Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tentative Return

Been a while, hope you're all well. I'll try to post here a bit more often next year.
Latest news? I should have a new short story coming up for Obverse Books' Faction Paradox collection in 2011, first draft's just about sorted.
Erm... I revisited Jungle Jeremy, an old script of mine, on Audioboo to get some sound design practice in again. I hadn't done a really big project since 2007 and I miss it. It starts here, It's a period adventure parody in six five minute long pieces and I'm quite pleased with how it worked out for a hobby piece. Each section has a link to the next under it if you make it past the initial set up.
Will write again soon!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Anti-Social Media


How much time do you have? It turns out it's a limited amount, and yet somehow everything has to get done in it.

I've noticed I've been posting a lot less on here in the last year or so, and I think that's partly because of Facebook, which started off as a fabulous way for me to keep in touch with people and maintain the illusion of office chit-chat while working in splendid isolation but seems to have slowly turned into a devourer of both work and leisure time. It's dangerously full of instant gratification, distractions, campaigns and really fascinating and funny people in far too many time-zones all conspiring to lure you away from your true course, and, as a bonus, eating up the slack time you'd have spent writing an occasional "weblog" in bite-size status update chunks.

It's got particularly wearying the last few weeks as I've been researching and tentatively writing bits of a play, and have reached the stage where research has become a delaying tactic keeping me from to the main business of actually writing and Facebook has become what I do in the breaks between the delaying activity.

So, as a little experiment I've decided to give Facebook up for a bit and see how the working days shape up without it. Next week will be Facebook free, almost as if my life is some annoying lifestyle article in a quality broadsheet that assumes you live the same media-saturated life as the author. Twitter's going too, it's even more littered with links for the butterfly-brained than Facebook and far less like real conversations.

We'll see how it goes. Who knows, the extra time this e-cold turkey buys me may even allow me time to complete a half finished AudioBoo sitting in pieces on my hard disk or complete this sentence eve

Thursday, 1 July 2010


Just returned from the TV Drama Writers Festival in Leeds, a really interesting couple of days (some of which was video recorded and I expect will end up on the BBC Writersroom page fairly soon).

It was really nice to catch up and chat with some writers and producers I'd met before and meet a few people for the first time, among them Dan Tetsell, the script editor of Radio 7's NewsJack who's put some things of mine into the show, even if not all of them made into the transmitted episodes!
I also discovered a heartbreaking missed opportunity relating to last year's Bill Mitchell radio documentary, a very famous actor's daughter had 'phoned up after transmission asking why he hadn't been asked to contribute. If we'd known he was a mate of Bill's we would have gone to him like a shot!

Tributes to Alan Plater were, of course paid and quite right too. I only met him once, quite briefly, and always wanted to meet him again. A very warm, approachable and supremely talented man, he was also wonderfully indiscreet about the film star Ava Gardner within minutes of our meeting. How brilliant is that? Funny, clever and nice. Never take that rare combination for granted.

There were some great sessions across the two days with Toby Whithouse, Tony Jordan, Alice Nutter and Jed Mercurio among those giving some serious food for thought., and you can glean a flavour of them from Twitter where Jason Arnopp in particular has been reported some of the pull out quotes, I found John Yorke's presentation on popular series very interesting this morning and full of farmore really useful practical advice than I'd expected. If it doesn't end up detailed elsewhere or on the BBC pages, I'll write up some of my notes at some point. I've also become fixated on the idea that documentary maker Adam Curtis who spoke at the event is a young Oliver Postgate, they share the same gentle patrician toned narration voice and Curtis even has a slight look of the great man. I now desperately want to see a Curtis film in the cut up collage style of his The Power of Nightmares using only bits of old Small Films shows (The Power of Bagpuss?)

Hats off to all involved. Having given a presentation to young writers recently I can easily imagine just how much more daunting mounting two days of the things to battle-weary veterans would be.
Particularly pleased to have found myself having new drama ideas as a result of being there. Sometimes you only find out what you think when you find you're saying it aloud to someone else...

Friday, 11 June 2010

It's Only A Model! Sshh!

From what I've read, mainly press bumph, Chris Chibnall's Camelot (apparently an extension of abandoned early thoughts for what became the Merlin TV series) seems to be another wrong way to do a King Arthur series, though I could easily be stupidly wrong, as usual.

