77 Days

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So Crystal Palace bosses sack Frank De Boer after 77 days and 4 PL games in charge. Shortest number of games and second only to Les Read of Charlton in days. From any angle this decision smacks of panic. De Boer wasn’t a knee jerk appointment but one made after considerable due process by those in charge at Palace. One can only presume that the interview process was conducted only after the business goals and principles were properly assessed by the Palace board and senior management and that De Boer was duly appointed as someone who would implement those plans. Premier League football clubs are big businesses and should conduct their businesses accordingly.

There must be serious doubts over the competence of the owners and Steve Parrish if after such a short period of time one of their major decisions is, by their own admission, one that was totally wrong.

Crystal Palace, like it or not, will always be one of those teams with a reasonable probability of being involved in relegation. Additionally any team can have a run of losing games at some point in the season. In all of the seasons Palace have been in the Premier League they have had runs of four or more losing games.

2013/14 – 7 losing games with only 2 goals scored – 19 games lost in total

2014/15 – 4 losing games with only 1 goal scored – 16 games lost in total

2015/16 – 4 losing games with only 1 goal scored – 18 games lost in total

2016/17 – 6 losing games with 10 goals scored – 21 games lost in total

It is not unusual for Palace to have losing streaks. De Boer is unlucky that it has happened at the beginning of the season but probability would suggest it could happen at any time so it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Palace have a reasonable squad of players capable of competing in the Premier League. Whoever takes over from De Boer may well reap a series of wins simply due to random chance.

Clearly something went on behind the scenes and we shall never know what but for a manager to lose the confidence of the senior management after only 4 games, and if the news stories are to be believed the rot set in even earlier, then there are serious deficiencies in the management set up.

Club managers need time to set up their teams, gain the confidence of the squad and get a run of games to even out the luck, good or bad, that all teams have to deal with.

De Boer didn’t get that and he probably should.

At the end of the day the club owners make the decisions but that makes clubs autocratic and prone to the bad judgements of a small group of people. It is not just managers who are bad for football clubs. Owners can be hugely destructive too.


Why no deal or a bad deal are the only two choices on offer

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UK businesses need to start preparing now for the likelihood that there will be no unified deal covering the UK’s exit from Europe.

Let’s face it anyone expecting a good deal is being naive. The odds are actually more in favour of no deal. The chaotic negotiating style of EU representatives and the need to get 27 different countries to agree to a multiplicity of arrangements will be impossible.

The other decisive factor is down to incentives. Politicians of whatever stripe have, in that ghastly phrase, “no skin in the game”. A failure to agree a deal will not result in any immediate loss of office for any politico involved in the negotiations. If anything they are incentivised to not make a deal since all the risk hangs on the side of agreement and any measurement of success will be prone to intense criticism given that the naysayers will vastly outweigh those who are in favour for any outcome apart from stalemate. For Barnier, Fox, Juncker and Davis any form of compromise will be seen as weakness by both their supporters and their opponents. The obvious negotiating solution for all of them is to not agree a deal and blame the other side’s obstinacy for the failure to get something done thus preserving their political face.

The so called “Brexit negotiations” are in reality an exercise of personal power between the main protagonists. It is about perceived prestige and the portrayal of the strong man, they are all white men after all, and none will want to be seen to back down to any of the others. To do so will mean the end of political careers.

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The real negotiations can only start once the current political sideshow is over and will take place between those who have real reasons for making them succeed. The out turn of Brexit negotiations will take ten, twenty and thirty years to resolve and can only take place in a piece meal way. The priorities will only become truly apparent when the policy failures are exposed and politicians are forced to tackle issues which mean something to each party. That cannot happen until the current charade is over. The UK already had the best deal it was likely to get now each new relationship between the UK and the European Commission will need to tackled individually and away from the false publicity of the Barnier/Juncker – Fox/Davis bun fight. Nothing good can come from this posturing so we may as well get used to the reality now.

Move C 4 – Be sure, be very sure


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It is a laudable ambition for government to seek to increase the employment and economic prosperity of the nation outside of London and the South East but is it a good idea to initiate policies that will not increase the overall GDP of the country to the detriment of London?

There is nothing which ties television broadcasting or television production to any geographic location but unless moving Channel 4 provides a boost to either industry as a whole then should the move be contemplated?

