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Week ending November 24, 2012

Conseil fédéral suisse - Nouvelle commission des médias - November 21, 2012
from OFCOM

Le Conseil fédéral a créé une nouvelle Commission fédérale des médias et désigné le professeur zurichois Otfried Jarren comme président. La commission devrait être opérationnelle dès le milieu de l'année prochaine. Elle épaulera le Conseil fédéral et l'administration pour les questions concernant les médias. Ses autres membres seront élus au printemps 2013.

Le Conseil fédéral a chargé la Commission fédérale des médias d'observer le paysage médiatique suisse, d'analyser des thèmes concrets dans ce domaine et de formuler des avis. Les sujets traités devraient notamment englober le développement de la place médiatique suisse, le rôle des médias dans la formation démocratique de l'opinion et de la volonté, le service public et les nouvelles technologies. La commission pourra émettre des recommandations et communiquera les résultats de ses analyses aussi bien au Conseil fédéral et à l'administration qu'au grand public. Elle siègera quatre à six fois par année.

Le Conseil fédéral a nommé le professeur zurichois Otfried Jarren en tant que président. Depuis le 1er septembre 1997, Otfried Jarren exerce son activité principale comme professeur ordinaire à l'Institut für Publizistikwissenschaft und Medienforschung de l'Université de Zurich. Depuis le 1er août 2008, il est prorecteur pour les sciences humaines et sociales; il fait aussi partie de la direction de l'université zurichoise.

La Commission fédérale des médias est une commission administrative extraparlementaire qui revêt une fonction de conseil et de préparation, mais pas de décision. Elle se composera de 15 membres spécialistes des médias et des nouvelles technologies de la communication. Le Conseil fédéral élira lesdits membres au printemps 2013.

YouGov - 52% of public think Entwistle replacement should come from outside the BBC - November 20, 2012
from Harris MacLoed/YouGov

According to a recent YouGov poll for the Sunday Times, 52% of the British public believe the next director general of the BBC should be appointed from outside the corporation, while only 20% say someone should be promoted from within the BBC and 28% say they don’t know.

The last DG, George Entwistle, was head of BBC Vision before being promoted to the top job, at which he served for only 54 days. An overwhelming 80% of the public believe the £450,000 payout Entwistle received following his resignation is “unacceptable”, according to the poll.

52% also believe that the role of director general should be split in two, with one person charged with running the corporation, and another person responsible for the editor-in-chief role of overseeing journalism at the BBC.

The survey also found that 47% of people think that BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten should resign, while 29% think he should stay on in this role and 24% say they don’t know. A YouGov poll for the Sun – conducted at the end of October in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal – found that only 25% of the public thought that Patten should step down, whereas 38% said he should stay on as chairman and 37% weren’t sure.

Lord Patten currently works part-time for three or four days a week as chairman of the BBC Trust, and holds a number of other part-time positions including Chancellor of Oxford University, as well as serving on company boards. But this latest poll found that 55% of the public think that the role of chairman of the BBC Trust should be a full time one.

from Hanna Tucker/University of Leicester

University of Leicester Head of Department of Media and Communication comments on ‘group think’ culture at BBC

The BBC would be improved by an influx of senior managers with more experience of running large organisations than of working in broadcasting, a media expert has said.

Professor Barrie Gunter, head of the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, has been closely following events around the inquiries into the behaviour of Jimmy Savile and the Newsnight child abuse allegations.

He says one of the BBC’s problems has been its tendency to promote from within which reinforces a management culture that is either blind to risks or refuses to address them quickly enough. The BBC is characterised by a “bloated” and “multi-layered” management structure which devolves and confuses rather than focuses and clarifies sources of responsibility for specific editorial actions or staff behaviour.

“There’s this culture of taking decisions in a particularly convoluted way and of protecting the BBC’s interests internally, which leads to a kind of ‘group think’.

“They are not very tolerant of fresh ideas about how to run things which don’t conform to what they believe the BBC is about, and they have their own particular view of the BBC and how it should operate,” he said.

The time has come for the BBC to consider appointing a chief executive not just from the outside but also from another environment -- someone who knows a lot about how to run a large organisation, Professor Gunter added.

Separating the Director General’s role from editor-in-chief might be part of the solution, but the BBC did already have a head of news.

“Maybe you don’t need to create new posts but you do need to adjust job descriptions and responsibilities,” he said.

More widely there is a cultural problem within BBC management, which remains “bloated” and “multi-layered”, Professor Gunter added.

“What you have is a sense of devolved responsibility, even among people who are graded at senior levels and on six-figure salaries. There’s always somebody else who can be referred across to or up to, and decisions are ultimately taken by a multitude of people. If things go wrong you don’t know who to blame.”

There was also a tendency - particularly in news - for journalists to believe they should only be managed by other journalists, if they had to be managed at all. But journalists do not always make good managers.

“There’s nothing wrong with having people who are professional managers, who aren’t necessarily from particular professions: they don’t have to be broadcasters or journalists,” Professor Gunter said.

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