I should stress that for my money the only two really good King Arthur TV shows were Andrew Davies' Sunday serial The Legend of King Arthur from 1979 and the RSC Morte D'Arthur from 1984, which was essentially a beautifully illustrated monologue with actors as moving pictures behind John Barton's finely judged reading of the end of Malory.

For me, it should be a Precinct Drama with Camelot as the big standing set- lots of writers, big ensemble cast, a new quest of the week every time, and a running back-story at court that comes together at the series end, an anthology drama series with shared secondary characters like Clocking Off.

It should be made like The Bill or Doctors with several episodes in production simultaneously, all using different leads and crews and there really shouldn't be a house style, it could be political, allegorical, gritty, funny or fantastical as each quest required.

I'd like Jimmy McGovern to show-run it as The Table, with an initial run of 8 x 60min, please. Bring it to me for Autumn 2012, ta.

Monday, 31 May 2010


I'm going to start moderating comments. Sorry, just too much spam now.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

It's a Question of Time - The Mystery of Karen Shuttleworth's Age

1970 was a busy year for John Shuttleworth, perhaps the busiest we know of - he triumphed as Wishee Washee at the Dinnington Alhambra, married, became a widower, was involved in a crazy road accident and met his second wife recuperating. The other key dates in his life are somewhat harder to judge.
It's clear his sole agent Ken Worthington doesn't move in next door until some point after his 1973 New Faces appearance but we never establish exactly when.

We also know that Darren, John's son is a teenager legally allowed to work in Victoria Wine by 1993. We can extrapolate a birth date somewhere around 1974-1975 from this. We also know John's younger daughter Karen was inspired by Band Aid in December 1984 to offer her tangerine to the starving. As Karen was then aged 10 it appears Karen was also born before the end of 1974, meaning there's probably around a year between the pair in age. However, at the time of the Europigeon TV special in 1998 Karen is still at school (despite apparently being 24 years old). One might argue that Europigeon involves several scenes clearly recreated for TV that had we'd previous heard occurring for real on the radio in 1994, but that still leaves us with a 20 year old schoolgirl Karen.

This can perhaps be fudged if we assume John has merely claimed Karen was on a school trip at the time of Europigeon to excuse her absence from proceedings. Perhaps he wishes to obscure details of her life to avoid his celebrity impacting on her existence, perhaps John claimed she was 10 at the time of her 1984 charitable gesture simply because it scanned better.
We know that Karen has now finally left both school and home and although Shuttleworth time seems to move slower than normal time we can tentatively assume she's now somewhere between the ages of 28 and 36. It is rumoured we may learn more of her circumstances as this current series continues.

However with John and Mary celebrating their silver wedding anniversary in 2003 everything gets completely mucked up. Oof.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

April is the Cruellest Month

I haven't so much let April slip by like March did, as not tell you- my loyal readers who so eagerly fill my comments box with non European characters that I instinctively mistrust, what I've been up to.

Well, I've displaced some of this 'bloggery time to Audioboo.fm. You can find my posting there at audioboo.fm/ianzpotter, I like the five minute limit of it, and I may dabble in talking directly onto the thing like most users more in future, at the moment I'm mainly posting old recordings and new short bits of work there. Of course this development has also sent me into the dread clutches of twitter where most Audioboo users seem to spend their real lives (there I'm at twitter.com/ianzpotter).

I've spent the last few weeks getting cross about the standard of political discourse in the country and have fled on a number of occasions to the BBC World Service - in the daytime, when Radio 4 is still on! Unbelievable!
It's been reassuring to hear news about the Greek economy and German politics and massive oil slicks rather than bulletins entirely devoted to dissecting the fallout from the entrapment of a politician who has been dismissive of someone in private.

You can also find this rather ace trail on there a lot at the moment.
It's the work of Ben Motley who used to produce the Comedy Club for Radio 7. I expect he'll get prestigious trailer awards for it.

The last couple of days I've spent working up a little audio demo for a comedy pilot, which has been interesting and helped remind me just how bloody useless vocoders are for most sound design jobs. More on that if anything comes from it.

Hope you're enjoying the new Doctor Who. I am. Episodes 1 and 4 have both been great, with episodes 2 and 3 only marred for me by some hurried, gappy plotting here and there, some surprisingly static direction and of course those rather odd shaped new Daleks which look distinctly clunky in profile. The regulars are great.

