Okaye Dokaye…

Just a quickie…I’ve been to Stirling Castle for a day oot…no mobile reception in the Great Hall…no wonder they call it Historic Scotland….

Two wee points since I’m rushing to get the tea organised…Kaye Adams is in the news as she’s returning to her telly roots. It’s a show called Loose Women which I haven’t seen but may be related to bowel problems. I like her, so good luck, Kaye.

Some of you hate her show with a vengeance and link it to what you detest most about BBC journalism. On a technical point, Call Kaye isn’t produced by the news department, but by something called Topicals. Her production team including researchers are not from the news department.  In fact I’m not sure if any of them could accurately be described as journalists. No offence, guys.

That means that the topics selected are what a – very professional – group of non-journalists think the listeners will be interest in which may be one reason why you detect a tone that doesn’t seem to match your expectations of BBC journalism – such as they are.

Personally, I think it’s a mistake not to have it under the aegis of News and Current Affairs where it was at its launch. The only reason it was changed to Topicals, if I recall, was because of an internal turf war. The NCA didn’t want to spend more money on it and the Head of Radio – a name that will soon be common on this site, Jeff Zycinski or, as I know him, The Great Neep of the North – refused to give NCA any more cash. Instead he took it over and then lavished money on it. I swear it looks as if there are more staff on Call Kaye than on GMS.

It is BBC journalism that understands the need for fairness and balance, I suggest, and other departments aren’t necessarily trained in thinking that way. The trouble is, they are dealing with topics that require BBC impartiality but, in my view, the BBC is  putting that in the wrong hands.

Is Kaye biased? Well, I don’t listen because I don’t learn. But if you hear what is a blatant bias, then her producer should be in her ear straight away. Sadly, studio production is a lost art at BBC Scotland but it is the very foundation of quality radio. Working closely with a hot studio producer –no, not that kind of hot – makes programmes zing. You hear the benefit on air. Except nobody at PQ trains people to do it now and I doubt if there a single person left able to train the new boys and girls. Anyway, don’t blame the journalists for your misgivings about Call Kaye. Silly name for a show…No? When I first hear it I said: Call Kaye What?

ALSO…you ask why did the BBC block comments to BT (Brian Taylor) and Scotland’s answer to Robert Peston, Douglas Fraser?

Pardon me but I’m buggered if I know. I mean what is the point of going online and asking your two key editors covering the most controversial topics to analyse and interest the audience and then blocking any responses from that audience? The only other place doing this is China.

As I understand it some of our nastier blog bugs got in there and left their piles of ordour. But surely on a BBC site, they pay for professional moderation so you weed them out. I know some broadcast individuals are more sensitive than others to offensive comment although I take it as part of the cut and thrust myself. I’m prepared to stick it to you, so I’m ready for the riposte. If you’re on air, you’re in the game, in my view. The only time I was shocked into revulsion was when some people wrote to me over stories in the papers about one of  my daughters. It’s hard to describe the depths of some people’s lack of humanity.

I don’t see BT being a shrinking violet either. He’s from Dundee.

I did ask the man in the BBC whom I think is some kind of Compliance Officer – me neither – why this had been done as I thought, like much else I’ve blogged about, it was counter-productive and made the BBC look defensive and kind of retro, a sort of Amish broadcasting service. I didn’t get anything approaching a coherent answer that  I could repeat here.

Explanation? Panic when they saw what they’d unleashed…followed by refusal to accept Commoners’ criticism of the mighty Beeb…and finally, self-righteous indignation along the lines of: If they won’t play it our way, we’ll close it down…that’ll teach them.

Only it hasn’t. It’s backfired. You just can’t go online with correspondent’s views and leave them unchallenged by the people who are paying for them. Thought for the Day: Dysfunctional management

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31 thoughts on “Okaye Dokaye…

  1. Thanks Derek. What do you think is the future of BBCScotland, does it have one?

  2. I notice Robbie shared your views on Boothman in the Herald today. Funny isn’t it that in this world of new media and instant communication important messages are sometimes being forced into taking the long road to a wider audience? (No offence your impressive, I’m sure, readership figures.)

