What mistakes should Entwistle avoid?

George Entwistle

As George Enwistle takes over as director general of the BBC, Ariel asks the ghosts of TVC (staff past and present) for advice on what mistakes not to repeat.

Hello Mr Entwistle! We are the Ghosts of TVC: is now a good time to talk freely? We have a few suggestions that might help us get a better licence fee settlement in 2016. You probably know most of this already, but just to let you know: your staff are on your side…

Beware us trying to second-guess you

Some of us are still doing things (or not doing them) because we thought it would please the previous boss, or the one before that. Or the one before the one before that. It's easy to get stuck in bad habits here. In fact, beware us trying to second-guess anyone. You think that's sensible advice… right?

Some things worth doing

* Ask how much each comment left on the BBC site costs, factoring in hosting, moderation, appeals, complaint handling and so on. The comment form is a 2005-era solution to interactivity: is it doing its job and paying its way?

* The Digital Public Sphere. It could save the UK economy, which would be nice - but what is it, and when is it going to happen?

* Your staff don't want to be making identikit factual programmes and copycat dramas. But... what do they want to make?

* Recaps are infuriating for viewers. How about a three-month moratorium on recaps - which are infuriating for viewers - in factual programmes? (Because recaps are infuriating for viewers.)

You just can't appease the Daily Mail

It doesn't matter what the BBC does. It's like offering to buy a piranha a pint when all it wants to do is eat your face. The journalists and owners of the Mail will never ever give us the benefit of the doubt. The readers of the Mail, by contrast, are reasonable people. They pay their licence fee (promptly), enjoy our output and we marginalise them at our peril.

The Charter does not mention programmes

Seriously, you can CRTL+F it. You're probably hearing folk say "the one thing the BBC needs to do is make great programmes." They mean well, but theirs is a world without Robert Peston's blog, the multi-device iPlayer or indeed the engineering to get those programmes to the licence-fee payer.

Let the BBC be the heart of the BBC

This probably sounds obvious, but then Armando Iannucci's advice - that the Beeb should "go abroad and prostitute itself" - probably sounds sensible. It's not. If you're a hooker in NYC, you're a hooker in W1A. Beware the Worldwide tail wagging the public-service dog.

Our viewers, listeners and users are smart

For one thing, they know when they're being inappropriately trailed. Let's let the credits breathe! For another, they've started buying HBO box sets to get a fix of intelligent telly. We'd like to welcome them back by offering the highest common denominator.

We can't do accountability only when it suits us

All the BBC's transparency work makes it so obvious when it doesn't happen - when the corporation hides, muttering "hey look over there" after some very visible cock-up. Let's get out and fight those fires! By contrast, when a partner - an indie, say, or an IT contractor, or a promo provider - initiates a scrap, our instinct seems to be to step in front of them and take the first punch. Yes, we signed the contracts. But it would be gentlemanly of our partners to do the accountability thing too. And should probably also stop apologising when we haven't done anything wrong, or we look like a nervous substitute teacher mumbling "sorry" because he's been hit in the head with a rubber.

Presenters are talking props…

…and props can be replaced. Let us call their bluff. If they want to work for another broadcaster, call them a cab. Better still, teach them how to buy an Oyster card. (Note to presenters: Oyster cards do not work in Salford.)

Sports rights-holders aren't sportsmanlike…

…with new footage or old. Isn't competition supposed to drive prices down, not up, up, up? Someone needs to burst this bubble. But you know this already.

Share the contents of the toybox

We're an engineering company as well as an output provider and have gifted the industry many open standards. In fact, we're obliged to by the Charter but we keep some of the best stuff - CPS, say, or iPlayer - to ourselves. Have you ever tried watching 4oD? Or, heaven forbid, ITV Player? Share the love! If any of us thinks our job is to ship code and stiff the competition like we're working for Apple or something, ask us what we are doing to make BBC Online as loved as TV and radio.

Some suggested "do"s and "don't"s

* Do make sure people display the Union Flag the right way up. These things matter

* Don't let staff spend more than a couple of hours a day responding to complaints from Apple fanboys; Apple haters; either side in Israel/Palestine; home schoolers; religious zealots; atheist zealots; those obsessed with Common Purpose training; those who go on about climate change; vaccination deniers and those who want to abolish the two-pound coin

* Do encourage spell checking. Standards are sliping. How about a pan-BBC style guide?

* Please don't forget to cheer us up. It's been a tough couple of years

Make iPlayer Radio work

Seven years and still the programmes aren't topped and tailed. Please force us to fix this. Bash our heads together if necessary.

Pause for thought

It may seem that all our contracts are about to expire and we'll have no equipment or people to look after it. But some of that kit is legacy junk, no partner is indispensable and we don't have to extend any contract. We can consider our options if we want to keep ahead.

Trust your staff

Individual members of staff are taking over what was once the work of Comms. They should be thanked for it.

The very last consultancy firm we contract…

…should be the one which tells us not to waste any more money on consultants.

Young people aren't louts

Some young people watch Springwatch and its only fart gag was that time the polecat swallowed a pickled egg from Chris Packham's packed lunch.

We will outlive them all

The BBC is more like the Royal Society (1660) or the Royal Mail (1516) than it is like Dave Ja Vu (2009). We were going even before Rupert Murdoch was born. We can play the looooong game.

A silly job title fools no-one

This one you definitely know already. Who are they? What do they DO?

…and relax

Time spent chasing audiences is time that could be spent making amazing output they'll come to us for. The only mission statement we need is the sum total of that amazing output. As they say on MTV Base, haters gonna hate. And as they nearly said on the West Wing, let Entwistle be Entwistle.

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