Next week I'll be presenting the Q&A for the new Chris Morris film, Four Lions at the Sheffield Showroom with producer and Warp boss Mark Herbert, so I'm looking forward to that a lot.

I think those are your highlights. The most intriguing development is this, though... Is it returning through the Darkness? http://bonkst.tumblr.com/ Search me.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Time Marches On...

Seem to have mislaid March. Not quite sure how that happened. It was full of stuff, I just seem not to have told you about it. Highlights were friends having a baby, seeing Richard Herring give his Hitler Moustache and the Northern Lights sort of glow slightly. I also attended a rather interesting conference about radio production, discovered the interesting, if currently slightly underpopulated, world of Audioboo and had a few sort of ideas.
Hardly seems 31 days worth though, does it? Must do better.

Friday, 5 March 2010

My Answers to the BBC Strategy Review Consultation

This is very long, but if you're bored enough to want to know what I think and feel, here it is in detail.
If you want to know the questions I'm responding to you'll have to do the thing yourself.


I agree with only two of the principles unreservedly- putting quality first and guaranteeing access to licence fee payers. Of course judgements of 'quality' are necessarily subjective, which makes the principle difficult to pin down.

Objective 2's talk "stopping things in some areas" is too vague to make it a useful principle and when coupled the concept of "value for money" in Objective 4 becomes a dangerous one, if misinterpreted to mean the BBC must produce only output aimed at larger audiences.
Together they set a disturbing precedent for the Corporation.
The BBC and the commercial broadcasters work as correctives to each other, thus my feeling is that while having a place as a broadcaster to audiences of 10 million and above the BBC has to recognise that with media fragmentation there are now many more people not listening to or viewing the big populist programmes and it has a vital role in supporting the 'niche' audiences which a straightforward commercial broadcaster, primarily governed by a need to make money, would resist.

For this reason I have to reject objectives 2 and 4.

Objective 5 is a meaningless open phrase, which can be interpreted as either cutting back or expanding areas of operation. It is 'management speech' which I find unhelpful. If, as I assume, it is a euphemistic phrase to cover cutting back on BBC services, it should be expressed more boldly and honestly. I think there is an argument for pulling back on some areas of operation which broadly replicate advertising funded broadcasting.

The BBC should

Reflect the diversity of voices of our country

Be the home for both intelligent broadcast and popular entertainment

Provide services which set standards for high quality output across the fragmenting digital market place.

Increase the accessibility of its wide ranging archive holdings and ensure the continued production of a similarly broad output in future.

Put the interests of its licence fee payers above the complaints of competitors.

TV Current Affairs output has been weakened. Panorama is a shadow of the programme it was. Tabloid, personality led and afraid to deal with issues of complexity.

I would also say that BBC One daytime programming is insufficiently distinguishable from its commercial competitors. However I appreciate the costs in producing quality TV for the smaller daytime audiences are considerable.
Given the problems commercial broadcasters claim to have at present, I'd suggest that if the BBC is overstretched financially then reducing daytime TV output might be a valid alternative. Does the BBC really have to be broadcasting across the whole day on two channels given that the majority of people accessing BBC output during normal working hours are using the radio, web, CBBC or CBeebies?

Children's Radio considers to be a disaster. Since the demise of the old Radio 5 it has been shunted around the schedule like an unwanted public service obligation. It occurs to me that some of the many, many hours Radio 5 Live Extra is broadcasting a loop of highlights could be put to better use allowing children a chance to learn the valuable skill of imaginative listening.
Its current shunting onto BBC Radio 7 at hours that force it to be consumed via iPlayer alone is an absurdity.

More authored drama on television. The growth of the series and serial as dominant forms of TV drama and the growth of a commissioning culture that seeks to smooth off the idiosyncrasies of writers has resulted in a surfeit of technically competent copyists of popular forms while stifling a range of interesting voices.
A single drama slot in the traditions of The Wednesday Play and Play for Today would go some way to restoring challenging TV drama as something the BBC produces rather than buys from HBO.

Children's TV now needs to reclaim some of its older viewers, if Blast and Switch are going so that there is a valid alternative for younger teens to the output of commercial broadcasters. Older teens have BBC THREE as well as E4 but the younger teens were taken out of CBBC's remit when Blast and Switch were introduced.