  3. Never liked Call Kaye. It is/was unbalanced either deliberately or by accident. More than that, it’s like a broadcast version of the Daily Mail or Express. Same with Jeremy Vine on r2 – although that show is definitely more slick. I get it though, they want listeners and reason isn’t anything like as attractive as a good dose of lunacy.

    Hopefully someone with a bit of wit and daring will take over the morning slot, some of the callers… Well, they’re at home at that time for a reason and it shows. Always reminded me of my Gran, a lovely woman, lots of fluffy white hair, smiles, angel cake and right wing views that made your eyes water.

    No idea why a current affairs program wouldn’t be with erm, News & Current Affairs though…

  4. Goodbye to Call Kaye, no great loss, I fear. It was a demeaning start to the day when you consider what R4 (network) offers: start the week, midweek etc. In the run up to September 2104 it can only be hoped that the BBC does the decent thing and Calls it something snappy, like Call Joanne.

  5. Murray McCallum

    “On a technical point, Call Kaye isn’t produced by the news department, but by something called Topicals.”

    Is that code for BBC Scotland News doesn’t necessary cover topical items?

  6. It’s really interesting getting the inside view of BBC organisation. But the whole structure of “Topicals” vs “NCA” is completely opaque to the listening public – Call Kaye often does discuss issues that have just been on GMS so it is quite reasonable for listeners to assume that the same standards should apply. It seems the BBC has lost sight of the listener’s perspective.
    I think I am more irritated by the dumb low-brow nature of much of BBC Scotland’s output than anything else (except maybe the shoddy technical quality). The nation that invented universal education and much of the modern world deserves far, far better than we are getting.
    A properly resourced Scottish news organisation with high intellectual standards and rigorous, robust reporting would never biased* the way the current set up is.

    * and it is, whether it means to be or not

  7. Derek, re closing comments on the BBC Scotland political blogs. Your reasons are interesting, but is it not just best to settle on the simplest, most common sense reason in the absence of other evidence?

    That is, that BBC Scotland as a British Unionist Institution did not want to give the authentic, non party political voice of the Scottish Independence argument, access to the large mainstream Scottish audience that the BBC websites were actually giving.

    Simple and straight forward.

    Blether with Brian was actually starting to form into a platform from which the flavour of the (pre) YES campaign, internet and grass root, popular multi-headed and non party political composition was starting to become discernible. (I have in mind, the way the comments would independently continue into their hundreds, discussing political events even in the absence of an article. When Brian was on holiday, or perhaps hiding from the latest Labour party foul up, such as Purcell or Montenegrogate.)

    Not something easily controlled. Best to just nip it in the bud.

    It was successful for a time, as posters had to scrabble around looking for alternative sources to voice their opinions. It did take time for this search to coalesce around other newly formed popular blogs back then, (NNS, Bella, Snp Tactical Voting etc..) trying to re establish and eventually create the vibrant internet Indy debate we all enjoy now.

    It really did succeed though, short term, in marginalising the arguments being made by joe public through the Internet, as well as adding the heft of the BBC voice to the general MSM and Unionist Parties decrying us vile cybernats as all beyond civilised debate. An attitude continually punted even to this day.

    Sometimes Derek, a cigar is, simply a cigar.

  8. Thank you for the explanation of the hideous lack of balance on Call Kaye, which, to be honest, is the usual right wing nonsense of any BBC Radio phone in – I set my radio alarm to BBC 5 Live because the rage propels me across the floor to switch it off!

    Re comments under pieces, there is no explanation. The BBC websites are pre-moderated. I tried to join the in discussions on the BBC Genealogy page, but it took to long to allow comments thru’ that I gave up, as conversations are impossible if your comment doesn’t go up for days!

