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 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.
Now 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 …