Monday, July 10, 2006

Public broadcasting news from UK, France, Spain

News from public service broadcasting-land. In the UK, the BBC has just released its annual report, publication of which led to a round of stories about excessive executive pay at the publicly funded broadcaster. The key trope of the report is the use of key performance indicators - part of a "performance management framework". Alongside "Service Licences" for each channel, KPIs will include:
  • audience reach, share
  • quality (audience reports programme to be of of high quality; or, programme is original programming and originates in UK)
  • impact (audience perception)
  • value for money (cost per listener/viewer hour)
This framework "was assessed by the National Audit Office in 2004" and "continues to be developed".

These kinds of things are enormously useful for the BBC - it helps, for example, to have a record of how many 'commercial' songs are played on Radio 1 when for-profit competitors complain about the station's overly mainstream orientation.

The BBC also promises, every three to five years, a poll of 10,000 respondents to provide "valuable indicators of important trends and needs". That's a very large poll - enough to give significant results in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and several English regions - and represents an enormous commission for whichever polling group is chosen (probably Ipsos-Mori).

The most important feature which is not mentioned in the report is how the Governance Unit - which aids the Governors - will be able to brief an almost entirely new set of BBC Trustees. Michael Grade is probably right when he writes that "the fact that the independence of the BBC endures is due in no small part to their robust stewardship" - but this stewardship depends on strong esprit de corps. Will that remain in the trust?

In France, Patrick de Carolis is ending his first year in charge of France Télévisions. Chosen, according to Le Figaro (reported here), because he was a programme-maker, not a "manager" like his predecessor Marc Tessier, de Carolis nevertheless seems to be a strong, centralising manager.
« Ça a marché plutôt bien, commente un membre du CSA, Carolis a un peu mis fin aux baronnies des chaînes.»
In my work on Rai, I've argued that baronies were crucial in undermining the political independence of the organisation. I don't know whether France Télévisions is similarly torn apart by centripetal forces, but de Carolis seems to have at least shown that he can move the network where he wants it to go.

Finally, in Spain, RTVE has increased its ad take by thirteen percent - necessary given its parlous financial state - and parent company SEPI has reached agreement with trades unions over employee numbers in the 'new, all-improved' RTVE that will, one hopes, be the result of the Zapatero government's forthcoming law. (.zip file containing details of the agreement here).

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