  9. Kaye is away, but since punching the air and shouting YES!! to the heavens above, it occurred to me that something more dreadful and could replace it..
    Call Calman or something . . .I’m waiting to see and in a state of nervous anticipation.

  10. Roibert a Briuis

    Thought for the Day: Dysfunctional management – that is a cop out – the BBC is a Totally Dysfunctional Organisation

  11. Rumours circulating that Kaye was to be replaced by someone whose views are less unionist however when asked if he would do it Micheal Kelly turned the position down.

    • I believe that cooncillorrr Terry Kelly, he who was Baffled and ritually abused daily if not hourly in the Herald online comments section (b4 blogs existed for Scotland), has put his name down to replace Kaye.

      His letter of motivation states that he will take no prisoners, toe the Party line no matter how nonsensical (he didn’t actually say that as he doesn’t know the meaning of it or satire), slaughter anyone taking a non SLAB position and still do his other jobs. He is only asking for the taxi fare to and from PQ.

      I think he has a good chance as he ticks all the boxes.

  12. Thanks for taking the time to answer questions Derek, and you have changed my view on some issues I have had for a long time with the BBC. As regards the closure of the bloggs, I think its the worse thing that the BBC could ever have done, and its reputation must be damaged far and wide by people like me who have shared this fact through the social media. They really are their own worst enemy.

  13. Obviously the Beeb isn’t biased, it’s all the fault of those separatist production companies.

  14. Derek, I guess you know you’ve been defamed on the Herald web site?

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/bbc-chief-too-close-to-labour-claims-ex-colleague.22317694#comment-1068473667

    A certain John Ruddy of Montrose stated that you are an “SNP supporter” and that you were sacked from the BBC for being “biassed on air”. Probably not worth going after him seriously, but a solicitor’s letter could provide good entertainment value.

  15. Interesting to get an insiders pov. If it is true that pressure is brought to bear on interviewers in particular then that needs to be outed.

    On closing down the comments, well it might be a two edged sword. What the BBC has forced people to do is go elsewhere on the net to find places where their comments are allowed. There has been an enormous growth in the readership of both NNS and WoS which probably dates from around the shut down of comments.

    The other explanation, that journalists are actually frightened of the more enlightened, more intelligent and better argued comments btl, is obviously just wrong. For journalists, particularily BBC journalists are not there to defend the stuff they write, they are there to tell us what to think. They are, after all, opinion formers, or at least they like to think they are. Kings with no clothes comes to mind.

    Joking apart, it is pretty ridiculous for a State Broadcaster to act like that. Do they think we are fools, or are they betting on the odds that more of us are fools than aren’t?

    Best wishes for this blog. It has been needed for quite a while.

  16. I swear to God – this blog is like therapy! But without exorbitant fees 🙂 God bless you Derek, and all who sail in you…!

  17. Derek,

    Thanks for your insights, they are enlightening, though they don’t give me much hope for Pacific Quay I’m afraid.

    “refusal to accept Commoners’ criticism of the mighty Beeb”

    This is a problem for the whole organisation, not just the Scottish branch. The supercilious and condescending tone taken with anyone who dares critisise anything the beeb does not endear the organisation to us commoners who pay for the damned thing. It is well past time that those in the beeb recognised that their audience is also their paymaster, and that as such should be treated with respect. If they don’t learn this lesson soon then the future of the whole organisation will be jeopardised. People just won’t care the next time a Murdoch comes sniffing around and trying to get their government of the day to privatise it. That would be a sad day indeed, as there is so much about the BBC that is terribly precious.

    “self-righteous indignation along the lines of: If they won’t play it our way, we’ll close it down…that’ll teach them.”

    This, I think is the truth of the closure of the Scottish blogs, but it does have a political aspect too. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a labour based cabal in PQ and that the blogs were closed to prevent debate. All the things the PQ cabal wanted to sweep under the carpet were being aired on the blogs. All the bbc egos were being challenged and found wanting. Corporal Jones syndrome. The closure of the Scottish blogs is a serious wrong and really does expose the bbc’s veneer of fairness and impartiality as fake.