BBC ONE is adequate at present. The popular drama and comedy from Spooks and Doctor Who and QI to Outnumbered works well but I think both the Breakfast and Daytime schedules are insufficiently distinct from ITV1 and Channel 4 offerings.
Current Affairs is also poorly served on ONE, and the clash of BBC and ITN bulletins as 10PM is an unfortunate result of the confusion of market forces, public service and the dictates of watershed scheduling.
I also feel ONE should look at its late night film schedule, increasingly composed of fairly recent but often quite poor output. Audiences after 11pm at night are unlikely to be scared of older output which may often be of greater 'quality' (again that difficult word to measure). I don't know when I last saw a black and white film on BBC ONE, yet I regularly rent them on DVD and often go to see them at the cinema, it seems sad the BBC which gave me much of my cinematic education seems reluctant to do so for future generations.

BBC TWO has lost some of its identity since many of its natural evening programmes became BBC FOUR originated shows repeated there.
The saga of the poor treatment of the documentary film strand Storyville does not need to be rehearsed here. I welcome the pledge that distinctive comedy is to have a home on TWO again. The identity of TWO as a more adventurous comedy commissioner has been somewhat muddied by the shows shared with THREE and FOUR or 'promoted' to ONE. The confidence to schedule programmes in fixed positions would of course be welcomed. The recent development of the 'post Newsnight ' slot for comedies that weren't drawing audiences in their original timeslot speaks volumes for the crisis of confidence at TWO!

THREE is naturally a confused channel, it's the nature of the audience it covers! I find much of its factual output patronising, but I understand that these kind of Entertainment Features shows are considered to be the best way to reach a youth audience. The 'fanzine' shows built on the back of more mainstream show 'brands' are also somewhat formulaic, but some of the drama and comedy output is of an excellent standard.

BBC FOUR is sadly only about a third of a channel, most of the output is of an excellent quality and aimed squarely at viewers like me, but for financial reasons it all has to be repeated far too often. I wouldn't however want the station to have it's output re-merged into BBC TWO simply because now TWO's identity has shifted to exclude the majority of FOUR style programming I believe it will be nigh on impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

BBC PARLIAMENT broadcasts some occasionally interesting output and often fascinating archive material. Obviously the current content is often out of its control! I particularly enjoyed the broadcast of Stephen Fry's speech in defense of the BBC's core values some time ago. It's a rousing, heartfelt declaration of what's good about the Corporation that I hope staff at all levels at the BBC can take on board, particularly when feeling beleaguered by attacks from the commercial media sector! One of the Corporation's many valuable niche services.

Red Button content rarely works on my Digibox so I'm unable to judge it beyond that level.

The output of Radio 1 and 2 is depressingly personality led, anodyne and musically unadventurous. It is perhaps too like commercial radio if the BBC management's current argument that it should not be damaging radio competitors is to be taken seriously.

Radio 1 last had me as a regular listener when the Evening Sessions ended around 2002. My listening in the last 8 years has not encouraged me to return often since. I absolutely accept that Radio 1 has to continue to cater to its core audience of young pop music fans interested in celebrity culture and pop music and understand that change to that remit to attract listeners in their 30s and above would cause changes to the identity of the station that should be resisted.

Radio 1Xtra I have listened to less than half an hour of. It was unclear to me what its remit was beyond a broad perception it was to cover the catch all 'Music of a Black Origin' which the very chart orientated Radio 1 wasn't catering for. It's unclear to me if this distinction would be retained under the proposed changes to output which talk about forging closer links between 1 and 1Xtra. Cynically, I suspect that just means reducing the amount of unique output generated for 1Xtra.

I welcome the presence of popular culture documentaries and Mark Radcliffe's warm, intelligent programme in the evenings on Radio 2. However I turn to them only when other broadcasting offers no better alternative. I find the comedy output on Radio 2 distinctly uninspiring, having last found myself engaged by a 2 show when That Was Then, This Is Now aired in January 2008.
The BBC's management's pledge to better serve its existing older audience for Radio 2 seems wise. The channel does seem confused at present not knowing who it's talking too.

Radio 3 I listen to only occasionally, mainly for Early Music, some of its spoken word Arts coverage and occasional drama. I have no complaints about its output, when I listen to it I find it of the very highest quality, it is simply a station that I desire to listen too only occasionally.

