Tuesday, June 28


Steve Lawson rants on the sale of BBC Broadcast. I admire your passion, Steve.

It is odd to think that the BBC ONE announcers who in former years have embodied the essence of the BBC will be working for an Australian company, the BBC will not be the place from which its (network tv) programmes will be transmitted, and the people creating her brand image will not belong!

So how do I feel about to be sold off? Personally, not as disappointed as you might imagine. Yes it's sad but I have been knocking around the place for a while so the change will do me good. Certainly the range of work will be very exciting, and being released from the restrictive public service world will be interesting. A lot of weight is being given to conditions of service, but it's tough everywhere these days.

The big question is.... will it be good for public service broadcasting? I still think the DG's plan to invest in local services and new ways of delivering them is intelligent. If I'm sad about anything it's losing contact with English Regions broadcasting which, I think, is very interesting.

So this week I wave goodbye to my team in the BBC English Regions - those hardy souls in the far reaches of the empire who so selflessly make trailers for BBC services beyond the M25. It has been an exciting if uncertain year. See some of their work

On Monday I start my new role project managing with BBC Broadcast Operational Development (not BBC BOG as someone miss-heard). This is a six month attachment which will bring me into contact with some of the new technology developments.

By the end of July (possibly) I will move into the big wide commercial world of he Macquarie Capital Alliance Group

Wednesday, June 22

David Dunhill

For those who don't know, I spent many years in front of microphones, first on local radio, then on regional Radio Four and eventually on BBC ONE.

During my time doing this job of reading out loud I was coached by David Dunhill who died recently (Nigel Fell kindly alerted me). His encouragment led me along a very intersting path.

More on announcers

David was a highly respected voice at the BBC and in 1967 he closed down the Home Service and introduce listeners to the new Radio Four the next morning. His announcement went, "This is the end of the Home Service for today, and for all days. We're like a bride on the eve of her wedding. We go on being the same person, we hope. But we'll never again have the same name. Tomorrow, at 6.35 am, we become Radio 4. So, goodbye, Home Service, two of the best words in the British language - and still, I'm sure, the only answer you can give to the question: 'What is radio for?' Two words we shan't erase. Good night." (Telegraph obit.)

Among those he tutored were Libby Purves, Jill Dando Jon Snow and me.

Tuesday, June 21

Dogs say no to tram

A long running controversy in Ealing is that of the proposed tram
for the town. Tonight the sight of protesters gathered outside the
Town Hall prompted me to look up the pros and cons from the two
main adversaries (click on the links). For me I can't quite understand why a long thing on tracks costing more than £500 million can be much more effective than a bus - but what do I know.

For the tram

Against the tram

Friday, June 17

Split Personalities

Here's an image I shot in Oxford Street, London. bigger The street has an interesting blend of people - multi-national, young, old, tourists, business people. So many interesting stories behind the faces.

Watch the video and use the pause button to see what split personalities you can find.

Can anyone suggest a piece of music to go with it?

Sunday, June 12

Chaos City

A belated post from Friday. Graham Fink of the finktank came to talk to our team. I contacted him after I'd heard him at BBH at the John Hegarty session. Graham has an impressive track record in the advertising industry and has an interesting attitude towards risk-taking & lateral thinking. Importantly I was interested in his enthusiasm for the way we human beings behave - how we beat ourselves up before even we begin. He suggested that we take time out to be different - perhaps spend some time looking for failure, writing rubbish or in some way doing the unexpected. "If you know what you are doing you are not being creative enough".

The team I have been involved with is due to be split up (BBC changes) and the level of uncertainty for the guys means there's a lot of anger, stress and suspicion around. As Graham said, "change can be a good thing". He showed us some great maps of Chaos City - a mad and confusing place but strangely interesting

Saturday, June 11

Speed Parables

Grace went well tonight. Jonny and Steve missed. The night involved six tables at which aspects of the parables were explored. For example, fill in the blanks Good Samaritan and story telling through film. The one shown in the photo was Adam's where stories were told according to the colour of M&Ms taken from the bag. The session was curated by Mike - thanks - and worked very well indeed. I had some great feedback from people visiting and the conversations went on and on.

Monday, June 6

Mark Thompson's Speech

This evening listened to the BBC's Director General Mark Thompson addressing the Churches' Media Conference at Hayes Conference Centre in Derbyshire.

This is probably breaking news since I doubt if anyone will have published anything yet - so here you are, a hot report.

At the risk of taking his points out of context here are my notes from his talk - not complete but what I took to be the main points. He began by expressing hope in spite of complaints from some quarters. Like Desmond Tutu he is a, "prisoner of hope"

Religion and broadcasting are a lot more than the category we call religious broadcasting. Religion pops up all over the schedules, for example in Monastery. Religion is front and centre stage - dynamic, complex and always potentially explosive. The BBC was founded on the belief that broadcasting could be a transformational force for good; a force for enlightenment, enrichment. I am full of confidence and hope that it can be.