    As I have already said, only the re-reinstatement of the blogs would restore any faith in the BBC here.

    • The litmus test of the blog comments issue is to look elsewhere on the BBC Nations and Regions sections of their website.
      Wales – comments allowed
      NI – Mark Devenport political editor – comments allowed
      Yorkshire – political correspondent – correspondents allowed
      …and so on. Any defense based on resources or excessive numbers of abusive comments is nonsense. If they can manage it for the Northern Ireland political editor, they can manage it for Scotland.

  18. Dysfunctional management and a London centric world view may be the reason for ‘unintended’ bias but at the end of the day it is still bias. Where does this leave us?

    It leaves us with output that is skewed to one side of the constitutional debate and that, frankly, is unbefitting a democracy. Where does this leave us?

    It leaves us with a clear a democratic deficit, the sort situation that fits in China or Russia not in a modern day Scotland. The right of the people to a fair and balanced debate will have been thwarted. Where does this leave us?

    If ‘yes’ wins it will be a colossal victory for the a grass roots campaign that wins despite the MSM distortions (with the BBC at the apex) – a true case of people power. Time for some soul searching for the SMSM.

    If ‘no’ wins there will be upwards of 40% of the population that will be totally disenfranchised with the democratic process. State lead propaganda will have one day (I don’t use ‘propganda’ lightly but when you have what you have described as unintentional bias that manifests itself to be systematic and apparently co-ordinated it is just that). Democratic principle and the notion of a level playing field will have been discarded in defence of the cosy, unchallenging but utterly uncomfortable status quo. Any notion of further Devolution will be discarded, Holyrood’s powers will rescinded and we can look forward to be coming a downtrodden, unloved satellite region/bitch of the great city state. ‘Rejection of separation’ will be taken as a green light for total asset stripping of our country and further denudation of our democracy.

    Hundreds of thousands of Scots will have been duped, hundreds of thousands others who know what has just happened will be embittered and will be seething. Where does this leave us?

    Democracy is to be cherished and a balanced media is it’s beating heart.

    • Not to mention the thousands of politicos and potential politicos on the NO side who will have ‘won’ using those undemocratic Westminster led, non grassroot, political elite, media bomb techniques and yet another generation will have learned the real lesson of power and how to gain it here in Scotland. Cynicism duly rewarded. Great post DougieDouglas. Thanks

  19. I’m sorry but Kaye’s just been on and given a wee promo to the nation for her show today “The SNP have ruled out a price freeze on energy bills, Labour have said they will… Where does that leave YOU?”

    There is NO WAY to view this other than clear bias… No mention of it being a conference commitment from a party not in power and possibly not even in power in until 2015. Utterly shocking bias…

  20. Derek
    Thank you for your candour.

  21. Is the problem not that BBC Scotland has had a disastrous PFI foisted upon it in the shaoe of Pacific Quay and as a consequence have had to get rid of far to many experienced staff and real journalists. Glad to see Kaye go, she was a very opiniated lady on all subjects and it seemed to me the same people called in on the odd occassion I ground my teeth listening to her.

  22. FFS Derek, as one of those people who could apparently not accurately be described as a journalist, you’ll not mind if, actually, I do take offence.

    Since when does having “journalist” attached to your name mean you’re actually any good at your job? Some of the dullards who have populated BBC News over the years wouldn’t recognise a good story or a cracking contributor if either bit them on the bahookie.

    So, whatever your feelings about Call Kaye, its staff, its production/editorial values, and the department it currently lives in, the people (of whom I was one) putting the programme together have knocked their pans in, often in pretty desperate conditions, to bring a new audience and a different kind of programme to the airwaves.

    If BBC Scotland failed in its line management, production training and editorial benchmarking of Call Kaye, feel free to have a pop. But please do NOT have a go at your former colleagues. These are people working under exactly the same strains and pressures as colleagues in news. But somehow they manage to do it without the burden of the all-too-familiar NSC (Newsroom Superiority Complex).