Radio 4 is a station I've been a fan of since childhood, though I personally regret the increasing star-led homogeneity of its comedy output, the 11PM slots were once trumpeted as experimental though they rarely are now, and although find the consumers affairs output unlistenable I find the rest of it generally excellent.
I would suggest that the combativeness of the regular presenters of Today and Any Questions is less effective in generating useful discussion than the playful but direct approach of Eddie Mair on PM. Sometimes they make heat rather than light and they could learn a lot from his approach. Seasoned media operators know they have limited time on air, and often find a row serves them better than a calm debate.

Radio 5Live, I listen to only for football commentary, and have only the partisan debates about perceived bias that all fans have when an ill informed pundit talks unfavourably about their team.

5 Live Sports Extra, seems to primarily broadcast the same as 5 or extended looping trailers for what's coming up.
If the BBC does plan to reduce spending on sports rights this seems a white elephant for the brief periods it is in operation.
I must confess this may be because of my individual usage of media- when I want to follow more than one sports event at once I turn to the BBC Website text summaries if by a computer, or Sky Sports News if by a television. If I'm near neither, I've no access to a digital radio.

6 Music is the only music radio station I listen too regularly, being sufficiently intelligent, amusing, and diverse to keep me from using the Last.FM website to discover new music.

BBC Radio 7 remains an engaging station though its limited resources have meant that its previous distinct commissioning of new comedy is now greatly reduced and the library of cleared archive it has to draw on is too small and too often repeated. It has recently begun to draw more on BBC local output and independently produced new drama which can be acquired cheaply, but are regrettably not always to the standard of some of its other output. The unwelcome development of rapid repeats of Radio 4 output is also regrettable, it reduces the uniqueness of the station, making it just a way to extend a show's iPlayer life at times! I strongly suspect this is also driven by finances.
The talk of rebranding Radio 7 as Radio 4 Extra leads me to fear a further reduction of the station's distinctiveness under the new proposals.

BBC Asian Network, I have listened too only for several hours, hearing a few weeks of the soap opera Silver Street and some lively discussion and music programmes. Although I'm not Desi, I'm interested in a range of cultures and a wide variety of music. I can't really honestly judge the station on my limited listening, and I'm not its primary audience. I'm not aware of any similar station where I live (in Sheffield) which worries me if it is lost. Will only areas with very large Asian population have a regional alternative if the service goes?

The BBC World Service- I occasionally listen too, more after Radio 4 close down that by DAB or Digibox. I'm aware it's resources have been cut back, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has as much interest in it as the BBC itself. I welcome the work it does, reporting international news in a way no domestic service covers and doing the value work of spreading the best of the BBC and Britain to a huge and understandably diverse audience. The new station branding with a voice declaiming BBC is less easy on the ears than Lillibulero but that's the concern of a British late night listener more than it is the core audience's!

Local TV and Radio I consume very irregularly, their very soft magazine news output and playlists similar to Radio 2 daytime output don't draw me in and so I'm ill-placed to judge these services.

The BBC's web pages are, I find, invaluable for news, the iPlayer, Sports commentary and increasingly podcasts.
The ongoing release of archive collections is also a very welcome feature.
The various fora are occasionally useful but as is the nature of such beasts often ridiculous combative places, generating more heat than light like the Today programme at its worst!

Not exclusively.
I have to strongly object to number 5.

The event that brings large groups together, often excludes more people than it includes. There are large portions of the population for whom state occasions, major religious festivals and sporting occasions hold no interest. The BBC should always have room for reflecting our diversity. The big 'unifying' Christmas Day hits on BBC ONE are watched by a minority of the population. There are always more of us wanting to do, watch, read, or listen to something else. We are not a Monoculture.
If the BBC fixates on reaching mass audiences, it reduces its claim to speak for us all.
It is a difficult balance obviously- the BBC will always be attacked by rivals for being either too popular or too esoteric, but it must strive for that balance.
There are sometimes big events that the BBC must choose to ignore.

These proposed changes are symptomatic of what troubles me in the current management's vision of the BBC.
They are confused, and self-contradictory and play into the hands of those who oppose public service.

Firstly, they aim to make cuts to radio and new media while leaving television the medium that can most easily absorb cuts untouched.

