the DUP and a handful of UKIP MPs will see the BBC savaged to a point beyond repair. Its funding, remit, governance and possibly its very existence could be up for grabs.

Elections have always provided ample scope for warring parties to complain about institutional bias and make dire threats about the BBC's future. Some of us still remember the then Conservative Party chairman Chris Patten rallying his troops in advance of the 1992 election, instructing them to jam the BBC's switchboards with complaints of left-wing bias. Patten, of course, subsequently became the second chairman of the BBC Trust and a staunch defender of its independence.

So why should we worry about the BBC this time? Things are different for two reasons. First, it is over 35 years since an election at which a BBC Charter has not been effectively tied down for the foreseeable future. The last time was 1979 when - ironically - the greater threat came from a re-elected Labour government than Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives. It was Thatcher's deputy Willie Whitelaw who secured a 15 year charter in 1981 which effectively closed off her anti-BBC options. This time, there are few influential voices at the top of the Conservative Party who would rush to the rescue of a BBC threatened by a Tory/DUP/UKIP alliance.

Second, we have already heard a number of threatening noises coming from a variety of sources on the right. Commenting on one debate on the BBC's Today programme, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid told the Daily Mail last week that 'they were all anti-Tory. It came across as very, very anti-Tory.' He wants BBC bias to be part of the Charter renewal process. A year ago, asked about the future of the licence fee, he replied that £145.50 a year was 'a large amount for many families up and down the country [and] needs to be looked at when we have the Charter review process.'

In an interview with the Radio Times, just as the Conservative manifesto was published, Chancellor George Osborne echoed a common Tory refrain about the dangers of a 'monopoly' BBC being too dominant and 'not suffocating local news' - which will delight the powerful local newspaper lobby, despite lack of any evidence of the BBC's adverse impact on local journalism.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Nigel Dodds - furious at being excluded from televised leadership debates - explicitly linked BBC editorial decision-making to the Charter Review process when he said that the DUP would 'ensure the BBC does not exert such a distorting influence on British politics in this way again.' He expects the BBC's future to be on the table in any negotiations following a hung Parliament. And Nigel Farage has been even more outspoken, announcing that BBC funding would be cut by two thirds if Ukip were in power: 'I think in the modern world the BBC having this vast budget and this huge power over broadcasting is frankly an anachronism.'

Both Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos have pledged their support to the BBC's future with the Lib Dems committed to inflation-proofing of the licence fee and Labour to maintaining its 'vital contribution to the richness of our cultural life'. The Conservatives, by contrast, promise a 'comprehensive review of the Royal Charter' and are committed to continuing the top-slicing of BBC revenue to pay for rural broadband.

If the Conservatives finish with around 310 seats - not implausible with a small shift in the last 48 hours - there will be some frantic deal-making with the DUP (expected to win around 9-10 seats) and UKIP (possibly with three or four). With effectively 12 months to seal a new BBC Charter, and national attention distracted by other more urgent issues, the BBC could easily become the victim of a cursory consultation followed by a major licence fee reduction and severely restrictive Charter. It would, effectively, be the end of the BBC as a powerful cultural, democratic and economic force in Britain.

There would certainly be resistance from a more sympathetic House of Lords, but the parliamentary mood music will be hostile. In the post-election deal-making of 2010, it was only a determined intervention by the Lib Dems which ensured the BBC didn't take a much greater financial hit. With a Conservative Party dominated by the special pleading of the right rather than tempered by the centre left, BBC supporters would be facing their toughest fight in a generation.

Given it's recent history no one should pretend the BBC is perfect but it's still one of the best things we have.

The News Where You Are / It's All Kicking Off In...
« on: April 21, 2015, 08:42:02 PM »

A hat tip for this to Bill Rogers.

Apparently the BBC is to feature a selection of stories from local newspapers on their local live website feeds.

According to the blurb from the BBC Media centre this follows successful pilots in West Yorkshire and the North East where local newspapers send a link to their strongest stories, which then feature on the BBC News website.

Successful?  How so?  It doesn't really explain, just goes on about clicks and onward online journeys..

It does mention though that the local papers can choose their strongest stories.  Must have been a quiet day then at the Keighley News.

BBC Local Radio Board / Foul Mouthed Rant on BBC Radio Solent
« on: April 09, 2015, 09:01:28 PM »
Blimey it's all kicking off in Southampton..

According to the Southern Daily Echo - striking a chord for quality journalism - a caller named Pearl 'unleashed' a 'foul mouthed rant' during a discussion about the Royal family.  Unfortunately the Echo doesn't enlighten us as to the actual nature of the discussion, but we do know Pearl described Camilla as an 'ugly old bat' before she referred to Prince Charles as a 'pillock'.

We then learn that 'popular BBC presenter' Julian Clegg apologised twice to listeners.  The Echo doesn't make it clear whether this was one apology for each listener.  Or even what he was apologising for?  What was he apologising for?

BBC Local Radio Board / BBC Radio Manchester Keeping The Faith
« on: April 09, 2015, 08:29:41 PM »
It doesn't happen very often but BBC Radio Manchester are launching a new specialist music programme.  After the culling and shuffling of shows from the schedules across the network in recent years it's refreshing to seePromoter and DJ Richard Stearling announce on his website recently that..

Following three pilot programmes , I'm pleased to announce that my 'Northern Soul' radio programme will start on a weekly slot on BBC Radio Manchester on Friday nights between 10pm and Midnight from Friday 10th April.

Richard contributed to last years BBC 4 documentary Living For The Weekend, which is well worth a watch (in two parts below)

BBC Management & BBC Trust / BBC Trust Music Radio Review
« on: March 19, 2015, 09:57:32 PM »
The BBC Trust today published it's review of Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, Radio 3, 6 Music and Asian Network.  Yet again, despite their claims that 49% of the population listen to these stations, the seeming lack of promotion meant that only 2,900 people bothered to respond. 

I've not had chance to pick through it but the excellent Bill Rogers has ....


There are 18 references to the commercial radio pressure group, RadioCentre, and it seems to me that most of the changes recommended are in response either to BBC budget cuts, or what commercial competitors want to happen.

So, to save money, Radio 1 will have fewer live sessions - down from 250 to 160 - and host fewer live festivals - down from 25 to 10. Radio 1 and 1Xtra will in future run more of the same documentaries. Radio 2 gets to drop a requirement to provide "regular" comedy programming. Radio 3's required quota of new dramas falls to 20 from 25 (and from 35 in 2012). The Asian Network is allowed to drop weekday news bulletins at 8pm and 9pm.

There's no evidence of any public debate about the level or number of social action campaigns on Radio 1, yet the Trust says "Radio 1 should find more ways to deliver a range of public purposes in daytime output". This seems to be entirely driven by the RadioCentre, who argue "Radio 1 is failing to deliver enough public value in daytime, and that Radio 1 should offer more news, plus documentaries, social action campaigns, advice programmes and other current affairs output in daytime. "

The RadioCentre and ClassicFM also score with an impossible new demand on Radio 3: "Radio 3 should seek to increase choice for radio listeners by minimising any programmes and features that are similar to Classic FM’s."  Is that just now, in the future, forever ? Would you like to run a radio station looking over your shoulder ? What nonsense.

Of course, there are many RadioCentre demands that have been biffed.  Just not enough.

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