Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Could BBC Who Do You Think You Are magazine cease publication?

Is the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? magazine under threat of closure?

Yesterday the BBC's director general Mark Thompson announced a range of measures as part of a 'strategic review' to save the corporation money and to keep its competitors happy after having been perceived as treading into territory where it should not have strayed. The main news headlines announced the closure of BBC Radio 6 and the Asian Network, and a cut of 25% of its website services. But hidden away in the small print is the following commitment stated twice for BBC Worldwide savings by

Looking to move away from physical media (such as magazines) in the UK.

and

BBC Worldwide is now developing a new strategy to refocus its business more internationally. Under this strategy, it is looking to exit non-BBC branded channels overseas. It is using its marketing budget more to promote the BBC brand internationally and plans to ensure that two-thirds of revenues are generated outside the UK by 2015. It is also looking at operations in the UK and a strategic review of magazines is underway.

The full BBC report is available as a PDF document at http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Media/documents/2010/03/02/BBCStrategyReview.pdf - the story itself has been picked up by the Guardian newspaper at www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/mar/02/bbc-strategic-review-magazines. No mention has been made of Who Do You Think You Are? magazine in this, the article instead focussing on higher profile titles such as the Radio Times, Top Gear and BBC Good Food.

Personally speaking, as a former BBC employee who asked for voluntary redundancy in 2006, having become so despondent at the declining standards of the Corporation's television and documentary output, I again lament the BBC's inability to see that the problem does not lie with the hard work of ordinary employees in production (whether TV, radio, online or in print), some of the hardest working professionals I ever had the pleasure to work with. The problem lies most definitely with the overpaid, misguided and unambitious nature of BBC management, which has forgotten what the BBC was actually created to do, and BBC middle management, which does not want to upset the boat at any stage. The BBC now thinks it must replicate the opposition's efforts in pursuit of audience numbers and share, and has forgotten that acronym "BBC" used to mean the quality that set it apart from the opposition. Its management is fairly useless on that front these days - when I worked on the first series of Coast, it was ridiculously top heavy with management - there was a series producer, a series editor, and five executive producers to oversee the series. The series was a success, but believe me, most of us who actually made it are convinced it became one despite them, and not because of them!!

The bottom line is that BBC management will always find ever new and creative ways to save its own skin, and if the industry collapses around it in the process, I don't think they'll be too bothered...

It is worth stating that the proposals are not final, there is a 3 month consultation period underway, and if true it does not necessarily mean the end of the magazine (I'm sure Wall to Wall has a vested
interest in its survival!). However, definitely one to keep an eye on...


Chris

www.ScotlandsGreatestStory.co.uk
Scotland's Greatest Story
www.twitter.com/chrismpaton

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