Wednesday, June 27, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: The Fallout from the Daily Politics Debacle

I've now had the inside story of what happened the the Daily Politics this lunchtime, when they were taken off the air and missed Blair's final remarks in the Commons and the standing ovation. In THIS post I said...
I am dumbstruck. Andrew Neil will be furious. The Daily Politics was ordered off the air at 12.32 in the middle of the Prime Minister's valedictory statement at the end of PMQs in order for the BBC to start its Wimbedon coverage - an astonishing decision which ought to have sever reverberations... Heads should roll over this decision at the BBC. By the way, it is now 12.37 and while Adam Boulton picks over the entrails of the last half an hour, BBC 2 viewers are watching two female tennis players called Czink and Ivanovic hit the ball from baseline to baseline. If it had been Federer v Nadal you could possibly understand the decision, but not for these two. And meanwhile, Andrew Neil is self combusting.

The BBC has released a statement (no doubt after about 63 drafts) which puts it down to a cock-up. That's the not the way Daily Politics insiders see it. My belief that Andrew Neil would be self combusting seems to go for the rest of the Daily Politics team. They are fizzing.


Originally, the programme was due to come off the air at 12.35. This was changed to 12.34 after BBC Presentation demanded it. A Daily Politics insider tells me that it's all down to Peter Horrocks, Head of TV News at the BBC. They reckon that 'Presentation' would not have dared do this without direct orders from Horrocks. He, it is thought, wanted them off air before the News 24 special programme started. 'Presentation' were only too keen to go along with this as they were keen to start their BBC2 Wimbledon coverage on time. Horrocks tonight rubbished this. He told me: "[It's] complete nonsense. Why on earth would the Head of TV News have the slightest interest in ending the politics coverage to go to tennis?


The Daily Politics team was further enraged to see trailers for Rome and other programmes being put out before Sue Barker came on the screen to babble on about the afternoon's tennis. One said: "It's a disgrace. It's the first time a Prime Minister has had a standing ovation since Lloyd George announced the end of the First World War and terrestrial public service TV wasn't there to cover it."


The same Daily Politics insider says that in retrospect they wish they had defied 'Presentation' and refused to hand back. It would have then been up to 'Presentation' to grab the network feed. I'm pretty sure that if Andrew Neil had had more than thirty seconds to consider what was happening he would have done just that.


Helen Boaden has written THIS on the BBC Editors' blog. She says it was a cock up rather than a conspiracy but that's not the way the Daily Politics people see it. When I contacted Peter Horrocks tonight and he told me:
Yes, I had been involved in previously agreeing the off air/on air time of 12.35 when we intended to switch from BBC2 to BBC1. We had assumed, as is invariably the case, that PMQs would be well over by that time. It wasn't. We didn't change plans quickly enough. We should have. Bad mistake which no one would have wanted. We have apologised to viewers."

That's fine as far as it goes, but I know the Daily Politics feel that someone, somewhere is undermining them. I think they need a group hug from someone on high.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

that's why we pay the license fee

Chris Goodman said...

Maybe Andrew Neil ought to consider giving the person responsible a Glasgow kiss in order to help them focus their minds on their job.

carlito tevez said...

Daily Politics is excellent, just irreverent enough and full of healthy scepticism.PS When Blair described the sometime 'low skullduggery' of Westmister politics did anyone else notice Gordon's panicked look? momentary but the play's the thing.....

fred1 said...

well done Iain for following this up..typical BBC. I hope they learn some serious lessons from this..it truly defies common sense. Next time I will definitely watch sky's coverage.

Anonymous said...

Did one min. make so much difference?

Charlotte Corday said...

anon.7.29. Yes, it did and I'm pretty sure it was more than a minute. We missed seeing live the Prime Minister's farewell speech and the standing ovation.
It was extremely poor editing.

Roger Thornhill said...

Luckily I was watching over Freeview so I switched to BBC Parliament and saw it live. As for not messing with the N24 show, what did it have to show while Tone was still finishing off?

Funny how Wimbledon can crash through all manner of schedules without a blinking of an eye whereas waffle and the START of a game (as if that really matters one iota) is able to bump one of the key steps in our nation for the next few years.

In a word: Imbeciles.

Brillo should not have let the feed go. He makes that programme as most other presenters are either limp or irritatingly aggressive and jumpy, Paxo excepted.

Anonymous said...

Before live programmes go out Pres is told how long they are going to be to the second. They tailor their infils and the start of the next programme accordingly. There's nothing new about the rule that the live programmes must not deviate from the time given. If all programmes overran it would mean that every programme throughout the rest of the day would have to start at the wrong time or have their own precious time cut to compensate for a previous programme overrun. There'd be inter-programme warfare if that happened.
Having said that, I agree that there should indeed be some flexibility in the system but there never has been.

Colin D said...

Only one solution. Bring back the Dyke lad. At least under his stewardship a lie was a lie.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Beeb knew that Cameron was about to wave his people to do a standing ovation and thought they'd try to save Cameron's reputation.

Chris Paul said...

Cock up not conspiracy. It doesn't help any of them does it?

Meanwhile BBC are wallowing this morning. Brown is doing his reshuffle by 'phone but they are spending hours talking to camera outside No 10.

Patten and Rifkind are denying everything.

Anonymous said...

charlotte--it must have been a very short speech at sixty secs!

Chris Goodman said...

Anonymous 8.58 AM

"I agree that there should indeed be some flexibility in the system but there never has been"

There is flexibility in the system (and it is not infrequently exercised) it is just that in this case somebody decided not to apply it.

The reasons are unknown, presumably whoever made the decision was simply incompetent, in which case (if they have any professional integrity) they ought to offer their resignation.

I am no fan of Tony Blair but as a public service performance it was a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

If only all the broadcasts had lost that cring-making, Stalinesque ovation. The New Labour spin-meisters must be delighted to have the boy Cameron falling for it.

Dave said...

Pres are really scary. And those are the rules.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

Yes, that was pretty bad. I fail to understand why Wimbledon trumps everything on television. Do these people realise what a dull piece of TV it is...oh wait no they show darts and snooker as well.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Speaking as one who loaths Tony Blair and the BBC I regard this cock up as indefensible. But at least we seem to have an unreserved apology. That must be something like a first.

Will the apology be the first item on this evening's news bulletins? (In your dreams.)

IanP said...

As for the BBC, who cut short coverage of Blair’s final speech in the Commons to cover a second round tennis match. I say Thank you. The BBC unceremoniously did what many of us were thinking about Blair's total contempt for Parliament and the Public. 'After years of being manipulated by Blair, we have heard enough…. Close the door on the way out'.

Little Black Sambo said...

"They were keen to start their BBC2 Wimbledon coverage on time."
BBC television programmes hardly ever start on time, so this must have been an exception.
And however late they are running, they never leave out those infuriating "trails".

Chuck Unsworth said...

Is this perhaps something to do with Blair's tennis partner and Honours confidante?

We all know how important tennis has become in the marbled halls of government.

howard said...

You all get so worked up about the littlest things.

tapestry said...

Fear is a powerful motivator. All the top people in BBC know that the PM can terminate their employment on a whim. Better to obey the new lord and master from Day 1....'cut Tony back. Give Gordon the maximum.' some cock-up.

Anonymous said...

Horrocks says "[It's] complete nonsense. Why on earth would the Head of [BBC] TV News have the slightest interest in ending the politics coverage to go to tennis?"

In a word, Hutton.