The current consultation regarding a relocation of Channel 4 would appear to be falling into the idea of relocating some staff and at the same time increasing the proportion of production spend away from London and towards the regions.

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There is no suggestion that new money will be used for these purposes but simply a reallocation in percentage terms of the existing Channel 4 resources. Both of the proposal to relocate staff and to reallocate funds to non London Indies will have a negative impact on those individuals having to relocate or having to change jobs because they are unable or unwilling to relocate and on those London based production companies who are currently in receipt of the Channel 4 commissioning spend which will be reallocated to the regions.

The suggestion by PACT, to the detriment of PACT’S London membership, that Channel 4 should spend 50% of its commissioning budget outside of London would mean a further £51 million being allocated to the regions based on current figures. Such a sum would have a significant impact on the London based producers this funding would be switched away from. Many of these producers are small and rely heavily on Channel 4 commissioning. Would there be safeguards to protect the funding of smaller London based independent producers? There are no guarantees. Is there any justification in seriously effecting producers, their employees and their freelance contractors simply on the basis of a political decision?

There is also a danger that this policy would produce false regionality. There are numerous instances currently of London based producers making “regional productions” and complying with two of the three current requirements to qualify for a regional production. Whilst satisfying the rules is this really within the spirit intended? Perhaps a better solution for Channel 4 would be to ensure that all its current regional funding was properly allocated to bona fide regional companies. If the same were also the case for other broadcasters then the total injection of funds into the regions would be substantial and make any other changes unnecessary.

I would question whether it is fair, within an industry that has thrived organically and grown in a strategic location naturally, that changes should be implemented in an arbitrary and politically motivated manner to the detriment of those individuals who are having their livelihoods effected. Politically it seems odd that a Conservative lead government should seek to interfere in the workings of the market for television when such moves would be anathema in any other market. Reallocating resources to the regions would not in itself provide a boost to the industry as a whole but simply a redistribution from one area to another. Neither is there any guarantee that Channel 4’s output would be more “regional” or representative of the diverse regions of Britain. Has anyone noticed any difference in regional culture relating to BBC output produced in Salford? I would say it is the same as it always was.

Viewers are largely ambivalent about the regionality of the programmes they watch preferring to base their choices on a quality threshold rather than where the show is produced or broadcast. Attempts at setting up regional city franchises following the lead of Jeremy Hunt have failed. ITV which was established as a grouping of regionally based franchises has consolidated into a London based company despite the initial push towards consolidation being undertaken by Granada a well established North West based broadcaster and producer.

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Neither television production nor broadcasting is akin to opening a shop in the high street where locals will go to buy their television needs. Neither is television like other entertainment forms in which nascent practitioners can practise their skills locally. Actors, musicians, visual artists and even chefs can all develop their skills in a local market place. This allows a local market to develop in theatre, music and gallery spaces. The same is not true for television. Having local workers does not produce a local industry.

Television has increasingly become global both in output and in who owns it. Viewers enjoy Scandinavian drama, US reality shows and global news networks as well as home grown fare. British originated television needs to compete in that global marketplace both at home and abroad. Large international broadcasting companies will pay big money to get hold of the best programming, featuring the most expensive talent both in front and behind the camera. Removing Channel 4 from London will not give it any competitive advantage over London based rivals and will in all probability mean that Channel 4 will need to invest heavily to create a regionally based broadcaster of similar size to its rivals, money it does not have and will not be given.

The other strand of the strategy is to force Channel 4 to spend more of its production budget outside of the M25 in order to boost regional production. Where should these funds be allocated? It could be made available to all regional producers but such a broad brush strategy will do little to boost any particular region and the thinness of the spread would benefit no one in the end. That leaves investing the funds in one or perhaps two areas in attempt to create a regional super producer. The investment would allow a single company to invest in training and development given that it could be given a more secure income. A longer term commitment would need to be given until such time as the company was a size that would allow it to compete with the largest of the UK’s current producers. Such a strategy could work but would no doubt incur the ire of those regional producers not favoured by an injection of funds. It would also require a long term commitment to a single company something which any future government could easily reverse.

