Letters to Ariel

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Get in touch with us by emailing 'Ariel Team' in the global address list, tell us your views on BBC content or shout about the great things your team is doing.

Should pool cars be petrol?

I listened to Tom Heap's excellent episode of Costing the Earth on Radio 4 about the impact of diesel cars on the environment. I was listening while driving a BBC pool car back from a job - powered by diesel. The programme described diesel cars as killers that should never have been pushed by the Government and car makers in recent years. I wonder if whoever is in charge of procuring the BBC's pool cars could please reassure me that the fleet will be replaced by petrol engine versions as leases lapse.

I certainly hope they will be, given how much driving we do in towns, at quite low speeds while presumably spewing out noxious gases that wouldn't be emitted in such quantities from petrol engines.

James Ingham, Senior Journalist, BBC South Today

Tracey Morris, Head of Category Sourcing, replies: Thanks for your letter James. We remain committed to reducing the environmental impact of our operations, and are always looking for ways to improve the sustainability of the products and services we buy.

When looking at fleet, we work closely with our suppliers to ensure that informed decisions can be made about the most appropriate vehicle type. We take a range of factors into account, including environmental considerations, the cost of ownership, operational requirements, and best practice within the industry.

To date, diesel vehicles have generally been the preferred option as in most cases they are more fuel efficient. In addition, Government policy since 2002 has resulted in lower road tax costs for diesel vehicles as they emit less CO2. The lower CO2 has resulted in a saving of 700 tonnes of CO2 from our fleet since 2008 - a reduction of 25%.

The BBC has also piloted the use of electric vehicles, and we will continue to evaluate whether these offer a realistic alternative to petrol or diesel vehicles as manufacturers improve the technology and the range of these vehicles.

Clean bill of health

I've had no days off sick at the BBC in twenty years. Is this a record? Do I receive a medal?

Marko Tusar, 247 Operations Engineer, BBC Digital - Online Technology Group

Editor's Note: We don't know for certain whether it's a record, Marko but it's certainly an impressive achievement. Can anyone beat this?

Corbyn character assassination?

The Panorama on Jeremy Corbyn, broadcast just days before the new Labour leader was elected, was seen by many as a character assassination of just one of the four candidates for the post of leader of the Labour party. For the sake of balance did the BBC plan to run similar Panoramas on the other three candidates before the votes have to be returned by 10th September?

Eddie Pitman, Senior Studio Director, 5 live (September 9 2015)

Panorama Editor Ceri Thomas, replies: I'm not sure it's possible to know that Monday's Panorama was 'seen by many as character assassination'. Whether it was or not, we don't have any plans to run similar programmes looking at the other candidates. Our focus was on the man who has been the story of the leadership campaign, Jeremy Corbyn. There have been plenty of policy comparisons between all the candidates and four-way hustings across the BBC, but we're not in general election territory - roughly speaking only 1% of the population has a vote in the Labour leadership - so the important question is whether Panorama was fair to Mr Corbyn. We think it was.

'Too optimistic'

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of doing a deal behind closed doors with the government about picking up the cost of over-75s licence fees, I fear Tony Hall is being too optimistic in the email he sent to all of us.

He writes that 'both the government and the BBC now consider that the financial size of the BBC is set', and also that the BBC will have 'flat licence fee income across the first five years of the next Charter'.

But John Whittingdale made it very clear in parliament, in response to questions from both Chris Bryant and Jesse Norman, that the charter review process will look at 'the scale and scope' of the BBC, and that the level of the licence fee will be set on the basis of that decision.

So there is no guarantee from the government about the future financial size of the BBC. There is simply a promise that whatever the level of the licence fee is after the charter review process, it will then be increased in line with inflation from 2017 onwards. If the scope of the BBC is reduced, the licence fee will inevitably be set at a lower level, the BBC will be smaller, and Tony Hall's calculations about a flat licence-fee income will be proved wrong.

Saleem Patka, WS Languages (July 8 2015)

Let's backtrack on app

I understand the BBC has taken a decision to track mobile devices carried by BBC staff. According to the Guardian, this has already been trialled in News, although I can't find anyone who has been told about it and I certainly do not recall any consultation. Should staff really be learning about this intrusive behaviour through the pages of a national newspaper?

Apparently, according to the Guardian, the BBC feels it "is useful to know where the devices are in the event of them being lost, stolen". Well, there is a perfectly good system on Apple devices that enables users to track a missing phone or tablet already.

This lack of communication might explain why, according to a survey, 81% of staff questioned do not trust the BBC not to misuse this new tracking app. Perhaps it might have been better to inform the staff affected and get their thoughts before going ahead with this Orwellian project.

I want to know why this is seemingly being kept a secret and what we can do to avoid management tracking our movements 24 hours a day without having to turn our phones off.

