Latest Ariel letters

Is it safe to have sex in the office?

Can a member of BBC staff be sacked for not having a TV licence or for having sex on the premises?

I've just been having a heated debate in the office about this and wondered if there was any truth in it?

My line manager informs me that I'm talking 'b****cks', but I'm sure I was told this at some point during my 16 years with the BBC.

It also got me thinking if anyone else has an interesting BBC Folklore?

For the record I have a TV Licence and haven't had sex in the office.

Steve Blears, SBJ Radio 5 live

Rachel Currie, director of Employment BBC People, replies: Can a member of BBC staff be sacked for not having a TV licence or for having sex on the premises?

We have been discussing your question in the office and we think you line manager is right; we think the BBC once required staff to have a TV licence as a condition of employment but that is no longer the case. BBC staff are treated the same as members of the public if they do not pay their TV Licence. If you are required to pay a TV licence and don't, then you could risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1000 by TV Licensing.

We are less sure that there was ever a 'Sex on the Premises' policy. I would have thought our new open plan offices and glass fronted meeting rooms would be a sufficient deterrent these days for all but the most adventurous.

However if you are interested in BBC folklore I would recommend reading a novel by Penelope Fitzgerald - 'Human Voices' set in the BBC during the second world war and based on her own experience of working at the BBC. In the book I seem to remember her referring to a BBC policy of dismissing women when they got married and the book gives the distinct impression that having sex on the premises was frowned upon.

More seriously, the BBC does expect staff to behave according to our values and in such a way that does not bring the BBC into disrepute. We would take disciplinary action against any employee who behaved inappropriately.

Safe to drink?

Could BBC Workplace say if cold water from the big taps in the Media Centre/Broadcast Centre kitchens (London W12) have drinking water? Many a colleague fills the kettle from the specially refrigerated drinking water tap because they're not sure whether the water from the main tap is safe to drink.

I've tried emailing local facilities management and writing the question in large letters on the whiteboard on the kitchen wall. The only thing that facilities management did with this request was remove the whiteboard.

So, is it drinkable?

Dr Ian McDonald, content producer, BBC Internet Blog

BBC Workplace replies: The answer is yes - both taps contain drinking water but water in the smaller tap is refrigerated.

Priority for a new DG

Now that the BBC is looking for a new director general, may I urge Chris Patten and his team to seriously consider a candidate who's a strong advocate of the World Service.

The candidate should be aware that the World Service has bigger audiences worldwide than any other BBC outlet at home or abroad, it can match any domestic outlet (including Radio 4) in quality, it's a lifeline for tens of millions of people in the world, represents the best of British values, yet it struggles of get even basic resources.

In the World Service Newsroom - the BBC's centre of international breaking news stories - we often struggle to get even a 30 second piece from a correspondent on a breaking story because he/she is busy doing a two-way on a domestic outlet, with the result that we end up broadcasting a 'grab' of that two-way to our listeners around the world.

May I also suggest that the new DG begins his job with an attachment to World Service, with at least a week in the WS Newsroom so that he/she can appreciate our work.

Naresh Kaushik, Senior Broadcast Journalist, World Service Newsoom

Forgot an old friend

I am sorry I haven't written to you, lately. Please don't take it personally but it's simply that since Ariel went online I keep forgetting to look at it. In the good old days there was always a copy lying around and I would pick it up and read it - usually starting with the really important stuff like Overheard before skimming the latest dictat from the DG. (Is it still the bloke with the beard, by the way?).

So now Ariel is off my Radar. Have I missed anything?

Ooh…..I've got an Overheard at the BBC for you, if you're still doing that one. 'I just got an electric shock from my chocolate.'

Keep up the good work and I'll try and look in again sometime.

Andrew Vincent, BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

Where are all the letters?

I have recieved a number of emails asking why there have been no fresh letters on this page since the beginning of 2012.

The answer is - no-one has sent one in. It may be that all BBC staff are so happy at present that they don't feel the need to complain about catering/management/cutbacks/IT. However, since Ariel does not write it's own 'readers' letters' this page will not be updated until there are fresh letters to post, so please write to us!

