Archive of Postings for May 2013


Parkinson's Law in Action

Just over two weeks ago we put forward the opinion that the BBC management were running with “.. excessive admin expenditure” and had  “.. too many channels - both on radio and TV - to be serviced out the money that remains”. Hardly a unique opinion - but one that has been confirmed by yet another proven example.Man1

In the past few days the BBC top brass have declared that its Digital Media Initiative (DMI) is being abandoned. Scrapped for having few, if any, results to date despite syphoning off 98.4 million of our taxes since 2008. The manager responsible - the Chief Technology Officer - has been suspended, on full pay of course, pending an investigation. So that’s another BBC employee in the over 5,000 per week group not working. But still no serious attempt to thin-out the vast management overhead that soaks up most of the TV tax before it gets to the programme makers. A fine example of how bureaucracies expand over time - see Parkinson's Law.

If you doubt the scale of the BBC’s over staffing problem just try googling “BBC head of marketing” and see how many different names and job titles come up.

tags: BBC, taxation, staffing, management, excess, waste



Price Reversal

Music downloads have advantages over shopping for CDs - choice, convenience and lower prices. Or so it seems. But it’s becoming increasingly common to find that the pricing policies have been reversed - making physical CDs cheaper than the equivalent downloads.

Heckerslyke_160And here is one random example that highlights just how far the pricing model has shifted -

Track-by-track download - 32.04 (no one would do this .. surely!)
Album download - 10.49
CD at High Street shop - 8.99
CD at online retailer - 6.56
CD at supermarket - 5.00

So all of the physical media options were cheaper than the album download. And if you wanted just 6 or more of the 36 tracks on this double album then it was still cheaper to go the CD route - especially when the supermarket was also offering a range of CDs at two for 9.

Downloads are still more selective and convenient - but pricing is far from clear cut. The CD could well be cheaper - and also make a much better present ...

tags: music, download, CD, price, comparison



It’s Gone!

Denmark, the favourite, duly won the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest but was pushed at times by Azerbaijan and the Ukraine. At the opposite end of the results table the BBC’s UK entry managed to beat both Germany and France but was still only 19th - and over 250 points behind Denmark. Better than last year - but still miles behind such memorable entries as a smiling Maltese doctor singing about Jeremy from IT!

TheVoiceUKSo that’s Bonnie Tyler’s benefit appearance over with - and we can look forward to another failed, futile attempt at the same time next year. The trouble is many millions in Europe - and beyond - have again been shown just how poor  and out of touch the chosen British songs and singers are. Yet the BBC are also running the UK version of “The Voice” franchise at the same time with a totally different approach and content. It’s almost as if the BBC wants to show us that the Europeans don’t appreciate the quality of our British talent - in some sort of UK Media Independence Party (UKMIP) political statement. If not that then clearly the current BBC managers no idea how to win - or even be competitive. And it goes without saying that no BBC heads will roll after this result - the Corporation has a collective non-responsibility agreement.

But what to do for 2014? The options seem to be - a) don’t enter or b) give the entire song / singer selection process to someone else. In fact, considering the significance of 2014, it could be worth giving Scotland the task of providing the entry for Britain. That could change the dynamic of the process completely - giving a cultural opportunity beyond the pro-independence element. A challenge that plenty of new Scottish talent would, we hope, be happy to take up. After all Scotland may qualify for an entry itself in 2015 - and this could be good practice ...

tags: BBC, Eurovision, music, failure, new, approach



It’s Here!

EuroVis2013sweep_300BThe Eurovision Song Contest for 2013 starts tonight with the first semi-final in Malmo, Sweden. And the BBC will have live coverage of both semis and, of course, the final - so that’s 7 hours and 15 minutes of air time not assigned to programme repeats. That will improve the stats for May.

Unfortunately last Saturday’s ironic “How to Win Eurovision” programme will be repeated no less than three times in the coming five days - so that’s 6 hours of repeats for a programme that’s already available via the iPlayer. So perhaps the stats will not improve by much.

But still the BBC is trying to generate some more popular support by promoting Eurovision parties with downloads of scorecards, a sweepstake, party food ideas and a Bonnie Tyler poster - all apparently aimed at adults (!). But even the BBC are not predicting a British success.

In the real world the current betting puts Denmark as the favourite to win - with the UK expected to be placed somewhere around 15th by the time the last vote is cast. If Bonnie does make 15th that will be better than many other UK entries - but then there have been some truly awful entries in recent years ...

tags: BBC, Eurovision, repeat, tired, humiliation, tactical, voting



We know what’s best for you ... Part 2

There DickTurpin1_300is still no announcement yet from the government on whether to scrap FM radio in favour of outdated DAB technology. Something that has been planned by our political masters for some time - but purely in our own best interests you understand (Pull the other one!). So instead we have another improvement for us plebs from those that function on a higher state of consciousness - smart meters.

The plan is to replace every gas and electricity meter with ones that will monitor - and control - how much you use; at what cost. This idea will end up costing someone around 11,700 million - since the idea is to convert all the 30 million or so homes in the UK. Your existing meters will, of course, be redundant but there may be a few million pounds to be made from the mountain of scrap metal produced (so much for green policies). Even so that still works out at around 390 per household - and guess who will be paying directly or indirectly (clue - it’s not the energy company shareholders).

