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Wednesday 10 October 2012, 16:16
Editor's Note - BBC Scotland's Chief Operating Officer, Bruce Malcolm is the first to feature in a new series of blog interviews introducing senior management and the work they do at the BBC. We'll be publishing more interviews from across the BBC in the coming weeks and months. Look out for additional posts about the work of BBC Scotland soon.
What does the Chief Operating Officer for BBC Scotland do?
I look after BBC Scotland’s business and operational side of things. That includes finance, property, planning, technology, production management and our Delivering Quality First plans. The post of Chief Operating Officer was created when BBC Scotland moved its headquarters to Pacific Quay, as a solution to running all operational aspects of the business in the most integrated way.
In addition to this I am also responsible for delivering large projects. The move to Pacific Quay is a good example of that as I led that project from design to delivery which was a process that spanned twelve or thirteen years.
What did you do before you joined the BBC? And what attracted you to the BBC in the first place?
I trained as a chartered accountant and qualified with a major accounting firm, but after working as a consultant for a few years I found myself wanting to do something a bit more challenging. I was drawn towards the arts, culture and broadcasting and I ended up at BBC Scotland because of its unique set up.
When I joined BBC Scotland it was in a very traditional finance role, though over the next ten years I moved through being responsible for each of the key business and operational areas. By the time the post of Chief Operating Officer arose I had a very clear understanding of each of the areas of the business, and believed that integrating them was the way forward for the organisation.
I originally only intended to stay for a few years, but the place got a hold of me and we are now twenty years down the line!
What are you working on at the moment, what's on your to-do list for the next twelve months?
I’m working on the Network Supply Review (NSR), which is how the BBC moves productions out of London and across the UK, alongside meeting stretching savings targets of 16%. It’s a mix of trying to grow BBC Scotland’s business through NSR whilst also improving efficiency.
When Pacific Quay opened in 2007 Mark Thompson committed to at least 8.6% of network television output being produced in Scotland by 2016. This target was in line with the percentage of the Scottish population within the UK. By 2011 we had already reached over 8% so we are well on our way to delivering the 2016 target.
At the moment NSR mainly involves television but we hope to expand it to look at radio and online. This is an incredibly important project because it involves spreading the licence fee spend across the UK, but most significantly, it’s about ensuring local portrayal so that audiences across the country get output which reflects them.
We’re also working towards 2014 which is a huge year for both the BBC and BBC Scotland. There’s the referendum on Scottish Independence and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. In both cases we have to ensure that we deliver the best possible coverage for the audience and in the case of the Commonwealth Games, build on the success of the Olympics.
The final thing that is key to us in the next twelve months and beyond is working in partnership with external organisations. We already do this on topics like training with Creative Skillset Scotland, and our work with Creative Scotland (for example on our co-commissioned drama The Field of Blood) and Planet Ant with our neighbours at the Glasgow Science Centre which you will see next year on BBC Four. The right partnerships allow us to create great content for our audiences in the most efficient way and this is something we are going to increase.
What’s unique about BBC Scotland?
In my opinion the most defining thing about BBC Scotland is that it is a microcosm of the wider BBC. We make every type of programming here for Scottish and network audiences: news and current affairs, sport, landmark factual, drama, daytime and entertainment, comedy, music and events, children’s; we have all platforms – with Radio Scotland as well as the Gaelic language services Radio nan Gaidheal and the television channel BBC ALBA, plus we have online. Our headquarters are at Pacific Quay in Glasgow but we have twenty other bases in Scotland creating a service for the whole country.
In addition to that we deliver something into every single BBC network and there are very few bits of the BBC where that happens, so it gives us a unique insight and level of experience. It does mean that it can be a bit complex at times but the advantage it gives us is that we are small and agile enough to be able to experiment and learn from what we do. It’s easier for us to see what is and is not working which enables us to advise other, larger parts of the BBC, so we play a big part in pan-BBC initiatives as a result of that. One example of that is ‘Creative UK’ – this is a project I’m involved in which partly looks at how network TV is managed in terms of budgets, structures etc to ensure the business is being run in the best possible way.
Another big thing for us is being part of the creative industries in Scotland. Last year our turnover was £170m. £100m of that was spent on Scottish programming which includes things like news, sport, our continuing drama River City, factual documentaries, learning output, Radio Scotland and our online services. The remaining £70m was spent on our network business, supplying content across all the BBC’s genres. Approximately 50% of this content comes from independent production companies so you can see that we spend a significant amount of the licence fee externally on Scotland’s creative industries.
There is a broad range of indies in Scotland, from Tern Television in Aberdeen who make our long running series Beechgrove Garden, and the soon to be transmitted six-parter The Harbour, to the Comedy Unit who have brought us classics like Rab C Nesbitt and more recently Gary: Tank Commander. It’s important to us that there is a sustainable production industry in Scotland as that leads to jobs for production and craft staff, and a better and broader content reflecting Scotland to its own audiences as well as to the rest of the country.
Describe BBC Scotland's headquarters Pacific Quay. What's the best thing about it?
When David Chipperfield talked about his design for Pacific Quay he said he wanted staff to feel as if they were coming to work on a sunny day which is why the building has its open spaces and large amounts of natural daylight. It’s a beautiful building and when you bring guests in you see it again through their eyes.
Pacific Quay is centred around ‘The Street’ which is the stepped sandstone heart of the building. We use the top of each level for meetings, broadcasts and staff gatherings, and underneath each level is one of our studios. It has really worked in terms of connecting staff in the building as it does encourage people to meet one another, people don’t just stay in their own departments - you see everyone every day. There’s also a democracy in the openness – there aren’t any private offices, every member of staff has exactly the same kind of working environment. The same goes for the car park, there aren’t any reserved spaces for senior staff, it’s simply first-come first-served.
You also know you are in a broadcasting environment when you are here, we designed it so that broadcasting runs through it all. You can see right into the radio studios and edit suites from just about anywhere in the building and things like lighting rigs are built into the building as part of the interior design. Wherever you go in the building you are always in touch with production.
What view do you have from your desk?
Our office has floor to ceiling windows with a view of the River Clyde, Glasgow University and beyond that the hills so I’m quite happy where I am! If I turn the other way I’m right next to edit suites and the radio music team so you’re always aware you are part of an organisation that is continually creating content.
What was the last thing you watched via BBC iPlayer? What would you recommend?
The last thing I watched on iPlayer was three episodes of Burnistoun back to back. If you like surreal comedy sketch shows I would recommend that!
I’ve also been a fan of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra since I joined and have been a regular at their concerts for the past twenty years. Their new season just opened at City Halls in Glasgow with Tristan and Isolde which was another memorable and enjoyable evening.
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