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Moving Channel 4 will not significantly change the broadcasting or production landscape of the UK. Neither will it dramatically boost regional economies or employment. Uprooting 850 or in all probability fewer jobs from London to somewhere will have an effect on the chosen region but it will be only one region and may only be temporary. To make a political decision which adversely affects the lives of individuals it is important to be sure, absolutely sure that the decision will in the long run have beneficial effects for the totality of the industry. I don’t believe that surety is there. To move a broadcasting business away from its London hub needs proper consideration. Other broadcasters are not going to move. ITV, BBC, Sky, Discovery and Liberty Global will remain in their London bases leaving Channel 4 potentially isolated.

Is there a realistic case for moving Channel 4? I think not.

The Three Accounting Essentials for the Profitable Financial Management of any Business


There are only three things any successful business needs to focus on from an accounting perspective everything else is hot air and window dressing.

Number 1 – CASH

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By far the most important element is cash. Every business owner and manager must pay attention to and acquire knowledge of the business cash position at any given time and make reasonable predictions of future positions. Cash is the blood of the business coursing around the body and keeping it alive and well. With a little thought and a spreadsheet it is possible to estimate cash income and outgoings on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. Continual monitoring of the cash position will allow any business to maintain a cash buffer against unknown shocks and allow investment and business planning decisions to be made. Long term positive cash accumulation on its own will ensure profitability and being aware of potential problems early means corrective decisions can be made in time. Every element of the business can be reduced down to cash including financing of investments and other capital items, dividend payments to shareholders and tax payments. Cash encompasses all aspects of the business so a sound understanding of where it comes from and what it is being used for is essential.

Number 2 – MARGIN


The second thing to focus on is Gross Profit Margin. This is simply the difference between what it costs to produce the product or service and the price it is sold for net of Vat elements. The easiest way to track this is as a percentage. Take the total margin and divide by the total sales to give a Gross Profit Margin percentage. The higher this is the better. Monitoring the margin will show improvements or falls in the profitability of the products produced by the business, allow pricing decisions to be made and make decisions regarding the costs of production. If the margin is too low it will show that it is uneconomic to be in that market and the business can decide to cut costs, increase price or exit the market all together.

Number 3 – OVERHEADS

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The third and final essential element are overheads. These are all the other pre-tax costs deducted from the total margin to give a profit number. Every pound (or dollar, yen, euro etc) saved on overheads drops straight to the bottom line. That is why cutting these costs is so beloved by businesses acquiring other businesses. Reducing overheads is the quickest and in most respects the simplest way to increase profits. Overheads have a habit of creeping up over time slowly eroding the profitability of the business unless they are routinely monitored. Cutting out non essential costs is a sure route to profitability.

Of course there is more to running a business than finance and accounting so focus on these essentials and you will have more time to deal with manufacturing, sales, marketing and finding the right people to make your business fly instead of fretting over complex KPI’s.

Why multiple choice is no choice at all

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It’s no good. I have wracked my brains to find a solution but the fact is there just isn’t one. No matter how hard I try I can find no reason to exercise my democratic right on 8 June. Apart from the obvious undemocratic waste in a seat that unless you are a Conservative, Maj 28,000 any other vote lacks any meaningful point anyway. What else is there to put off the voter?

CONSERVATIVE – Current catch phrase a vote for “strong and stable leadership”. Well there have been many strong and stable leaders, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Ceausescu, Franco, Ian Smith on one side and Robert Mugabe on the other together with countless others. All have displayed strong leadership but the benefits to the societies on which they imposed their strong leadership was negligible to non-existent. There have been beneficial strong leaders, Mandela, Gandhi and Adolfo Suarez to name three but these leaders sought not to impose their individual views but to persuade and be inclusive to those who lie outside of their own support base. What is being asked for by the Conservative rhetoric is for Theresa May to be given a blank cheque to operate as she pleases in all realms without being told what these actions will entail. The results of Brexit will be what they will be for example. The voter has to trust her to bring the “right” result however “right” is defined. There may be unspecified changes in the tax system but we the voter will not be told what these will be. Again she will do the “right” thing but as voters we have no right to know what that is. Details of what the Conservatives intend to carry out post 8 June are sketchy to say the least. The voter is to take on spec that Mrs May will do the right thing because she is the only one able to provide “strong, and stable leadership” but the voter is not to be told what that right action entails. At its heart Conservatism is a party that entrenches the rights of the elite. It represents big business, the professions, land owners and those with wealth.  Expect more of the same.