So what will you get for your 390 non-optional extra? A nice little display that shows you how much money you are spending. According to the government’s advisors this display will then change your behaviour so that you use less energy. In fact they have calculated that smart meters will enable families  to save as much as 3 per household in 2015; possibly rising to 40 per year by 2030. Yes that’s the deal - spend 390 now and save 3 or more in future years. However even some of the politicians doubt that there will be any savings for the public - especially when many families already have energy monitors and regularly supply their meter readings online. [ps these energy monitors cost more like 39 rather than 390]

Germany Does It Better

Following on from two new coal-fuelled power  stations in 2012, six more are due to open in Germany this year. They will have a combined capacity of 5800MW, enough to provide 7% of all Germany’s electricity needs.
When you include the plants coming on stream this year, 12 coal power stations are due to be generating by 2020. Along with the two opened last year in Neurath and Boxberg, they will be capable of supplying 19% of the country’s power.

Now many Grandads will know from past experiences that any scheme that wants a large up-front payment on the promise of possible savings later is best avoided - if given a choice.

So who actually wants this - and why? Well, poor national planning means that the UK is facing the prospect of energy shortages not far in the future. With no new nuclear power stations under construction and a Government obsessed with stopping all coal powered electricity generation, the future does indeed look bleak.

The planned meters will make it possible for the energy suppliers to charge variable hourly rates - and any power shortages could (certainly would) be used to justify much higher prices at peak times. A bit like rail tickets. Cheap gas  at 3am on Wednesdays in July or expensive electricity for cooking the Christmas turkey - no problem. And if you don’t pay up the meter will be able to cut-off your supply without anyone even having visit. Plus the energy companies will, of course, also avoid having to employ meter readers. That’s another saving for them - and an extra bill for us through extra tax to cover the unemployment created.

There is, of course, that much hyped illusion of choice - where you can switch to another energy supply if you are not happy. But when all retailers are using smart meters and getting their gas / electricity from the same producers that won’t make more than a marginal difference.

So what are the alternatives for cash-strapped pensioners (or indeed anyone without a city trader salary)? Move to Germany. If not there then to anywhere warm that is not corrupt / facing financial collapse. Finally go north - since if Alex Salmond is to be believed there will be an abundance of energy in an independent Scotland after a Yes vote in 2014.

tags: power, gas, electricity, generation, cost, smart, meter, coal



Something Old, Something New ...

That favourite target, the BBC, has long been criticised for airing repeats. Some examples - “David Jason has slammed BBC bosses for screening too many repeats of his classic comedy show Only Fools and Horses” (2005),  “The BBC has admitted that the main complaint from viewers is about a lack of of originality. Now its boss has said there will be more repeats in future - to save money” (2007), “Channel 4 and the BBC have been accused of ‘disguising repeats’ by repackaging old programmes as new” (2009), “Viewers face fewer original programmes because the licence fee has been frozen, the head of the BBC admitted” (2010) and this week’s “BBC repeats 75% of daytime shows ...”

But it is getting bad when the BBC’s alternative to the FA Cup Final on ITV yesterday was a repeat of a quiz programme. Of course the BBC’s position is that the limited increases in our compulsory TV Tax mean that they cannot afford enough new programmes. But that is simply an excuse to cover excessive admin expenditure and for having too many channels - both on radio and TV - to be serviced out the money that remains.

JoinUs_240Now there is no way that Grandad can actually prove financial wastage - but there are enough examples in the public domain to support the general theory. One current example is a TV presenter who has been reported to have been receiving 250,000 per year from the BBC for many years - mainly for co-hosting a regional news programme. A programme - Look North - that is on air for just 30 minutes per day. But this only became public because the presenter did not return to the screen after a holiday - apparently due to a dispute about a new contract. As a result 5,000 per week comes out of the limited BBC budget to pay for a presenter who does not present.

And the suspicion is that there are large number of key talent contracts that are currently in dispute given that the BBC’s Human Resources (HR) team are trying to move individuals from a self-employed to a salaried status. This month their efforts have lead to the headline - “BBC pay reform is a debacle: Corporation in chaos after trying to force highly paid presenters to become members of staff”. Having allowed - and even required - key talent to be self employed BBC HR heads are now trying desperately to reverse the direction.

Now lots of large corporations include a director of HR post - covering what Grandads knew as Personnel. But the BBC does not have a personnel / HR director - they have ten. Yes - in these cash-strapped times, when 75% of daytime shows are repeats, there are ten separate BBC posts with the status of HR director. And this does not include the other senior HR posts of - Head of Diversity, Head of Training & Development and Head of BBC Safety. Additionally there is the post of Head of HR & Development listed under the BBC’s Finance & Business Division. So that’s fourteen senior execs looking after personnel issues - each, no doubt, with their teams of support staff and inflated budgets.

But they form just the exposed tip of an iceberg of non-jobs that are thought to exist. Even employee Jeremy Paxman was moved to put on record, at the Pollard Enquiry in February, “There is a raft of appointments now that have been made of people who are clearly not the most creative. They seemed to spend an awful lot of time having meetings with one another... I don’t know what they do. I mean, they talk to each other, I suppose, as all these bloody people do.” and Lord Patten chipped in with “I went to speak to the senior leader’s group in the BBC and said they had more senior leaders than China”

Considering just how many of the programme credits we see on screen are down to third- party production companies you have to wonder, like Paxman and Patten, exactly what the tens of thousands of BBC employees actually do ...

tags: BBC, taxation, repeats, staffing, management, excess


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