Raymond Snoddy's Media Diary

It's last man standing at the BBC
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The Independent Online

There are two great unwritten rules of the BBC. The first is that, in the case of major cock-up, deputy heads will roll. The second is that when it's time for really serious job losses - as now - the management launches into an unusual variant of musical chairs.

When the band strikes up, the editorial bosses shuffle the new chairs, complete with new titles. No chairs are taken away and sometimes the BBC demonstrates how flexible it can be by adding a chair or two.

Not this time. At BBC News, where worker bees are losing their jobs by the dozen as part of the 3,000 cull of production staff, the musical chairs are being played by more traditional rules. Much to the surprise of all the hard news types, it looks as if finally a chair has been taken away - or, at the very least, someone senior may be prevented from planting their posterior.

The apparently new job of controller of BBC News 24 has been advertised. Sharp observers of the passing scene in the BBC News empire note that this seems to be remarkably similar to the job of editorial director of BBC News 24, a position currently held by Mark Popescu. Can it be that the music is finally about to stop for Popescu and that there will really be no chair for him?

His executive credits include revamping News 24, and the Oryx initiative, when the BBC had to pay damages to the African diamond company wrongly linked to Osama bin Laden.

MEANWHILE, MORE than a touch of annoyance at the weekend wake for BBC3 News, which has finally been put out of its misery. The Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell insisted that BBC3 should offer the young information as well as Little Britain. Sometimes you could measure the audience, just - mobile phone downloads would have been much easier.

The annoyance stems from the fact that those now losing their jobs thought they had been promised help finding jobs throughout the BBC. Now the horizon has been narrowed to just BBC News, which is not the same thing at all. At least one talented member of the team has already marched off in disgust to a job elsewhere.

WE MUST balance these worrying developments with the reassuring news that the BBC is going to be more accountable to its viewers and listeners in future. The deputy director general Mark Byford is at work on a brand new website for next year where the licence-fee payers will be able to interact with senior editors and correspondents. It's not quite clear whether all these journalists have been consulted about the idea.

MEANWHILE, OVER at ITV, it emerges that much of the mayhem - or modernisation, depending on your point of view - can be laid at the door of the Harvard Business School. ITV's commercial director Ian McCulloch took one of the famous short courses beloved of media types such as Greg Dyke and came back an evangelist for a more focused business approach. One result was the restructuring that led to the departure of executives such as Mick Desmond. The application of the Harvard School of Business analysis can also spell the end for the ITV News Channel. Tough for the journalists, but just watch ITV's share price shoot up.

AN INTRIGUING press release from the BBC invites speculation on the subject of "Who shot Tulkinghorn?" The wily lawyer played by Charles Dance was polished off in Friday's instalment of the Beeb's Bleak House. "We don't find out who did it until next week," the press release insists. The costume drama may have been compared to a soap opera, but surely Charles Dickens solved this crime circa 1853?

A SAD farewell to City Life, Manchester's answer to Time Out. Despite protests outside the offices of the Manchester Evening News and The Guardian's Farringdon Road offices in London last Friday, not to mention support from celebrity Mancunian Tony Wilson, Guardian Media Group's regional chief Mark Dodson is determined to close the entertainment magazine on Wednesday, as part of a review of the business that will see 40 journalists put out of work. City Life has been loss-making for the past four years, but the National Union of Journalists insists that with investment, and given the renaissance of Manchester as a cultural centre, it could be made profitable.

GREAT FUN was had at last week's launch party for Christian O'Connell's new Virgin Radio breakfast show, due to start next month. Aside from a live performance by Embrace and a bizarre tribute to Spandau Ballet by Virgin presenter Suggs, the highlights included a lively introductory speech from dynamic Virgin managing director Fru Hazlitt that moved O'Connell to question the well-being and identity of "that mad woman".

Prior to O'Connell's arrival on stage, the ex-Xfm man was given some words of welcome by Geoff Lloyd, his predecessor on the Virgin breakfast show. Lloyd amusingly noted that the venue chosen for O'Connell's launch was the Titanic bar in Soho. Unfortunately, he slightly spoiled the gag by adding that his own launch had been at a café called the "Heidenberg". What?

m.norman@independent.co.uk

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