Christmas Capers

A couple of my friends took a pre-Christmas break in the sun. They went to Cape Verde, and by all accounts it was very nice indeed. I can’t help thinking that it must have been also quite nice for Radio 4’s Evan Davies who was there courtesy of the station’s now-traditional policy of bringing in Guest Editors to the Today programme.

Evan was clearly not just there on a freebie. His online report gives us an insight into the rational behind his visit:

“The assignment was at the behest of guest editor Mo Ibrahim who strongly feels that the Western media portrays Africa in a monotonously negative light. Could that really be true?”

Yet whilst I’m sure the Today programme – even under the BBC cuts – has the kind of budget to do this kind of thing, I can’t help wondering if Radio 4 might have just as well used one of their local reporters – via the World Service – to do the job? After all, the BBC will soon have the World Service to look after within the main Licence Fee. This might have been the perfect (off-peak, festive) opportunity to try a bit of BBC blue sky thinking.

Evan Davies on assignment in Cape Verde

Doubtless if I’d suggested that to the Editor of the Today programme, I’d be accused of failing to understand the show’s ethos and purpose – and promptly told that it’s a great example of getting presenters out of the studio and into the real world.

 All good stuff, I’m sure. Though when we did our own version of Guest Editors in Local Radio last year, our resources were somewhat limited. Nevertheless, we managed to produce some wonderfully insightful output featuring, for example, a soldier’s wife – who wanted to highlight the stories of military families over Christmas.
And it’s the kind of thing which Local Radio frequently does – programming just as good as network’s, at a fraction of the cost. Perhaps next year, Today’s Guest Editors should be told they have £100 and a radio car – let’s see what they come up with.
2012, of course, will be a year of realisation at the BBC, as the full extent of cuts come to the fore. In particular, the BBC Trust will be reporting back on proposals to cut Local Radio. There’s been much speculation – and now, a certain amount of consternation about the time it’s all taking. Some contributors to the BBC Local Radio Forum fear that the delay might be an attempt to sweep the whole process under the radar.
Personally, I think it’s right that the Trust takes as long as it has to in analysing the hundreds or thousands of responses to its two public consultations. It’s also right that the members of the Trust take an appropriate break over the festive season and return to the issue in earnest in the New Year. Let’s hope that they don’t swallow the Christmas staff memo from the Director General Mark Thompson, who – in speaking about Delivering Quality First – said:
“most people think that (the proposals) are… well thought out.”
Happy New Year!

5 thoughts on “Christmas Capers

  1. I think you may not be granting contributors to the Forum with as much grace as you might, I’m sure they would like nothing more than to have complete faith and trust in the, erm, Trust. What you fail to mention is that to some degree the Trust have been complicit in these proposals for some time. Of course this began when Sir Michael Lyons was chief Trustee but regardless of all of Lord Pattens fine words about local broadcasting being glue, he’s allowed Mark Thompson to put these proposals forward for ‘consultation’. They will also be aware of articles in the Gruniad and Private Eye and of our on-going correspondance with David Holdsworth and the BBC Trust which continue to raise questions about the consultation and the way it was conducted.

  2. Naturally, I’m more than happy for you to add your views on the consultation process. I’m just offering my opinions on what might happen next. Your own experience is clearly different.

  3. I was simply taking the opportunity to put some perspective on the thread which you were using to juxtapose your own thoughts. It’s slightly disingenuous not to acknowledge the history behind what is happening and using isolated thoughts of listeners on our forum. I would like to ask in what way is our experience different to yours?

  4. Well I think I’ve covered the history of the DQF process as comprehensively as I could throughout this year through this blog. As a journalist working within Local Radio, my experience/perspective of that process is bound to differ from that of listeners.

    Equally, though, as I’ve pointed out before, this is a blog – ie : my thoughts on this topic and others related to the radio industry. It’s not designed to be a totally balanced piece of journalism. If folk want to disagree, that’s fine, and I’m happy to publish their comments.

    In this case, I don’t necessarily agree with the notion that the BBC Trust should be rushed into making a decision on DQF. Yes, many BBC staff are in limbo right now – but even when the Trust publishes its report, there will still be – for many – a lengthy wait before any new schedules are drawn up. My GUESS (and it is only that) is that such changes are unlikely before late 2012. I base this on the current BBC agreement with the Joint Unions of a 6 month notice period for redundancy – as opposed to the statutory 90 days in many other professions.

    Again, this industrial perspective is why I think my experience of DQF – and countless other cuts I’ve experienced over the years – will differ from most people involved in the BBC Radio Forum.

    Additionally, there are many, many aspects of this which I cannot discuss in public, nor would I wish to. For every post under threat, there’s a personal and private story behind it. I believe it should stay that way.

  5. Additionally, having looked again at the BBC Radio Forum, I think it’s equally disingenuous for one of its contributors to suggest that I have not “grasped” some of the key issues around DQF. Anyone who knows me would realise that nothing could be further from the truth.

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