Secondly they fly in the face of preparing the country for digital switch-over across media.

Thirdly, they have confused rationale behind them as publicly expressed (the rationale are so confusing one might suspect that there are other reasons behind those being publicly stated. The cause celebre of 6 Music, is a station which we're being told is both too niche and too like other offerings (it clearly fits neither Radio 1 or 2 demographics and prominent figures in both commercial radio and the music industry refute claims that the private sector can offer anything comparable).

Fourthly, the empty words 'doing less things better' does not tally with my vision of the BBC. Some of the things the BBC is doing very well indeed and cost-effectively are amongst those now under threat and are services I believe reflect what should be the Corporation's core ethos. The blandness of the statement allows a multitude of interpretations, dividing objectors into those who dislike one type of programming or another, offering a variety of alternative sacrificial lambs for the chop. The principle being espoused has no relation to the actions being proposed. If money needs to be spread more thinly, all the huge changes you're making to radio could be paid for by having News 24 carry on a bit longer in the morning or BBC ONE close down for an hour in the afternoon. A cynic might think a difficult decision like this has been avoided because of how it would play in the media, when 'fringe' interests in digital radio can be picked off individually.

Individually, these proposed cutbacks would deprive me of one of my favourite radio stations 6 Music and begin the process of destroying the unique identity of one of my other favourites, BBC Radio 7, but that is not my primary concern. Thoselosses are symptoms of what I believe to be a wrong headed approach to the Corporation's future.

I think the current review has naively gambled to court short-term popularity with politicians while neglecting to serve the greater good of the BBC and the public,

I would expect Digital TV and DAB radio transmission to be rolled out across the UK with a full range of channels to make switchover worthwhile rather than an exercise in selling radio bandwidth!
I would also expect that the analogue transmissions of radio and TV continue until there is sufficient take up of the receiving technology to make switch over practical. It's not enough that there are transmitters covering everywhere, you have to make people want the receivers! By cutting digital content you slow the take up of new services, transmission and content are connected!
I welcome the iPlayer, with the failure of Project Kangaroo expect to see further and further commercial challenges to this popular and core BBC service. It should be defended vociferously, as it is likely to be the next public service challenged for having a commercial impact.

The TV Heaven facility at NMeM and the BFI's Mediatheque building on it, have proven a desire for the general public as well as specialist researchers to have greater access to archive programming.
The BBC has done good work building on this with the online archive collections. It is regrettable that the useful accessible version of the BBC's INFAX catalogue was taken off line. Information is sometimes just as useful as the programme content itself.
Greater access to archive will almost certainly require dedicated broadcast channels (like 6 Music and Radio 7 ironically), and an expansion of the BBC's online presence (again I'm sure the irony won't escape you).
It will also require money. Rights don't come cheap. During a period of proposed cost-cutting and axeing and rebranding archive services I don't see how the laudable aim of making our broadcast heritage more accessible can be met.

Regrettably, there is no easy way of squaring this with "doing fewer things better".

I am not concerned about the BBC's value for money. I'm not sure why you think I am.
I am however concerned about the value for money of SKY packages, which is why I don't use them. It might at some point be worth spending some time drawing up some detailed price comparisons for the services. I doubt many newspapers would run them, but it would be instructive to those who could find media outlets that would print them.

Not all of them.

Pop is a ridiculous label for the diversity of Radio 1, Radio 2 and 6 Music's output, it assumes a homogeneity of output that simply isn't the case. I strongly disagree with this.

I am not a teenager and have not used Switch or Blast! but I am nervous about the dismissal of teenage programming as 'niche' and the Director-General's reassurance that teens can get their programming for C4 and E4. Everyone who ends up paying the license fee used to be a teenager and teenagers deserve a chance to find a part of the BBC that serves them.

There is a valid argument for the reduction of imported film and drama if alternative programming of similar quality can be made or bought from within the UK. In the fragmented TV market place it is pointless getting in a bidding war with Channel 4 or Five for output that will air to most viewers here regardless, if it is of decent quality.

Similarly, for the BBC to stop competing for some sports rights might help end the hyperinflation in that sector. However this may come into conflict with the avowed desire to screen major events expressed in the proposals.
Personally, I believe it may be time to relinquish all live TV Football for other providers to compete for. It could mean I'd be unable to watch it in my own home again, which I would personally regret, but I think the sacrifice worthwhile for the future of the BBC.

