The following submission was received by Pro-Veritas from a verified email account used by BBC Monitoring staff.
On Thursday 29 June, BBC Monitoring in Caversham played host to Sir Andrew Burns, the BBC International Governor with responsibility for the BBC Global News Division (i.e. BBC Monitoring, BBC World Service and BBC World TV).
In actual fact, very few of us caught sight of Sir Andrew, but this came as no surprise. The previous day, our Director, Christopher Westcott, sent an email to all staff advising us that the Governor “first visited Caversham last autumn when he had the opportunity to meet many teams” and that, on this occasion, he will have time to meet only a few staff, namely, the Persian team, the media specialists and the video team.
If we were in Mr Westcott’s shoes, we would have implored Sir Andrew to stay on in Caversham for just a little bit longer, especially since few staff had a chance to see him last autumn either. In fact, we would have arranged for him to meet all staff in Caversham and, via video link, in the overseas offices as well. Why?
According to the BBC Governors’ website, among their functions are to supervise the activities of the BBC, “particularly those of senior management, and ensure its accountability to licence payers both directly and via Parliament”. They go on to underline the point: “In some ways we're like the Board of a plc, in that we're here to keep an eye on those running the Corporation and make sure they do it properly” [emphasis added].
With these admirable functions in mind, what a golden opportunity Sir Andrew’s presence was for Mr Westcott to try to lift the deep sense of despair, disappointment and hopelessness that has gripped staff by letting Sir Andrew hear our concerns and grievances, and maybe even lift us out of our acute depression with a reassurance - a reassurance that the Governors will duly exercise their function and supervise the activities of our senior managers and ensure their accountability.
But it was an opportunity that was missed. According to Mr Westcott’s email, the purpose of Sir Andrew’s visit was to be briefed on financial and bureaucratic matters and “to discuss Iran, the increased range of media sources we are monitoring, including new citizen media, and on our video actuality and other video products for colleagues across the BBC”. Somehow, we doubt that the discussion of “new citizen media” included discussing our postings on the Pro-Veritas blog, except, perhaps, how to silence us.
So, just in case you are reading this, Sir Andrew, this is an open invitation from the Dissident Majority of BBC Monitoring to spare half a day and come back and talk to us in Caversham and, via video link, the overseas offices. In the spirit of “citizen media” people everywhere, we - most of our 242 staff and 15 former staff members - met in cyberspace between Friday night 30 June and Saturday morning 1 July and voted electronically by an overwhelming majority to go over the heads of our managers and invite you directly.
Let us pour our hearts out to you and, hopefully, receive reassurances from you that what has been happening at BBC Monitoring recently is only a blip and that the BBC Governors will make sure that our concerns are addressed - not just heard, but addressed. We won’t, of course, be able to talk to you as frankly as we can on this blog since no doubt you will be accompanied by minders from our “Executive Direction”, but at least you will know that we are real people and that our concerns are genuine and acutely felt.
In the meantime, we hope you will spare a little time to read our other postings on this blog. We hope they will give you a taste of our concerns and an understanding of the sombre, depressing mood music at Caversham and the overseas units.