HomeGrown Stupidity: literacy not required

HomeGrown Stupidity: literacy not required

I’d love to be an Assistant Content Producer for Radio 1 or 1Xtra. I listen to both radio stations, have plenty of relevant skills, and know a fair bit about the music.

In fact, they’re advertising the role now.


It looks like I can jump through most of the hoops (“competencies”) they’ve listed too:



1.       Planning and organising – able to think ahead in order to establish an efficient and appropriate course of action for self and others. Prioritises and plans activities taking into account all the relevant issues and actors such as deadlines, staffing and resources.

2.      Communication – able to get one’s message understood clearly by adopting a range of styles, tools and techniques appropriate to the audience and the nature of the information.

3.     Influencing and persuading – able to present sound and well reasoned arguments to  convince others. Can draw from a range of strategies to persuade people in a way that results in agreement or behaviour change.

4.      Managing relationships and team working – able to build and maintain effective working relationships with a range of people. Works co-operatively with others to be part of a team, as opposed to working separately or competitively.

5.       Developing others – able to recognise potential (managerial, professional, artistic or otherwise) and is willing to foster the development of that potential. Creates a climate in which potential can be realised.

6.      Resilience – manages personal effectiveness by managing emotions in the face of pressure, set backs or when dealing with provocative situations. Demonstrates an approach to work that is characterised by commitment, motivation and energy.

7.       Flexibility – adapts and works effectively with a variety of situations, individuals or groups. Able to understand and appreciate different and opposing perspectives on an issue, to adapt an approach as the requirements of a situation change, and to change or easily accept changes in one’s own organisation or job requirements.

8.      Editorial Judgement – demonstrates balanced and objective judgement based on a thorough understanding of BBC editorial guidelines, target audience, programme and departmental objectives. Makes the right editorial decisions, taking account of conflicting views where necessary.

9.      Creative Thinking – able to transform creative ideas into practical reality. Can look at existing situations and problems in novel ways and come up with creative solutions.

10.   Strategic thinking – able to identify a vision along with the plans which need to be implemented to meet the end goal, evaluating situations, decisions and issues in the short, medium and long term.

11.  Analytical thinking – able to simplify complex problems, processes or projects into component parts explore and evaluate them systematically.

All vital skills I’m sure.


But, hang on, being literate isn’t required from a BBC Radio 1/1Xtra worker?


Clearly not, if this is one of the application questions…


How best can Radio 1 & 1Xtra grow it’s (sic) reach through new digital services and from which online services can the stations learn from (sic)?


I’m not answering that.


Obviously at BBC Cool they’re too busy communicating through the medium of UK Garage to remember their grammar. Well now they’ve lost all self-respecting candidates from the application process. Clever buggers!


To contrast with the fledgling students I interviewed at City University, I had a chat with ex-BBC World Service board member Barry Langridge, a management expert and enthusiast for BBC ethics.

You can download the podcast below:

Public Surface Podcast, with Barry Langridge MBE

He says the BBC management is to blame for many of the crises discussed in this blog – all the more reason for City University alumni to get involved.

I interviewed a handful of broadcast journalism students at City University in London to find out their take on the public service broadcaster.

They were all eager to work there:

For all the chat about Thought for the Day’s promotion of religion, some have detected an anti-Christian bias on the airwaves, it was revealed today.

On Radio 4’s Feedback show earlier, presenter Roger Bolton heard complaints from religious listeners who claimed BBC comedy shows single out Christianity for criticism.

The Reverend Simon Douglas Lane, phoning in from Staines said: “In recent weeks, I’ve noticed an unremitting assualt on the Christian faith in the 6.30pm slot. Whether from Jeremy Hardy in the News Quiz, Andy Hamilton in Old Harry’s Game, and in the Now Show, which has an extended pop at Christianity.”

A brief listen to Andy Hamilton’s send-up of life in Hell illustrates the Reverend’s point nicely. Large chunks of the series are close-to-the-bone pisstakes of Christian belief. As the complainants said, would the BBC have aired similar satires for Judaism or Islam? No chance.