BBC local TV and radio seem to be already stretched to near breaking point so I think it wise not to attempt further expansion at present.

Focussing a website is an interesting challenge, they tend to sprawl by their nature. I'm not convinced the recent creation of a permanent website for every programme linked to its iPlayer page has been either useful or successful for example. If the BBC is under pressure to provide less to its web-users I think the website has to evolve reactively to its use. If services are to be lost it should be through a slow period of atrophy based on the use of the pages rather than a top-down decision of which areas should be axed. Responding to users is always the key to managing change.

I believe that having gone as far as it has from what it once was the Radio Times could be sold off. It might well benefit both parties if the corporation and magazine were publicly separated.

There will be in years to come increased calls to sell off the entirety of the BBC's commercial subsidiary BBC Worldwide.
That's far too big an argument to be bundled into this consultation, but if the Corporation is to thrive while facing commercial opposition it is a debate that will need to be addressed. Management will need to carefully prepare strategies, arguments and defences if it wishes to preserve this key asset.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


6 Music closure

I emailed the duty office when this was leaked last week and received information relating to the station's last review which was, of course, out of date, though the messages of praise for the station were pleasing, as, in the few years they've been on air, 6 Music and Radio 7 have joined Radio 4 as my stations of choice.

Now that the Director General has publicly stated his intentions can I ask that the Trust considers its role as representative of the BBC's audience and challenges his plans?

6 Music is the BBC's only music station to take the popular culture of the last 50 years seriously. Radio 2 and Radio 1 are dominated by personalities and cautious playlists in a way that closely replicates commercial stations. 6Music has no counterpart in the private sector because it is core public service broadcasting, it is, simply, as Radio 3 is to Classic FM.
The growth of the station is impressive given the take up and roll out of digital radio, its cost per listener is one of the smallest of the DAB stations.
The signal sent out by closing one of the BBC's unique assets and choosing to reduce the Corporation's presence in New Media, may please the opponents of the BBC as a public service provider of diverse output, but it would be a sad day for those of us who believe the survival of BBC and its high standards is vital if we are to maintain the health of our broadcasting sector.

Although I'm not a core user of the Asian Network, Blast or the BBC's websites I can see they too are about serving diverse audiences to a high standard, surely the BBC's number one objective in a fragmenting marketplace. I would argue daytime BBC One television actually serves the public far less effectively, and might be a more economic sacrifice if sacrifice must be seen to be made.

For over a decade I was a curator at what is now the National Media Museum and I've written extensively on the broadcasting of the last 60 years, and I worry about the political naivety displayed in the plans related today.
If the BBC is to continue to serve us then it has to prioritise the provision of output that is not replicated elsewhere. Please reject the short-termist thinking behind this decision that I honestly believe imperils the BBC's reputation and future.

Yours faithfully

Ian Potter

EDITED TO ADD- this was written before it became clear the preferred address for responses to the Digital Strategy was srconsultation@bbc.co.uk. I sent it there as well, just for safety.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Dad, what's a 'Father and Son'? Well, it's a very specific sort of sketch with a hugely elaborate set up, piling up lots of information up front...

This week I've been reading a lunatically good book. Let's be honest though, you need something approaching my level of lunacy to really appreciate it.

It's "Prime Minister You Wanted to See Me?": A History of "Week Ending" by Ian Greaves and Justin Lewis.

Week Ending was of course BBC Radio 4's long-running, only occasionally funny,topical comedy show. Anyone was allowed to write for it, and I was one of the thousands who did, like many of its contributors sending in sketches by post on a Monday or Tuesday that I hoped might still just be topical by the weekend (towards the programme's end I'd graduated to faxing sketches often as late as a Wednesday). It was where we began to learn the form.

The book kicks off with a brilliant and lovingly researched extended essay on the series and its history with some lovely script extracts and then kicks into over-drive with lists, great big detailed lists, an index, and pleasing nerdery on Week Ending spin-offs, spoofs and music.
It's alarming just how many tightly coiled memories reading it unravels.
Perhaps the greatest joy in it is the listing of sketch and newsline titles, tantalising reminders of past political and cultural concerns, sometimes functional, sometimes punning or obscure, sometimes absolutely undecipherable.
It's also allowed me to map precisely the Week Ending contributions of three ex-colleagues,three Facebook friends, all sorts of writer heroes including Douglas Adams, Tony Sarchet, Marshall and Renwick and of course Tim Hincks of Endemol, and discover that my first ever broadcast sketch was performed by Josh Darcy, the guy who organised the celebrations of Ken Campbell at the Metafex festival in 2008.

