Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Appraisal time for BBC Monitoring

The following submission was received by Pro-Veritas from a verified email account used by BBC Monitoring staff.

"No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee." – John Donne, Meditation XVII

It's appraisal season for staff at BBC Monitoring and we thought this would be an ideal time to turn the spotlight on the appraisers, to paraphrase the Operational Coordinators.

We don't wish to appraise individual members of management, whether senior or middle management, but in the spirit of the BBC's interactive craze we would like to know your views about the various corners of Chris Westcott's empire, both at Caversham and overseas.

Let's not discriminate against one bit of the empire or another but give them all fair treatment.

So, tell us what you think. We are most interested in the views of staff who don't yet belong to the Dissident Majority of BBC Monitoring. Email us your appraisals – or spotlights, to use a word that's temporarily in vogue. Your spotlight need not be negative: you can also tell us how great things are at BBC Monitoring, if that's what you think.

But, please, don't try to contact us using BBC computers, even if you're using your own, private email account. And we prefer not to know your real identity; it's best if you set up a web-based email account, for example with Yahoo, Hotmail or Hushmail, and use a pseudonym that is known only to you. We will know from the content of your submission whether or not you are a real BBC Monitoring staff member.

We realize that most of you are tired and jaded and probably don't even want to think about writing a spotlight, so here are a few prompts, in alphabetical order so that we are fair to everyone.

  • Business Development & Customer Relations (BDCR). How does it differ from Customer Services Unit and Monitoring Marketing Unit, apart from having different middle managers (Account Managers, as they are now called) and two new positions – Senior Account Manager and Strategy & Business Intelligence Manager? Is having a twin head better or worse than two separate heads? What does the Senior Account Manager actually do? And the Strategy & Business Intelligence Manager: what strategy, what business intelligence? As for customer relations: are they better, worse, the same? Do we know more about official or commercial customers? Is it true that our commercial revenue has never been better?

  • Geographic Group. We said that we don't wish to appraise individual members of staff, so we won't say, or ask for, anything about listless team managers. But how do the various parts of Dynamo Peter Robertson's fiefdom gel together? The Moscow office and the Russian team at Caversham, for example? Or the Kiev office, where there has been much talk about having a larger slice of the salary cake, if only the Caversham headquarters of BBC Monitoring were abolished or reduced to an administrative core? (Sorry, it doesn't work like that, tovarisch!) And how are some of the international offices "managed" – Moscow, Kiev, Baku, Tashkent, for example?

  • Media Specialists. They have grown in size and stature (they are now mostly Band 8, not Band 7) – we do not begrudge their elevation to Band 8 but what has been the benefit of their physical expansion? Yes, we know, there have been more pieces published with the word "analysis" in the title but how much of this is actually analysis? What do they do now that's better than they did before? Has anyone outside BBC Monitoring noticed?

  • News & Multimedia. We bet you had all forgotten about the "news" bit in their title! Now that you have been reminded, don't spend too long on the "news" bit – it really isn't just you who can't figure it out – but what about the other part of their title, "multimedia"? Yes, OK, they do a little bit of audio actuality for the BBC and they append a few pictures to the few pieces they write for BBC News Online but, surely, there must be more to it than that to justify having "multimedia" as part of their name! Once considered (by themselves) as the crème de la crème of BBC Monitoring, why do they all look so desperate, so miserable, some of us think even suicidal? Why are most of them searching for an escape route? With little or no substance to the "news" or "multimedia" parts of their name, they are left with the "&". Maybe they should be called "Ampersand". Time for le coup de grâce?

  • Operational Coordination Group. Can anyone anywhere in Monitoring, at Caversham or the international offices, think of one example of coordination accomplished by the Operational Coordinators? Close your eyes and imagine that all the Operational Coordinators had vanished overnight – perhaps done a runner. What difference will it make to anyone, apart from less noise and more space for everyone else to work in? What would happen if they were halved in size or brought under Dynamo Peter's or Steve Watcham's control? Would anyone notice the difference?

  • Source Management and Video Services (or whatever). We don't want to appear unduly cruel, so here's just one question to prompt your thinking: since October 2006 this succinctly-titled group has benefited from an increase in resources. What do they do now that they didn't do before?

That's about enough to chew over for the time being. But do feel free to send us appraisals of other parts of BBC Monitoring other than the ones we've highlighted above – Monitoring Research, Technological Services & Development or even Finance, for example. And, please, don't forget: no personal stuff and nothing libellous or defamatory.

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