    • Hi Mairi
      FFS. Read the blog again. I’m defending the BBC against claims of political bias. Ninety per cent of the people reading this blog believe the BBC is deliberately biased against independence and is a nest of Labourites. I’m spending more time defending the BBC than the BBC is.
      We both know there is no organised bias but how do you explain that to a deeply sceptical public? The BBC doesn’t even bother trying, it’s so aloof and untroubled. It seems to me that is the big question we confront. I’m searching for ways of explaining how this impression has taken hold and is it really impossible that there could be something in what I say?
      When *less than half of Scots think the news output represents their lives, it is a scandal requiring answers. It is a kind of national emergency for the BBC. Not that you’d know it. I’m trying to use my knowledge to explain how the BBC operates, why decisions are made to give a clearer picture, something the BBC should do for itself.
      Why don’t you do the same? I invite you to write as much as you want about your experience of working on Kaye in a way that the public would understand and explain to them the difficulties, pressures and pitfalls and why they are wrong to hear political bias, if that’s your view. What do you say? The blog is yours.
      *Why doesn’t the BBC make a fly-on-the-wall doc showing the process of making the news, highlighting the dilemmas we all encounter in producing it and show what’s involved, warts and all to let the public decide if BBC news does represent them and, if not, to understand why that might be?
      The public has a right to know how the public service they pay for works. When our contracts debar us from speaking up while in BBC employment, I think it’s a responsibility to do so when out of the BBC. I’m not judge and jury, just a gadgie with a keyboard but I do have opinions about what is wrong in PQ and so do you. I’ve decided to speak up and put myself out there and it’s an uncomfortable place. Yesterday I had a whisper that legal action may be considered. Ask yourself why that should be in a public-funded organisation when someone with knowledge wants to pass it on to the public.
      And it isn’t just the management who carry the can. Everybody does. Me too. I am not pursuing former colleagues but neither do I suffer from blind loyalty. There is a major public concern here and everybody connected to the BBC is at the heart of it. No one is above criticism. Sorry you’re offended but how often did you threaten to blow up at work because of the way things are run? I’m trying to say that it’s not good enough and none of us can afford to be shrinking violets. (I’m already receiving heavy negative traffic for breaking the omerta). And aren’t your own remarks about journalists just another criticism of former colleagues?
      Journalists are probably guilty of superiority but then news is the main driver of audience and outputs what…eight hours a day plus bulletins in radio alone…and has disproportionately been hit with jobs cuts. As you know, when BBC pensions have to be protected, who takes action, who stands on the picket line and takes a pay cut while others walk into work?
      I stand by my view that a news-based programme should be based in news. I commended the professionalism of the *Kaye team. I’m not saying they don’t work hard, either, that is taken for granted. And has no one really detected anything that could, in the intensely political Scotland of today, could be taken as bias? Seems unlikely in the middle of a live phone-in. The need for an upgraded awareness of that risk across all output is glaring and is, I think, a notable omission by management.
      *Why not also a filmed interview on the website with Kaye? Allow her to explain her approach, her attitude, to reaction to criticism? She can defend herself and be really personable so why not let the public see another side of her and her team, show how they operate, how callers are selected, what the rules are etc. That would be a digital response more suited to the age than the BBC straight bat of….Nothing to see here…move on.
      Sorry again that it’s personally hurtful, Mairi but I think there is an issue here bigger than the individual. Thanks for reading the blog and good luck with the new company. Derek

  23. Ouch! standing on toes can hurt.

  24. Derek, you are very evidently doing something right when people get their knickers in such a twist. Keep on pressing the same buttons please.

  25. It would be a great shame if you felt compelled to wind your neck in Derek. It seems that the Beeb sees itself as above criticism.

  26. I’m sure I’ve already mentioned to you Derek that in the early days the nns team used to find it amusing that the term ‘newsnetscotland.com’ tripped the BBC online profanity filter. We never did succeed in finding out which individual word or words they considered profane. 😀

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