Somehow, reading it made me feel having had a second sketch recorded for Radio 7's Newsjack recorded and then cut before transmission a week or so back was a good thing- part of a continuum, for me and BBC radio.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

"Like I said..."

"Like I said..." has to be the single piece of dialogue I most loathe.

It turns up a lot these days on TV and Radio drama and I've taken vehemently against it.
Perhaps it's my problem, not the line's, but here anyway are my top reasons for hating it-

1. It often doesn't fit the character who's supposed to be saying it.
For example, almost any character who's over 40, or who we're expected to believe is 'posh' (ie. a baddie), is more likely to go with "As I said," (or possibly "as I say") instead.
It's, to my ears, quite a young character's line, and not one I usually expect to hear authority figures use.

2. It's so self-conscious, a character referring to themselves and their actions as though standing back, summing themselves up.
Sometimes that's fine. Mainly, it isn't.
Most characters are driven by forces they don't understand, and as soon as they start talking like this they're on a journey towards either being the kind of complex, realistic, slightly dull people who never get anything done, or unutterably smug and self-regarding cartoon characters- the kind of people who know they're a major character and are acting up.

3. It quite often precedes those horrible bits when you see the writer peeking through and you'd rather not.
"Like I said, that apparently throwaway line before is actually so thematically important I'm going to repeat it now, revealing its significance." I hear gears grind and don't like it.

4. You can normally cut it and lose nothing (bar my annoyance).

5. I'm irrational and ridiculous, but, like I said, "perhaps it's my problem, not the line's."

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Repeat 'Til Fade

Hello, I'm back, please feign awareness of my absence, and the year is already accelerating downhill towards Spring.

Lovely break in Cuba, of which I may speak when I have something suitably pithy and glib to reductively label it with.
I've also come back lighter than I went (I got absolutely massive over the Summer and Autumn last year), this is a good fact, thanks to my continued work with a revolutionary diet plan- less food, more exercise, no alcohol. Who would have ever thought a crackpot scheme like that could work?

Anyway, I'm back with a new idea to work on (as well as some old ones to keep flogging away at), so I'll probably continue being a rubbish correspondent for a little while, but while you're waiting for all-new mildly disappointing material from me I've come back to discover BBC Radio 7 is re-running No Tomatoes again, some of my mildly disappointing 2007 material, a fourth airing (which I believe now, means I'm due some extra money). Episode 2 is still on-line until about midnight on Sunday.

Hope to have more for you soon.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Welcome back Potter

I think it was John Lennon who once sang-
"So this is January the 14th, and what have you done? Missed the 12th day of Christmas by a good week for one."
I think that was what he sang, at least once anyway. I wasn't really listening (a bit like anyone who thinks John and Yoko whisper greetings to each other at the start of the slightly modified single version of this ditty- listen again but with your volume dangerously high, and while you're at it check if your copy of Desire by Bob Dylan, of course you have one, you bought it as a 'Columbia- Nice Price' release, is one of the ones where you can hear Emmylou Harris saying a swear in the fade-out of Oh Sister).

So, what have I done? Well, I've watched the snow obviously, gone for some vigorous walks in the stuff, written some jokes, looked at dispiriting football on the telly, lost a little bit of the evil extra weight I've acquired gradually over the last year.
Not that much really- in fact it seems to me to me like I've lived my life like a candle in the kitchen drawer, only occasionally useful and mainly just taking up room.
I think it was me who once sang that.

Essentially I've been gearing up and rarely getting further than an hour's walk away from the house, or getting more than four pages of anything written in a day.
That all changes soon though, because I'm about to go on holiday for two weeks and thus write much, much less, much, much further away from the house! Hooray!

Today, I excitingly got an email to say something short I'd written at the start of the week had been recorded for the radio (for the open writers sketch show Newsjack), which was nice. It has however now hit the metaphorical cutting room floor. Still, a few hours mild anticipation of some pocket money is better than not being thought good enough to be recorded at all. No, really it is, ever so slightly.