Nick Serpell, obituary editor, BBC News (June 24 2015)

A BBC spokesperson replies: The BBC uses a variety of commercially available systems to operate and manage its mobile phones and tablets. Some of these systems have additional features that can allow location information to be determined where the device supports it and only at the discretion of the user. This is of benefit to the BBC to help retrieve lost or stolen equipment as part of our drive to minimise costs.

The scheme has not yet been piloted with News and never would be without staff consultation. To date, the additional features have only been piloted with volunteers from other areas of the BBC and the matter is under discussion with the unions.

It is important to note that the location features are not turned on by default. The BBC only chooses to turn them on with the cooperation of the users involved and in specific circumstances. First and foremost, the systems enable staff to work remotely and securely access BBC data from all types of portable devices.

Data protected?

As a studio manager working on live radio programmes, occasionally I am able to book a taxi cab home if my shift finishes after 10:45pm. I book via the One Transport online booking page on Gateway. I found out this week that if I choose to cab-share with someone leaving at a similar time, my full home address is shown on the confirmation page, viewable by not only myself, but the sharer too. Likewise I am able to see their home address. I'm personally not all that concerned as I know my BBC colleagues are trustworthy. But I do find it incredible that I was able to view the home address of one of our national Ten O'Clock News presenters as a result.

Tim Heffer, assistant senior studio manager (June 24 2015)

Marie Dallard, senior procurement manager, replies: One Transport, who provide the BBC's cab service, take the security around the processing of people's data extremely seriously. As soon as we alerted them to this, they ran a full system test with a member of the BBC travel team in attendance. They have not been able to identify or replicate the issue that caused this concern, but are very keen to meet with Tim, as they would like to run a test alongside him to double check that they have not missed any system errors.

Just the job?

Ad for GCHQ job

I subscribe to a radio enthusiasts' magazine called Radio Communication. The latest edition contains this recruitment ad (above) for GCHQ.

Two things strike me: Firstly, they are pretty open about their computer-hacking activities and, secondly, that people involved in ensuring Britain's security are so poorly paid.

Maybe someone in BBC news would like to follow it up?

Chris Arundel, broadcast journalist, Radio Humberside (June 19 2015)

Unsubscribe me

Some years ago when the ill-fated DMI project was still on schedule and on budget, I was involved in some user acceptance testing. As a result I now receive regular updates from 'Fabric Communications' telling me all sorts of technical information. I don't need these - and the cumulative effect of receiving and then deleting them is time lost to other more valuable work. Despite emails to the various names mentioned in the emails, I have in the past few years spectacularly failed in my attempts to unsubscribe. There is no unsubscribe option shown.

It made me wonder: how much accumulated time could we all save if everyone unsubscribed from non-essential emails?

Mark Warburton, business transformation analyst, Policy & Strategy (June 17 2015)

Garry Campbell, metadata services delivery manager, replies: Fabric is the BBC's primary tool for accessing archive content. Many people across the organisation rely on it to carry out their day-to-day work and it is important that they are kept up to date with any issues that might affect their ability to use the service.

However, I understand that if the communications being issued are no longer appropriate, the unwanted emails would be annoying. I will ensure that Mark is removed from the comms d-lists, and I will also see if it is possible to add an unsubscribe link on the emails.

Bristol in need

Great news that the BBC has managed to make such huge savings with the Media Village deal. Obviously, DQF savings have to be met, but please could some of this money come to Bristol to upgrade our site?

We're still partly based in crumbling Victorian buildings in desperate need of refurbishment. The buildings especially need insulation and new windows as it's freezing in winter and too hot in summer. Our carbon footprint can't be being helped by this.

Martin Tweddell, Production Accountant, Factual (June 15 2015)

BBC Workplace replies: We are investing significant resources to improving and upgrading the BBC Bristol site, with works to repair the windows scheduled to take place later this year. We will continue to work closely with staff on energy saving carbon reduction initiatives.

Too close to dinner

I've just shared a completely rammed lift at NBH for seven floors squashed beside someone busy eating a roast dinner with all the trimmings from a takeaway carton. I was a couple of inches from gravy and a Yorkshire pudding.

I don't think it was great for any of us, apart from the diner. And they didn't even have a napkin.

Marek Pruszewicz, editor, global partnerships (May 22 2015)

Don't rate the change

Why has one perfectly suitable word of three syllables, 'appraisal', been replaced by three words totalling nine syllables, 'performance development review'?

Such unnecessary jargon typifies management at the BBC and makes it a laughing stock in places such as Private Eye.

Matthew Marks, R&D (May 20 2015)

Kate Sloggett, head of people development, replies: We've changed the name to reflect the fact that these conversations shouldn't be just about one person 'appraising' the other's performance. A Performance Development Review should provide an opportunity to discuss a person's role and career in a honest conversation. We want staff to focus on their ideas and ambitions for development and how they might want to get on in their career as well as receiving feedback on their work over the past year.

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