…I’d forgotten I wrote this. It was done for a booklet given to all senior managers attending a BBC Leadership conference at a posh Salford hotel in Feb 2007.
Learning to Stop
Project Director BBC2.0
We should have closed most of the websites on bbc.co.uk long ago. I believe the reasons behind our failure to do so are institutionally lethal.
Granted, we’ve built a handful of spectacularly successful, much-loved websites, of which we should be rightly proud. But our busy webservers also play host to thousands of smaller sites, most of which actively damage the BBC brand. A third of our websites score so poorly in terms of quality that a commercial business with similarly poor perception would go bust within a year. Yet we leave them up.
This failure comes with hidden costs, over and above the money we spend on these sites. Firstly, they damage our reputation for quality. Secondly, they confuse our users – we have six climate change websites. Finally, the resources they suck up restrict our freedom to exploit better opportunities.
And the more I’ve tried to understand how we let bbc.co.uk get so bloated, the more I catch whiffs of what I fear is an institutional malaise. We don’t stop doing anything unless confronted by hard, external constraints – the scarcity of spectrum as represented by a schedule, or a Foreign Office demanding Arabic TV but refusing to pay for it.
We could get away with this attitude with RPI +1.5%. That left enough slack to keep doing everything we’d always done, and also develop the new services our audiences were demanding. That luxury has gone.
Unless we learn to stop we will under-invest in future services – our best hope of staying universally relevant amid the most profound revolution in media consumption since Marconi, if not Gutenberg.
It is hard to stop doing things. It’s hard to deal with the fallout – from staff, unions, irate opinion formers, a frothy press and audiences angry at having their service closed.
But it’ll be harder still to explain to our grandchildren why we failed one of the few civilising institutions Britain has left.
Let’s be brave enough to stop.
What a sanctimonious, pompous prig. I’d forgotten how angry I was with the BBC by the time I left.
The conference was most memorable for late night whisky with Tony Ageh & Will Lewis. IIRC Tony insisted to the then Editor of the Telegraph that it was the latter’s public duty to become BBC Director General. Funny. The rest of the shindig was usual bollocks.
Back to the powerpoint.