Candida Watson, Editor, Ariel.

Are we dead certs for Audio Drama glory?

The launch of the BBC Audio Drama Awards can be no bad thing - there's loads of good work done in audio drama, and not enough recognition in my opinion. However, I'm left wondering who and what will be eligible for them.

The rules state that 'the BBC Audio Drama Awards will cover audio dramas first broadcast in English in the UK between October 1 2010 and September 30 2011 or first uploaded/published for free listening online in the UK during the same period'.

Now, to my knowledge, there is no outlet for broadcast audio drama in the UK other than the BBC. There are online or download commercial drama ventures around - Big Finish, or the Minister of Chance team, for example - and many of these are very good indeed. However, they tend to follow a subscription model - ad-funded FTA drama is not really feasible, since the market is relatively small - so listening cannot be described as free. (I'd question whether ad-funded FTA listening would be technically free too, but that's a separate question.)

The rules of the awards would therefore seem to explicitly exclude commercial audio drama productions, leaving this a two-horse race between the BBC and amateur audio drama enthusiasts who put their work online for free. And let's face it, one of those racers has a far, far bigger horse. So are we in danger of this being perceived as a licence-funded party in which we get to give ourselves a lovely pat on the back again?

Nic Ford, Tech Lead, R&M Short Order, Future Media POD

Alison Hindell, Head of Audio Drama, replies: This is the first year of the Audio Drama Awards and our initial intention is to celebrate public service audio.

If the awards are a success we may well look again at the entry eligibility requirements for future years.

Disgusted in Tunbridge Wells

Its come to our attention that the cleaning staff in Tunbridge Wells are being employed on short term 11 week contracts - seemingly to avoid having to take them on as full time staff, with all the rights they would then gain as an employee after three months. Is it morally and ethically right for the BBC to endorse a company ( via Balfour Workplace ) using such tactics in taking on its workers? How can we go on air and criticise any other company for its treatment of workers and infringing their employment rights, when the people who vacuum our floors and empty our bins are being denied those very rights themselves?

It seems to be a straightforward piece of corner cutting to make money for the management company, at the expense of the people actually doing the work.

Rob Smith, SBJ, Tunbridge Wells

Ticket displeasure

My wife recently applied for free show tickets for the Julia Donaldson (Gruffalo and more) With Great Pleasure recording. The ad stated that it would be energetic and was with 'children and families in mind'.

Our twins are aged five and the perfect age. We applied and were lucky to receive four tickets - upon which was written that the minimum age to be admitted would be three.

Two days later we received an email to say that the 'recording will not be suitable for children under the age of seven, but accompanied children of seven and over are encouraged'. Why the late change of heart?

It's a good thing we hadn't told our children as they would be incredibly disappointed a few days before Christmas. I don't know why this wasn't stipulated, or apparently known, at any point prior to ticket distribution.

I am sure this email will have deeply unimpressed a great number of parents out there who trust the BBC. Let's hope that the theatre is not embarrassingly quiet on the day.

Andrew Hill, News editing

Caleb Parkin, A&M production co-ordinator, replies:

This age change was suggested by Julia Donaldson in our most recent conversation. She said she did not want people to think this show was designed (as her 'Gruffalo Singalong' shows) for those under seven. We won't be checking the age of those in the audience, but it is, of course, our responsibility to inform parents if we feel that content might not be quite appropriate for the very youngest attendees. Indeed, this is not an absolute but a guideline from Julia based on the content of what is usually an adult strand.

Julia thought it best to advise parents that there would be excerpts from her own reading history - ie by other authors - which might make under sixes a little restless. This was based on her experience as a performer of what works for which age groups.

The editorial content of a programme can change over time - particularly when we're working with a guest presenter over a period of time - and sometimes clashes with sending out the ticket invitation.

We apologise for any misunderstanding and disappointment. It's a fine balance between being well organised ahead of the broadcast and being armed with all the information. Had we gone ahead without the revised age suggestion, we may well have received complaints afterwards.

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