What’s It Worth?

Last week, radio consultant John Myers rattled a few cages at the BBC by suggesting that Local Radio has too many managers. Even attempts to challenge his perhaps predictable conclusion were handled by the straightforwardness for which John is now becoming famous. On BBC Radio Nottingham’s breakfast show, the presenter asked why the BBC had paid him to come up with a conclusion which many staff had been saying for years. To paraphrase his reply : “So why didn’t you say it?”

Of course, John’s conclusions have now left the Senior Management with something of a dilemma. Do they accept his recommendations in the fashion of turkeys voting for Christmas, do they appear to be weak in rejecting them outright, or do they come up with some kind of fudge or compromise? I know which one my money’s on.

Lucy Adams, BBC Director of Business Operations

And it’s money which is also concerning the BBC right now. Or, more precisely, the system of pay and reward within the BBC News Division? The review is being led by Lucy Adams, the BBC’s Director of Business Operations. Much of debate has centered around the controversial Unpredictability Allowance, or UPA. The payment is seen by some as an outdated reward system for an industry which is, by its very definition, unpredictable. Orion Radio’s David Lloyd was especially critical of the allowance in last week’s Radio Academy Podcast.

Much of the reward system is, like a lot of the BBC, tied up in historic agreements between management and the Unions. As a union rep, I would defend many of the agreements to the hilt. UPA, for example, was invented not by the unions but the BBC – in exchange for removing any form of overtime payments. But should the system of reward be governed solely by money?

UKRD - the best place to work in radio?

This week, the commercial radio group UKRD was named as the best medium sized company to work for by an influential poll commissioned by the Sunday Times. The survey judged the company by categories such as “wellbeing”, “personal growth” and “giving something back”. “They love their jobs like no others,” says the Sunday Times. Like many commercial radio groups, average pay – between £15,000 and £25,000 is certainly modest compared with some comparable roles within the BBC; something else commented on in the Myers Report. In UKRD, even  the Managing Director doesn’t have a PA. I started out in commercial radio, and I must admit, the sense of adrenalin and fun was enough to get most people by.

It’s the kind of thing the BBC could learn a lot from.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are whole departments in the Corporation dedicated to “wellbeing”, “personal growth” and “giving something back”. just this week I received an email asking if I’d like to do some radio work in the voluntary sector. But in order to achieve these values, do we really need reams of policies, layers of managers – something which many might describe as a culture of red tape? 

Maybe it’s easier for UKRD because of its size – 276 employees compared to almost 20,000 in the BBC. And whilst I’ll continue to defend the right to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, I hope that Lucy Adams and her colleagues consider the bigger picture – the morale of staff on the shop floor.

Perhaps we should all go for a drink. On the boss. The latest BBC expenses reveal that Radio 2’s controller Bob Shennan spent £220 on a bar bill to reward staff for making cuts.

2012 is likely to see the biggest reality check in the BBC’s history. Most departments could only dream of getting the kind of “approval rating” enjoyed by UKRD. A much simpler management structure could go some way to achieving that.

One thought on “What’s It Worth?

  1. I paste in my letter to BBC Trust re Myers Team Review: (SNIP) Dear Sir/Madam

    I offer the following to support your work on improving local BBC Radio in direct relation to the Team Review by Mr John Myers.

    Mr Myers proffers programming observations and recommendations which appear cogent however to support his ethos of more efficient and cost-effective local management the BBC needs to retain good local control. Removing the local MEs is not the way forward and I fail to agree with his £2m saving on his figure of £60k per ME!

    What’s new about his observation of local audiences in decline? Programming re-positioning to serve the over 50s is required as has been privately acknowledged by all staff. It is my observation that MEs are tied by centralized tiers of management to which the review refers. It is a fact I decided to cut short a BBC Board, to which I had been invited, due to discernment that effective and independent local management is impossible due to central ‘control’.

    Therefore, in short, what is required is a more effective local control tier and the removal of centralized decisions which continue to impede the local editors and their strategic aim to deliver to their target audience; local ME roles for each station will prove key in delivering to the tactical objectives required. This action will save the required amount I suggest.

    I come primarily from the commercial sector therefore it comes back to the right person for the job; Mr Myers commercial past is a great influence on his findings. In summary and from a programming perspective, you need good, local changes to output to be able to deliver better programming that alongside effective local marketing will increase the local radio audience market share.

    Back the MEs with local accountability through empowering them to meet agreed objectives; do not cut the roles most likely to be in the best position to grow local audiences and to deliver to DQF objectives.

    In the spirit of transparency I attach my career resume to provide my experience alongside and in support of the advice proffered here.

    Thank you for listening.

    Yours faithfully

    Graham Ledger
    (SNIP ends)

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