Tuesday, 25 November 2008

"So Folks... What Have We Learned?"

It looks as if we’ve almost seen the final word on the Brand / Ross incident with the publication this week of the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee Report on the whole sorry saga.

It is painstaking in its detail yet admirably thorough in its search for the truth. If the BBC lack in some areas around ‘editorial judgement’, they surely make up for it in ‘really good internal investigations’!

I won’t go into the gory details of the report, as they’ve been really well documented by a great number of worthy individuals and publications, but it is worth making a couple of points under the title of “So Folks... What Have We Learned?”

High-maintenance talent need experienced producers
BBC Radio 2 allowed Brand’s independent production company to let a relatively inexperienced producer oversee production of the show. It’s a tough call to say ’no’ to high profile talent, especially if they effectively employ you, as was the case here... but if you have talent that can be ‘difficult’, make sure you’ve got someone who can deal with them effectively. Managing talent is a specialist skill, so don’t just stick anyone in the studio with them and expect everything to be OK!

Make sure everyone knows what their job is
It seems that the Head of Compliance didn’t think it was his role to listen to an entire programme that was known to contain potentially ‘offensive’ material. If it’s your job to clear stuff... make sure you listen to it all first, or make sure the person whose job it is, knows what they have to do!

Use your “Spidey Sense”
BBC Radio 2’s now former Controller, Lesley Douglas, provided the unfortunate ‘smoking gun’ in this case... a one word email sent at 12:22 on Friday 17th October, where she clears the plan of action suggested by the Head of Compliance, which in fairness was slightly misleading and perhaps encouraged her to agree based on the ‘comedy value’ of the item. If something feels like it needs a further discussion, tempting as it may be to give a monosyllabic reply to the email from your Blackberry whilst sourcing a Blueberry muffin and skinny Latte from the nearby Starbucks, this may not always be the best course of action, as poor Lesley found out to her cost.

We should actively support talent and encourage risk-taking on air, and as my previous posts have suggested we shouldn’t allow this over-hyped incident to neuter creativity, but please make sure your own radio station has a system in place to guarantee that a “catastrophic breakdown of editorial and compliance control” doesn’t take place on your watch.

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