A face for radio? 

10 November 2010 tbs.pm/1226

As well as a certain dispute involving a group of disgruntled journalists, there’s another ongoing BBC-related row in the form of employment tribunal action taken by ex-Countryfile presenter Miriam O’Reilly against the BBC, or specifically ex-BBC One controller Jay Hunt for allegedly dismissing presenters who don’t meet specific ‘criteria’.

This of course follows on from a similar embarrassing incident involving the dropping of Arlene Phillips from Strictly Come Dancing – again supposedly on age grounds – but it’s also arguable that such arbitary decisions have frequently been made in the past even though the rationale behind individual decisions have rarely been made public.

But of course we’re now in an era where any BBC decision (whether good or bad) is placed under greater public scrutiny than ever before, although on this occasion it’s up to the employment tribunal to decide the relative merits of the O’Reilly case.

Based on this circumstancial evidence alone, it seems that at the BBC you have to have had extensive TV-related experience in order to be selected to present a specific series in a peak time slot, even if (crucially) you already have had experience with the same series when it was scheduled in a different slot regardless of its audience size. Allegedly.

Of course if such a rule had previously been rigidly been adhered to then this would have precluded the likes of Dale Winton progressing from presenting the daytime Supermarket Sweep show because his prior experience at that point had mainly been with local radio.

Or for that matter, BBC Radio 1 breakfast Chris Moyles doing a better job at presenting Top of the Pops than the show’s incumbent presenters even though the latter had (technically speaking) more experience in front of the camera than Moyles had at that particular point in time.

In short, it’s time to stop judging people based on their “in front of camera” experience, but of course this isn’t as easy as it might appear, especially based on ITV’s recent disaster experience of transplanting Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley from The One Show to Daybreak in an attempt to rejuvenate the GMTV slot (a relative failure so far).

In my opinion, Jay Hunt’s decision was entirely what would have been expected from her; someone who was about as good in their role of BBC One controller as Mark Thompson is as director-general of the BBC – I’ll leave you to decide as to what that really means.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Russ J Graham 10 November 2010 at 7:32 pm

Jay Hunt’s time at BBC-1 didn’t set my world on fire, except in one regard: she seemed to know what she was doing when it came to drama.

Yes, she let daytime wither to pointlessness and washed anything factual with depth onto BBC-2’s shores, but she had a good eye for drama one-offs, serials and series, at a time when the BBC suffers from schedulers with no clue about audiences and tend to punish anything that doesn’t fall into an ITV-style regular slot.

Perhaps her successor, more used to the fixed, multi-minor-channel world might be more firm with the schedulers. But I wouldn’t expect him to be any better at the relationship with the on-screen talent.

Andrew Bowden 11 November 2010 at 11:53 am

Whilst all this is going on, new controller Danny Cohen is talking about doing more to nurture older talent for BBC One. I think you could say, “oh the irony” at this point!

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