Latest Ariel Letters

05.07.11 Week 27

Does anybody read my appraisal form?

I have been at the BBC for nine years and have had nine appraisals with nine different people. This is despite spending seven years in one department. This goes to show how little management really care about the process.

They constantly berate and chivy us and our appraisers to get them done, but seemingly have little or no interest in reading or acting on them.

In going through the process this year, I discovered I had never sent off last year's form. Although I have now left that department, it means that neither my appraiser, manager or HR had noticed this fact.

Let's do away with this paper-pushing system that wastes time, money and effort.

Andy Brownstone

camera producer, BBC News Programmes Planning

Unforced error

I'd be delighted to hear the justification for cancelling the BBC One regional news programmes on the evening of June 29 in favour of Wimbledon.

Thousands of hours of work by hundreds of journalists in newsrooms across the country went to waste by losing the regional programmes that evening. Forgive me if I have missed the email cancelling DQF, but aren't we supposed to be looking at ways of saving money?

We all know there are technical reasons why, in this digital age, BBC Two can no longer provide regional opts. There is NO reason why Wimbledon coverage could not have been on BBC Two. On my remote the button 2 is exactly 14mm away from the button 1.

A phrase that crops up every year is 'great sporting events unite the country'. No, they don't. They divide the country. And just for the record, South Today had possibly the biggest story of the year that night. Not that that matters when sport overruns....

Neil Sackley

producer, BBC Radio Solent

Dan McGolpin, head of Planning and Scheduling, BBC One, replies: Twice last week, we rescheduled the News in order to continue with a Murray match (quarter-final Wed June 29 and semi-final Fri July 1). Just prior to 6pm on Wednesday the match was mid-flow with more then six million viewers watching (over 40% share). That rose to more than eight million before 6pm on Friday (over 50% share). With the expectation of this kind of mass interest from our viewers we took the decision to stay with the game.

On both occasions the News moved to BBC Two with the Regional News rescheduled on BBC One at 7pm (Wed) and 8:30pm (Fri). The duration of the 7pm programme was reduced to four minutes but extended Regional News programmes at 10.25pm made up for many of the lost minutes later on Wednesday evening.

We appreciate the efforts of the many people who were working on programmes for those days and who had to adapt their plans at fairly short notice. We were glad to be able to offer alternative solutions on both occasions meaning that millions of viewers were able to enjoy the Murray games in full and catch up with News coverage later in the evening.

It is only on rare occasions that things like this happen but it's important that our live schedule is able to adapt right up until the point of transmission; it's a part of what makes BBC One what it is. Friday was BBC One's second most watched day of the year so far after the Royal Wedding and Wednesday was the fourth most watched.

We'd like to thank our colleagues in BBC Sport, BBC News, the Nations and Regions and The One Show for all of the support we received during Wimbledon, even as plans were changing at the very last minute.

Star attraction

I'm always interested to see which celebrity, actor or sportsman or woman is reading the story in the CBeebies bedtime hour, but I can assure you my six year old and four year old have no idea who any of them are and would be quite happy for Andy or Sid or any of the CBeebies presenters to do the story.

Can you assure me that these 'celebrities' aren't paid a fortune and either do it through the goodness of their own hearts or for the same rates any jobbing actor would receive?

Ali Beever

BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire

Kay Benbow, CBeebies controller, replies: At CBeebies we are delighted to be able to attract some of the UK's finest talent such as Sir Patrick Stewart, Meera Syal and Sheila Hancock to read our bedtime stories.

Following in the fine tradition of Jackanory, while all these stars may not be instantly recognisable to young children, they are wonderful readers who deliver the stories beautifully and we believe our viewers deserve the best.

All our readers are paid the same modest flat rate and record a week's worth of stories in one session. Many are parents or grandparents themselves so are thrilled to be able to participate.

Blog standard?

I subscribe to the BBC's (amongst others) blogs and podcasts using a RSS aggregator, which means I can read online articles and listen to podcasts all in one handy place. At least, I could until recently.

Over the last few weeks, the reporters' blogs have undergone an 'RSS creeping death'. First Mark Easton and then Paul Mason. Now the RSS feeds contain little more than the opening sentence of an article. To read any further requires one to navigate away from the RSS aggregator and onto the BBC website.

My preference is usually to read these blogs in the aggregator, as it requires far fewer mouse clicks. Now I have no choice in the matter.

