What is on George Entwistle's 'to do' list?
"The next BBC director general must be an astute politician who can manage geeks," is how one media commentator put it, long before George Entwistle was appointed to the role. On his first day we ask staff what is on his To Do list.1 : Digital
Even the most design-chic tv might look like a museum piece by the time the new DG nears the end of his tenure. Keeping on top of rapid advances in technology could be a job in itself.
"For some audiences, the web is their world", says James Richards, who runs digital consultancy Chromatrope Ltd. "Many younger people already consume their media entirely on phones, laptops and tablets, so it's essential George articulates his creative ambition for digital. The BBC needs to respond imaginatively to the demand, continuing to deliver its great content in an elegant and innovative way."2 : Licence fee and Charter Review
Debate over the future size and scope of the BBC will begin long before the current Charter expires in 2016, but "keeping quality high when so many jobs are being lost won't be easy," the BBC's Media Correspondent, Torin Douglas warns.
Head of Guardian Media and Technology, Dan Sabbagh, highlights Charter negotiations as already looming large. "Entwistle has a creative background in current affairs and serious factual programming," he says. "But as a leader and negotiator, he's an unknown quantity and will have to demonstrate he can stand up to ministers, MPs or a hostile press." Sabbagh's additional tips include, 'don't mess with the Royals', given criticism Entwistle received for the Corporation's Jubilee coverage, and 'keep a good eye on the Blue Peter pets. Know their names, and if any of them have passed away.'3 : Pensions, pay and DQF
Contentious pensions issues led to strikes in Mark Thompson's time and the road forward doesn't look to be much smoother. The scheme has a deficit of £2.6bn.
Pay and grading is being overhauled because the current arrangement is deemed to lack transparency. "We've committed to not reducing pay for our current employees," says Head of Employee Relations, Diane Dumas. "But we intend to deliver a more efficient pay framework for the future."
NUJ leader Michelle Stanistreet uses the term 'rock-bottom' to describe morale among BBC staff. "George Entwistle will need to work hard," she says. "The spectre of Delivering Quality First hangs over everybody and eight years in succession of cuts have taken a huge toll in increased workloads."
Final DQF proposals were signed off by the Trust in May but implementation will continue until 2016.5: In-house production
With lack of funds an ever present grim-reaper, in-house production at the BBC is creeping into the shadow of the axe. Some industry voices, including former BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey, believe it should be sharply scaled back. But the executive in charge Pat Younge refutes the idea, unsurprisingly. "Sometimes it feels like making programmes is an inconvenient obstacle to running the BBC," he has said. "I want to see George put creativity back at the Corporation's heart."6: The archive project
Sabbagh says the new DG is arriving at a time when the BBC is in pretty good shape - at least compared to when his predecessor took over in the aftermath of the Hutton Inquiry. "Creatively, the Olympics showed just how amazing BBC coverage can be," he says, "and criticism from troublesome right-wing politicians is muted at the moment because they're on the backfoot over Leveson."
Controller of Archive Development, Tony Ageh, believes opening up the BBC's treasure trove of material has the potential to fuel the digital revolution in the same way as coal fuelled the industrial revolution. "iPlayer stimulated the public imagination," he says. "Under the new DG we'll be looking to the next stage, working out how we can bring more of our unique recorded history back to life."
Achieving that involves complex rights issues. But as Head of Talent and Rights Negotiations Roger Leatham points out, "if we'd said when Mark Thompson began that we'd be streaming all content for seven days after broadcast, people would have thought we were mad. Now, potentially, George can look forward to extending iPlayer principles through Project Barcelona." (Barcelona is a content delivery system, currently in development, that could enable audiences to click and buy programmes, rather than just viewing them).7: Office space
Under Mark Thompson there was huge staff migration, with thousands of people moving to Salford and to W1. While hot-desking won't be a personal concern for the new boss, he will ultimately decide where the rest of us sit. Property decisions such as the long term future of the Media Village will be in his gift. "The plan is to reduce the estate by 40% by 2020 (from our current peak) and to return nearly £50m a year of property spend into production and other areas by 2016," says Director of Workplace and Safety, Paul Greeves.8: Worldwide
The commercial arm of the BBC, - BBC Wordwide - has the job of maximising profits on behalf of the BBC by selling the brand and its programmes abroad. Re-investment of the profits is designed to keep the licence fee as low as possible, so decisions made about fat files marked 'Charter Renewal', 'Rights Issues' and 'In-house Production' will be closely watched by the DG's colleagues over the road.
"Jeremy Clarkson will offend all the countries you need to do business with," Sabbagh offers as a final piece of advice. "But learn how to handle outrageous comments. He's your highest paid talent and your biggest export."