Acting head of BBC Radio Comedy Gareth Edwards admitted that Christianity was picked on in particular.

An aetheist myself, I can see the Christians’ point. After such a self-consciously exhaustive exploration of all things Darwin this year, its broad-mindedness is hard to dispute.

Indeed, BBC Religion does have a tough job balancing faith representation across the output, but it may be too busy defending pluralism to remember Britain’s largest faith group too.

Excellent comment piece by Marina Hyde in today’s Guardian, discussing the hypocrisy of Mail readers on the lookout for BBC slip-ups.

She says those very audiences are the people who would relish the ethically abominable programmes they show in the US, such as Fox’s Who’s Your Daddy, which invited an adopted woman to guess her real father from a panel:

It’s the kind of low-budget, sentimental, voyeuristic TV that brings in audiences. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect anything this hideous from Auntie quite yet.

But it seems the BBC is still shunning responsibility where it matters. Private Eye just reported that 150 radio and TV hacks are for the chop. Meanwhile the BBC is having to pay £150,000  for the stupidity of two overpaid entertainers.

The fallout from Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand’s phonecall may have been hopelessly disproportionate,  but the Beeb has it coming if it keeps hiring and firing the wrong people.

Auntie should know what's good for you, apparently

Auntie should know what's good for you, apparently

The BBC’s under fire again, this time for being a ‘me too’ broadcaster trying to compete in a saturated market.

Its remit should be reduced to only making programmes that commercial broadcasters do not provide, according to a report by right-leaning think tank the Centre for Policy Studies published today.

The report’s author, Martin Le Jeune, said a scaled down BBC would respond to “what the consumer wants, and what the BBC can uniquely and legitimately provide – we’d be looking at a smaller and more focused BBC.”

Apparently commercial broadcasting has reached new levels of sophistication and breadth, making taxpayer-funded content unnecessary, and even damaging the freemarket. As James Naughtie said through gritted teeth on this morning’s Today, it’s a familiar argument.

There is a case for it though. Some believe the ongoing battle for audiences has meant dumbing down, increased celebrity programming, and a flavour of commercialism hitting standards at the Beeb (Strictly Come Dancing was cited on Today). The Ten O’clock News, for instance, now carries an entertainment or celebrity story as standard.

The BBC also has unique and soaring levels of online funding, meaning other organisations risk being squeezed out of that growing market. ‘iPlayer’ has become part of the cultural lexicon, while the word ‘Kangaroo’ has not, after the competition commission quashed a joint online video venture between BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4.

Yet Today’s all-too-short debate on the subject was hardly convincing. Le Jeune, a former head of public affairs at Sky News (Naughtie himself highlighted this Murdoch-connection), said the BBC had become a Godzilla-like creature, subsuming all commercial media trends. Sound like a conglomerate we know?

BBC director of strategy John Tate put up a tight defence, claiming if the Centre for Policy Studies had its way, Auntie would be delivering ” Cod Liver Oil” programming to audiences.

I’m inclined to agree. Surely that BBC would be harder for Britain’s audiences to swallow than the supposed Godzilla we have today. Or is the BBC going to act as a life-support for commercially unviable programmes from now on? BBC Model Railways Show anyone?

That’s when licence fee payers (or Le Jeune’s tax payers) will really start to moan.

Getting paid to make after-dinner speeches is a luxury reserved for the few who’ve made it onto society’s head table.

At the tender age of 24, even I remember a time when humble BBC journalists and presenters were characterised by British restraint rather than decadent privilege.

So the news (reported in The Mail and The Telegraph today) that Fiona Bruce, Huw Edwards, John Humphreys, Evan Davis and John Humphries among others, are all on the books of JLA, Britain’s largest after-dinner speaking agency, should come as another hammer blow to my perception of the Beeb.

But does it really matter?

No. Editorial guidelines for BBC staff state: “It is unlikely to be acceptable for any BBC staff member or BBC correspondent to be included on an agency list of those for hire for public speeches.”

