Thursday, November 20, 2008

The BBC - how it works

I don't want to dig up that tedious old story about Brand and Ross. However, I thought Joan Bakewell's article on the incident had a fascinating description of today's BBC. I also thought it encapsulates New Labour's vision of how UK industry should be managed:

"Today the BBC has no makeup department or costume design, no prop making or set building; it has all been outsourced. The people who swarm through its doors today are planners and marketing people, press officers and managers. There are currently some 600-700 independent programme-making companies, employing about 4,000 people - and making up an increasing share of the broadcasting output.

Many of these independents are staffed by people who have never worked in the BBC or any of the ITV companies. They may have been to one of the numerous courses in journalism, but there are plenty who have not, and who possess no grasp of libel law or the industry's own constraints on what can be said and done. The 25-year-old who was ostensibly the producer of Russell Brand's Radio 2 programme was employed by one such company: Brand's own.

Not only is television's workforce disparate - it is also shifting. Just when you might have been in a job long enough to absorb something of an operating ethic, there are take-overs, sackings, mergers, management restructuring. They don't happen once. They happen all the time. Where in this organisational mayhem do recruits learn the basic probity that once came with the weekly payslip? Why and how should anyone build up any sense of loyalty when their lives are so precarious?"


  1. I am afraid it is like this in the NHS too. All staff are encouraged to run their own businesses on public time and money, and basically pursue their own interests apart from that of the patient or the hospital. You can just imagine the greed-fest going on!

  2. Many cutbacks are happening now with Central TV. Currently there are 7 news video editors (my brother is one) who edit news (video) reports that journalists produce to make them suitable for TV broadcast and now they want to reduce the headcount to 2. Basically these editors have been asked to re-apply for their jobs and will know if they still have one at the end of November! Soon there will be no regional news at all or it will be of lower quality. It's a sign of the times. A quality broadcast costs money and right now the money coming in from advertising has dropped dramatically.

  3. Welcome to everyone's world Joan Bakewell. All of Britain is like this, organisations choking on the mumbo-jumbo and psycho-babble of the modern world. I have sympathy for you but not much given the overt bias of current BBC reporting with its anti-English ethos.

  4. The self-important thuggery of the bureaucrats is common the the police and education as well as the BBC.

    What is particularly shameful about the BBC's shortcomings is that a tax gives it a large annual income with which it can produce programmes which are then marketed world-wide for profit.

    What company could not make money hand over fist if its basic product development and production were taxpayer-financed, but exportable around the world at commercial prices?

    Then, of course, there is the woeful standard of production for television. Much of the radio production is still of a good standard - if only the world were as reasonable and reasoned as Radio Four! But most of the TV production - cheap reality, makeover shows, gardening shows, celebrity this or that, is low-cost drivel.

    The programme-makers slog hard for low pay and without the proper benefits of employment - sick pay, some pension entitlement, and job security - while the faceless and non-creative planning and "managing" types run a highly inefficient internal bureaucracy which achieves its goals at a snail's pace and (especially on Fridays) glorifies in a lacksadaisical meetings-culture.

    The internal culture is driven by a self-perpetuating, self-serving, unproductive class of averagely bright people from the finer schools and universities (especially Oxbridge and Durham) who have cultivated an in-language of managerial gobbledegook.

    Look at even some of the flagship TV journalism. How often is there genuinely informed comment on Newsnight rather than a dreary re-run of also-ran comment of non-expert experts?

    The only answer is to chuck the TV and pay no licence fee.

    A good blog, like Alice's, is much fun anyway!

    B. in C.

  5. The crappy working conditions are to be expected when you have a ton of talentless imbeciles flocking to an industry which offers insane rewards to the select few winners but where the real power is in controlling the programming slots and the purse strings. Oh, and where it is absolutely impossible to accurately recognise talent in advance, and where talent has little impact on profitability anyhow.

    So, like the music industry then.

    These people are paid what they are worth, which is next to nothing. Of course, I'm not saying the bureaucrats deserve anything either.

  6. The only hope we have is that after this recession there is return to common sense management.

  7. "There are currently some 600-700 independent programme-making companies, employing about 4,000 people - and making up an increasing share of the broadcasting output."

    didnt the tories introduce this compulsory outsourcing?