Asking around, it has been suggested that this is an unforeseen consequence of a recent redesign to the blogs and that normal service will be resumed shortly. Can anyone say for sure when the RSS feeds will be restored?

Richard Courtice

project technologist

Gareth Owen, product manager of the BBC News website, replies: We recently moved our correspondents' content into the fold of the BBC News website. This allows us to show their analysis, audio and video reports, and tweets alongside reader comment, with links to related content. RSS output is currently formatted in the same way as that from the BBC News website.

We plan to move to an RSS format that includes the full text of each item over the next few months. You will see this change in the feed you are already looking at once it's available.

Same in Salford

We plan to move to an RSS format that includes the full text of each item over the next few months.

You will see this change in the feed you are already looking at once it's available.

Louisa Compton, editor of Victoria Derbyshire's show on 5 live, says that she doesn't want the show to sound any different after the move to Salford (Ariel, June 28).

If that's the case, what exactly is the point in moving?

Jonathan Kempster

Radio News Ops

Politician's puff

Another Tuesday, I pick up my Ariel and read with interest until… my heart misses a beat. I suddenly think I must have picked the local paper the council pushes through the door every Sunday. Is that the leader of my borough, Hammersmith and Fulham, Stephen Greenhalgh, smiling at me from the page?

It seems he has got yet another spot from which to trumpet his 'regeneration' plans for my neighbourhood. Is he now a colleague at the Beeb, because it looks very much like he has written that little article in which he explains his vision for the old TVC building and the borough. (Plans which so far do not include any of the people that are already inhabiting it.)

This is a BBC staff publication, not a mouthpiece for a politician's vision of the future. An interview would have been ok, I guess, but the council making a sales pitch is not.

Ainhoa Acosta

creative executive, MC&A

Night and pay

Harry Kretchmer asked in Ariel (June 21) whether BBC cleaners who work through the night are paid the same as those who work day shifts.

The question does not seem that difficult, yet the reply: 'All cleaning staff earn in excess of minimum wage...and pay reflects individual levels of responsibility' appears to answer different questions.

Could you ask BBC Workplace to try again - Yes or No would do.

Daniel Meyer

BBC Symphony Orchestra

BBC Workplace replies: Individual employees have different terms and conditions, so I'm sure you understand it wouldn't be right to go into the personal details of staff members in the Ariel letters' page. Our reply last week reflected this privacy rather than any attempt not to answer your letter.

Greener at Glasto

I've just returned from Glastonbury and was impressed, yet again, at their environmental polices. Their website says: 'We only allow compostable or re-useable plates and cutlery. All cutlery used by market stalls must be made from FSC-assured wood, not plastic. And cups and plates are made of cardboard which is a compostable material, or porcelain.'

The BBC environment site has a posting from June 2008 complaining about the use of plastic/polystyrene cups at water dispensers and kitchens. The environment site claims we have eliminated polystyrene cups 'where dishwashing facilities exist' and 'ecotainers' are used by catering 'where practical'.

That's just a cop out - it means three years later there are still plastic cups throughout W12 offices and polystyrene containers being used by catering suppliers in both TVC and WC.

The TVC club is using compostable cutlery and cardboard containers - why are we not insisting on the same throughout our onsite catering and banning procurement of anything else? This is the easy stuff to change yet three years on I don't see 'The Difference'.

Simon Still

Future Media & Technology

Olivia Preston, Risk Manager, Environment, replies:Thank you for your feedback. Our catering teams have made a number of sustainability improvements, including procurement of free-range eggs, Red Tractor-assured meat products, and MSC-approved fish.

We recognise there is always more to do, and our current focus is on improving recycling rates across the BBC. Current initiatives include phasing out disposable coffee cups in kitchen hubs, making sure that plastic cups and cutlery are recyclable, and providing a recycling hub in White City canteen.

Many factors are considered when procuring disposable items, including cost, environmental considerations, and suitability for use.

Spot of hover

A helicopter on the lawn outside White City

As I left work in White City on a sunny evening last week, I was surprised to hear a loud siren and thunderous whirring up above. The London Air Ambulance descended over tree-lined White City Avenue (if it's not called that, it should be) to land by the picnic tables outside Media Village.

Staff relaxing there got a shock and went scurrying. After it landed, the medics jumped out of the chopper and darted off in the direction of Wood Lane, so I assume it wasn't necessarily an emergency that involved a BBC staff member. I thought your readers might be interested in this unusual sight.

Stephen James-Yeoman

managing editor, Internal Communications

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