But ‘unlikely’ is the key. Those cautious guidelines were introduced post-Hutton Inquiry to prevent loud-mouths such as Andrew Gilligan from tarnishing the BBC’s record in commercial newspaper articles.

After dinner speaking is a different platform altogether. My uncle recently went to a corporate dinner where James Naughtie was speaking. He said that Naughtie, true to form, was totally balanced. Now let’s get’s back to hunting down those bankers.

“We understand the allegations made and are taking the issue seriously. However we need time to investigate fully, so we will do so and report our findings early next week.”

Anyone would think the BBC’s press office was faced with another Sachsgate after Auntie issued that statement today.

Not so. This was her response to allegations today that Sam Kay, one of Corpus Christi College’s winning University Challenge contestants, was not a student for the duration of the contest, and was therefore ineligible.

Boffs in the headlines again: Kay (left) and Geil Trimble (third from left), have received a series of disproportionate responses from the commercial press, the blogosphere, and now the Beeb

Boffs in the headlines again: Kay (left) and Gail Trimble (third from left), have received a series of disproportionate responses from the commercial press, the blogosphere, and now the Beeb itself. Source: the Mirror

           At one time, the BBC might have shrugged off such a charge as trivial, but paranoia and a poor sense of perspective have crept in.

After all, Kay’s hardly an Oxford don: he was still a student during the first two rounds, and has since been working for Price Waterhouse Coopers. 

Maybe the accountancy firm’s renowned atmosphere of literary and scientific self-improvement gave him an unfair advantage though?

Matt Yeo, captain of fellow finalists Manchester didn’t seem to think so: “We hope any decision does not detract from what was a thrilling final won by a truly tremendous team.”

The BBC may “understand the allegations made“, but isn’t it “taking the issue” a little too seriously?

EXCLUSIVE: The number of City post-graduates entering the BBC has slumped over recent years, according to data research by current student Charlotte Middlehurst.

Sharp Drop: far fewer City University students were heading to the BBC in 2005 than five years earlier

Sharp Drop: far fewer City University students were heading to the BBC in 2005 than five years earlier

With around 10 per cent of post-grad journalism alumni joining the Beeb between 2000 and 2005, the organisation is a top employer of former City students. But over the same period, the number of graduates going to the BBC straight after leaving City sank from one in six alumni to one in 20.

The university has trained such familiar journalists as Ten O’Clock newsreader Sophie Raworth, presenter Ellie Crisell, and Radio 4 presenter Kirsty Lang. One hundred and eighteen alumni joined the organisation between 2000 and 2005.

Why the drop?

Theo Hobson aired a refreshing view about Thought for the Day in the Grauniad this morning. 

Many see TFTD as a morsel of religious rot in the Today programme’s otherwise balanced journalistic diet. Yet Hobson claims it offers a holiday from the “subtle tyranny of secular-speak”:

Why? Because this is a different sort of voice from those that strut through the media: witty-rude columnists, worldly-wise experts, with-it arts critics, etcetera. Blue, in contrast, feels free to speak about his inner struggles, his sense of fear, of need, of guilt, and so on. You don’t get that from Simon Jenkins or Zoe Williams.

He may have a point. Between John Humphries barking down the phone at suspect ministers, Robert Peston eeeeelong-aaaating his vowels over the recession, and Sarah Montague enunciating too ruddy well for that time of morning, the dulcet tones of a Lionel Blue or an Indarjit Singh come as welcome respite.

And voices aside, after hearing the bad news stack up over the half hour since getting up, you need TFTD as a window on a slower, more measured dimension. It helps you slightly unclench your cereal spoon fist for just three minutes every morning.

I thought Ariane Sherine’s humanist TFTD replacement was weak on that front.

But how about Jarvis Cocker’s triumphant alternative, when he guest edited Today on 31 Dec last year? It’s a speech from philosopher and interpreter of Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts, who died in 1973:

Would you like to hear more of this?

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