Wheeling Out The BBC Shockometer

  • 6/29/2009 09:41:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

It’s been a while since we used our handy measurement device for how SHOCKING the latest state-broadcaster-based OUTRAGES have been. Luckily, it’s still ticking along (a bit of a shame, as we’d fancied upgrading to a Trundle Wheel of Beeb-Based Fury, but there you go), so shall we feed in a smattering of manufactured tabloid disgruntlement? Yes we shall.

Today it’s… can you guess? Yep, it’s the Daily Dacre, with the headline BBC under fire over £1.5m 'Glasto Army' as it sends Alan Yentob and 414 others along to cover a pop festival.


Doooh. That ‘the BBC’, eh? Let’s read on.

“The BBC has come under fire for sending 415 people to cover this weekend's Glastonbury festival.”

Well, yes. Come under fire from you. Right there, In the article you’re writing. We’re not sure that makes it news, though.

“The BBC confirmed that it sent 27 television and radio presenters to Glastonbury, fronted by Radio 1's Jo Whiley and Radio 2's Mark Radcliffe.

They were supported by a 68-strong editorial team and 160 technicians.

The BBC sent a further 18 staff to work on interactive content and employed 130 contractors to provide technical support and security.

There were so many on the corporation's payroll that it had to block book hotels within a ten-mile radius of the site.“

415 people needed to stay in hotels? Did the Mail journalists covering the event – such as Martha de Lacey, Adrian Thrills, Liz Jones or the mysterious “Daily Mail Reporter” (i.e. a PA news feed) - sleep under a bit of plastic in a lay-by, then? The report also includes the snarky little aside, seemingly apropos of naff-all:

“Mr Yentob once hosted a Glastonbury festival reception at his nearby country home, paid for by the licence fee.”

Without of course taking into account that once you’re working for a publicly funded entity, the BBC, the NHS, the Police or whoever, you can then use your wages to buy goods and services, that sort of thing is going to happen. Maybe the Mail also likes to add asides to reports on the NHS along the lines of “cancer specialist Norah Smith once bought a second hand Ford Focus, paid for by the TAXPAYER. THAT’S YOU! Go on, BURN THE WITCH”, but we can’t be sure.

Anyway, we’ve actually recorded a total of thirty-four hours of the coverage (that number again: 34 hours) onto BrokenTV’s PVR for later viewing, most of it uninterrupted music from the red button feeds, and that was without even touching the coverage from BBC Three or BBC Four. Even for notoriously grumpy bastards like us, we’re expecting to get at least five hours of music we like out of that lot.

“Sir Michael, Mr Byford and Mr Yentob were all given free passes to attend the festival in a 'work capacity'.”

Mail contributor Dominique Hines was given a free pass to attend the festival in a “cobble some words together to describe Fergie From The Black Eyed Peas’ dress" capacity. What’s the difference? If Alan Yentob had Twittered his opinion about Little Boots’ outfit, it’d somehow all be valid? If Mark Byford had blogged about Lily Allen’s weight it’d all magically be fine? If Sir Michael Lyons slumps into an expensive chair at the next BBC Trust meeting and proclaims how The Ting Tings were ‘banging’, it would now be justified? We’re not sure what you mean here.

Further down the page, the Mail have helpfully included a table of staff at the event, just so you can work out the precise proportion of FURY for each group:


Seven TV presenters? For a sprawling live event covered by three different TV channels, or at least five if you’re including the Red Button channels? That’s… fairly reasonable, surely? Covering several different stages, plus the impromptu events going on around the site – does that really need thirty editorial staff, along with dozens of technical crew bods and contractors? Well, it probably does, given they’re generating QUITE a lot of content. How much content?


Just the EIGHTY-NINE programmes of it currently available on iPlayer, that’s all. Now, discounting the archive programmes on there (looks back at John Peel at Glastonbury, or Stuart Maconie’s profile of Blur), we’ll tot up the amount of coverage actually from Glastonbury 2009 that’s on there. A fairly handy reckoner, wouldn’t you say? (We’ll include the breakdown in the comments, just in case anyone might accuse us of making things up).

Blimey, that took ages. Anyway, in total, between TV and radio, and only including coverage of this year’s festival, there are a total of 71 programmes, totalling some 7,045 minutes. That’s 117 hours, 25 minutes. Or, and it’s probably worth pointing this out to any Mail readers who’ve made it this far, just under 17 minutes of broadcast output PER BBC STAFF MEMBER. Or, £212.92 per broadcast minute for a huge scale outside broadcast event. Or, if you must, under two licence fees per minute. By anyone’s standards, that’s pretty good value.

Of the coverage on iPlayer, 32.4 hours is full television coverage. Assuming (incorrectly) that the entirety of that £1.5m budget was spent on that alone, it works out to £46,296.30 per hour of broadcast-quality television. Given that it costs £900,000 to make an hour of primetime drama, that’s 19.4 hours of live music for the price of an episode of Holby City. So, £1.5million isn’t such a big number after all, perhaps?

Overmanning, though. It’s a serious concern. Sure it was putting together about fifty hours of broadcast quality television, not to mention the radio and web coverage, or making that coverage of the Festival available to broadcasters around the globe, it should have been ONE MAN, with an ALBA VIDEO CAMERA, and a TAPE RECORDER. And that nice Simon Bates linking all the coverage. So, in summary, despite what we’re just said, we’re with the Mail reporter on this. Did you hear me? We’re with you, erm, what was your name…?


Ah, Richard Simpson, Liz Thomas and Simon Cable. Three people. To write 763 words. Anyway, a look at the shockometer, then?


Oh, shit. The Daily Mail have actually broken the BBC Shockometer.

For the record, the Telegraph also tried to mine the same pit of faux-fury, but they claimed it was a total of 407 people sitting atop the BBC Gravy Train, so someone’s lying. Who’d have thunk, eh?

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