I want to look at the complex and pervasive pessimism about popular culture which contaminates so much of what is said and talked about broadcasting. Most complaints are determined to connect a particular fault to what they think is a deeper trend - dumbing down, falling quality, denigration of traditional values or plain old depravity. They see this decline as applying to the rest of cultural life - the BBC of which is a litmus. I see this as a trench system with one set of arguments ranged against and behind another.

Stupidity of contemporary culture?
First trench - the stupidity of contemporary culture and broadcasting. They compare The Ascent of Man with Celebrity Wrestling.

In Steve Johnson's new book, Everything Bad is Good for You, he says that far from a decline into stupidity the main movement in popular culture in recent decades has been towards greater sophistication and cognitive challenge. He compares current output like The Sopranos and The Simpsons with their equivalents thirty years ago. What he finds is that there is more layering, more complexity, greater not lesser demands placed on viewers. The same with feature films and video games. The same trends are visible in this country as well. Compare the plotting, the characterisation, the wit, the cultural references of our new Dr Who with the linear simplicity of the old one. (Mark goes on to list some of big commissions in history and other factual programming which demonstrate the range and depth of current output).

When people look back they forget that American programming formed the spine of our output - Kojack, Man called Ironside etc. Yes, Kenneth Clarke's Civilisation was there, but so too was an alarming amount of Demis Rousos!

Cultural leveling?
Next comes the more sophisticated charge of cultural leveling. Once there was a clear national culture and a hierarchy of excellence with a canon of great work at the top - Shakespeare, Dickens. Now all that's been thrown in the skip and we're all expected to bow down and worship Tracy Emin and Victoria Beckham.

The accusation is that we are spreading a destructive and subversive alternative. I think the BBC has done more to correct the balance and introduce more of that classical canon (Beethoven week on Radio Three). The unfashionable canon is playing a big part in the BBC's output. Is our culture exchanging some breadth for depth? I think it is possible that it is. Broadcasting has seen a multiplication of perspectives - women, ethnic minorities, marginalised. Even so traditional and mainstream voices should still be proudly on display.

Moral bankruptcy?
The last and most serious trench in the system is around moral bankruptcy. Contemporary and popular culture (and broadcasting) are amoral or produce a system of morality which is different to and hostile to traditional moral perspectives. There is a great deal of amoral and hedonistic material out there. If the charge is that broadcasting is no longer a moral gatekeeper I think what's probably true, but don't make the mistake of believing that all TV is equally amoral. Much of our output (examples given) is presented within a moral framework. (Mentions Tsunami coverage, Live Aid etc.)

It depends on what your moral yardstick is. If it is swearwords and sex and not much more, then yes, things probably have slipped both on the screen and in society. But is you define moral and social concern more broadly then things look rather different - whether it's Africa or Iraq - broadcasting has become very interested in moral questions.

There is a danger in this digital revolution...

Quoting Wordsworth, "the great national events which are daily taking place, and the increasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies."

Wordsworth imagines a kind of negative feedback loop where the craving and the growing speed of transmission of information leads to a kind of cultural scrambling. In his words, "blunting the discriminating powers of the mind". Amazing for the 1800s.

Too much information delivered too quickly will, in the end, drive everyone mad. The city we are building now is virtual. The city is in our heads and it is open 24 hours a day.

It won't be possible for public service broadcasting to exist in this environment unless it cuts through and connects.

With on demand technology quality output can achieve a permanence because it does not only exist in a single point in time. Navigation and sign-posting become key.

The really big events will become bigger not smaller.

Creative integrity and conviction will become all the more important. The exceptional can stand out more and for far longer than ever before and the half hearted will disappear without trace.

Saturday, June 4

Producer's Note 3: Five Personalities

I go to a lot of presentations during which the speaker will sum up in a series of bullet points (if only life were that simple). In this posting I’m going to offer five bullet points of my own which came out of a session I did on promo making with a group of media students in Odessa. I can say it was a great to have met them and an inspirational time

The proposition is that anyone can make a film (in my case a promo). My son whose twelve years old can make a film. It is so easy to make films these days that anyone with enough money to buy a camcorder can go ahead and make a film.

Learning how to make films – the story-boarding, the visual grammar, the lighting, the editing – all the technical skills can be learned and practiced, but even if you become brilliant at these things you still will not be able to make great films.

There are five personalities which are so important that they not only enable us to make great work, they also help make us who we are. The extraordinary thing is that I suspect we all have these personalities within us, and simply being who we are – human – is what is required to reach our creative potential.

So, instead of film-makers what do we need to call ourselves to make great films?

The Inventor
It is possible to have ideas without making films, but impossible to make a great film without an idea.

The Storyteller
It is possible to tell stories without making films, but impossible to make great films without telling stories.

The Actor
It is possible to speak the language of emotions without making films, but impossible to make great films without engaging the emotions.

The Prophet
It is possible to recognise the truth without making films, but impossible to make films without a truth we can recognise.

The Hero
It is possible to take risks without making films, but impossible to make great films without taking a risk.

Friday, June 3

Emily Gardiner's Christening

May 29th in Crawley. Good to see everyone.
more photos

The opinions expressed on this site are those of Mark Waddington and not his employer. If I have made any errors or published anything unfairly please bring it to my attention and I will make corrections if appropriate.