Sunday, June 11, 2006
[Taxpayer] Who are you?
[BBC Monitoring Watch] We are a group of nearly 240 existing and former staff of BBC Monitoring (BBCM) who care about BBCM and believe that it is a unique and valuable organisation. About 5 per cent of us are former staff - employees who have retired or have been hounded out of BBCM because our faces don't fit the frame. And we are growing in number even as we speak.
[T] Why have you set up this blog?
[BBCMW] We have set up this blog because we are deeply concerned that, if BBCM's current top managers remain in place, the organisation's prospects after 2010, when the next round of negotiations with its stakeholders over future funding is due, will be at serious risk.
[T] What are you hoping to achieve?
[BBCMW] We are hoping that, by drawing the attention of BBCM's stakeholders and you, the taxpayer, to the misdeeds, misdemeanours, bad behaviours and dishonest culture of our top managers, there may still be time to remedy the situation. There is still time to put BBCM on a sound course for a healthy future, but this is fast running out. We're talking about months, not years.
[T] Who are these stakeholders?
[BBCMW] They are BBC World Service and the UK Ministry of Defence, Cabinet Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
[T] What do you want these stakeholders to do?
[BBCMW] We won't mince our words. The first step has to be to get rid of the present Director of BBC Monitoring. The second step has to be for his successor to remove other members of the Direction team and replace them with people with a proven record of success in senior management - people who have previously been in top management elsewhere in the BBC and who have earned the respect of staff.
[T] Wouldn't that be rather disruptive?
[BBCMW] Yes, it would, but there really is no alternative. BBCM has just embarked upon a major restructuring. This began with the reappointment - believe it or not - of all bar one of the previous top managers, people who have distinguished themselves by their incompetence, ineptitude, lack of vision, lack of leadership and, for one of them, even lack of common courtesy. The one manager from the "previous" team who is absent from the "new" one is not there because he saw the iceberg and decided to jump ship.
[T] Who are these top managers?
[BBCMW] They are Chris Westcott, Director; Peter Robertson, Head of the Geographic Group; Steve Watcham, head of the Supra-Geographic Group; Brian Rotheray, joint Head with Rosy Wolfe of Business Development and Customer Relations; Daniel Cameron, head of Finance; and Jon Eagland, head of Technology.
[T] Are they all bad, then?
[BBCMW] Most of them are quite simply incompetent or disinterested/indifferent to their work - let's say about 50 per cent of them. We had reserved judgement on Chris Westcott for a long time now, while we were waiting to see what his restructuring would look like. But we're now convinced that he must go. If BBCM's paymasters, on behalf of you, the taxpayer, really care about value for money, then they must go for the jugular: it will save a lot of time and pain. There is an additional member of the top-management team, Irina Grinuk, who's just been appointed to the newly-created post of Head of Operational Coordinators. She comes with a lot of baggage but we'll have to see how she behaves and performs. She's also recently given birth to her first child, so maybe this will change her perspective on life. So, for the time being we'll give her the benefit of doubt.
[T] It seems that women are relatively well represented in BBCM's top-management team, which is a good thing. Is the composition of your top team also representative in terms of its national and ethnic makeup? I am asking because I understand that the BBC, especially World Service and BBC Monitoring, are quite international but I am struck by the English-sounding surnames of your senior management, apart from Ms Grinuk.
[BBCMW] They are all white British, except Mr Grinuk, who is Ukrainian. In other words, they are all white Europeans.
[T] What about all the other nationalities that work in BBCM? How come they are not represented at the top-management team? What's happened to diversity at the BBC?
[BBCMW] You'll have to ask Chris Westcott those question.
[T] Is it professional to try to redress your grievances by setting up a blog?
[BBCMW] Good question. We've really been left with no alternative. I can assure you that we - all of us - went through a lot of soul searching before we decided to take this drastic step. We couldn't take the path of the unions because some of us are not union members and, in any case, the unions' freedom of manoeuvre is restricted by the need to maintain a line of communications with Chris Westcott. So we opted for the path of exposure: we shall expose all the misdeeds, misdemeanours and bad behaviours, and the rotten culture of BBC Monitoring's top managers. We shall hang their heavily-stained laundry for the whole wide world to see. Believe me, if matters weren't that bad they would never have reached this point. This is our cry for help.
[T] How far are you prepared to go to achieve your objectives?
[BBCMW] Notwithstanding your previous question, we are professionals, so we shall respect matters that are sensitive to BBC Monitoring's sponsors. Also, our actions will be governed by the BBC's Values, which is more than can be said for Chris Westcott's team. Take, for example, Steve Watcham, who was recently promoted to head the Supra-Geographic Group. During the local elections in May 2006 he stood for the Conservative Party in the Norcot Ward of Reading - see http://www.reading.gov.uk/election2006/staticwardboard.asp?ward=26 Not exactly in the spirit of the first of the BBC's Values, trust, which required staff to "disclose personal interests which might cause a conflict-of-interest". Even if he had disclosed this to Mr Wescott, is his standing for one of the main political parties consistent with the requirement that the BBC should be, and be seen to be, impartial?
[T] How do you think Chris Westcott and his Direction colleagues will react to your blog?
[BBCMW] Their instinctive response would be to initiate a witch hunt - a sort of Spanish inquisition - and to blame the unions. But now that I have said this, they might try to be a little more subtle, although subtlety is not in their nature. But rest assured, whatever they do we shall expose it to the whole wide world. We've had enough. From now one, we shall out them and we shall take no prisoners.
[T] BBCMW, it has been a pleasure talking to you, and we wish you luck in your endaevours. On behalf of all British taxpayers, we salute your courage and public service ethos.
[BBCMW] The pleasure is all ours. And watch this space! Because very soon we shall go into matters in great detail. Item by item, we shall hang BBC Monitoring management's badly-soiled laundry for the whole wide world to see.