LABOUR – A party struggling to reflect a true identity. The current leadership knows it needs to appeal not just to its membership but also to a majority of voters if it is to have any hope of achieving even a modicum of success at this election hence the vote catching policy ideas of scrapping tuition fees (first time voters), tax increases for those earning in excess of £80k and a substantial increase in council housing both of which will benefit lower income groups forming a majority of people in this country. The problem is there is more than a whiff of underlying agenda when it comes to the Labour Party. Partly this is down to the party’s abject failure to present itself in a modern way. Its MP’s are at loggerheads with the membership and the leader. Its leadership and spokes people are viewed as shambolic and the voter perceives this would be carried into government. There is also a view that the party still adheres to outmoded 19th century ideas of politics and that beneath the veneer lies a cadre of revolutionaries bent on bringing radical Marxism to Britain. Labour was never a revolutionary party but one formed to advance the well being of the majority and especially the working class as opposed to those of privilege. In the obverse of Theresa May’s impression of being a strong leader Jeremy Corbyn exudes weakness not helped by his inability to whip his party MP’s behind a coherent agenda and portray a well thought through vision of the future for Britain.

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT – A party which again portrays an image of somewhat weak leadership. Nick Clegg was and would be a far more effective leader than Tim Farron. His religious faith, and this is not a criticism of his right to faith, also undermines his ability to represent a secular society. Strict religious dogma often finds intolerable what a modern secular society is willing to countenance. That puts Mr Farron in a difficult position if he has to defend more liberal views than his faith would not ordinarily tolerate. Tony Blair’s holy crusade in partnership with his fellow Christian George W Bush against Saddam Hussein did much to undermine his legacy and lead him along a path that was largely against the views of the majority of voters. The LIBDEMS also suffer from a very low base of support and were by and large an electoral irrelevance until 2010. Their part in the ill judged coalition which saw the Conservatives easily out manoeuvre them leaves them open to accusations of naivete.

GREEN – A single issue party. Conservation and ecological impacts of human society has to be an issue for every party. There are probably better ways of ensuring these issues are in the fore front of our politicians than a small and ineffective parliamentary party.

UKIP – Just no.





TV Trends


Television in the UK has changed beyond recognition from the early days of a single provider in the shape of the BBC. But where is it heading. Here is some visionary input (guesses) from me.


Sports rights are probably the key drivers for both Sky and BT. Currently rights are licenced by the IP owners to national broadcasters on a country by country basis. In the past IP owners had to follow the licencing model because the distribution pathway in any individual country was controlled by a small number of national broadcasters. The income generated for the rights owner is massive. The likes of Sky and BT have driven all major sports barring a few specially protected events from Public Service channels. Technology will make that IP even more valuable for the IP owners. New technology will allow the rights owner to directly control the distribution of their product to individual viewers and revenues will be collected directly by the rights owner. There is now no longer any need for host nation broadcasters.
FIFA, UEFA, the IOC, Formula One and others with global sports brands will tap into their customer base directly and control their own advertising and sponsorship without having to touch a third party distributor.
This is potentially bad news for companies like Sky and BT but opportunities could be available in secondary rights packages (highlights, delayed transmission etc) and the creation of less high profile sports brands.

High End Drama

In the absence of sports rights drama will become the main driver for subscription channels. This is already happening with the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime. Both have moved into direct commissioning whilst still providing a secondary window for their initial business model as a distributor of Hollywood movies. The investment by these new entrants in drama output has seen a rise in production values coupled with an inflation in production costs. High end television drama production values are now on a par with features but still at a fraction of the cost both in terms of production and marketing. Public Service Broadcasters will struggle to compete with subscription services although it is possible that both the BBC and ITV could set up drama subscription services to capitalise on their existing brands. Such a move would need to happen quickly to avoid the new players grabbing market share and customers.

Lifestyle, food and travel

Traditionally cheap to make these style of programmes lend themselves to being directly distributed by large retailers on their own direct to consumer channels. Retailers could shift marketing spend away from traditional spot advertising campaigns and into ‘television’ production of their own lifestyle series fronted by their own talent. Retailers are already comfortable with having their own brand ambassadors and some have even ventured into advertising funded programming on regular TV outlets. Big retailers also have large databases of customers gleaned from loyalty cards. It is certainly not inconceivable to imagine a Jamie Oliver series transmitted by Sainsbury or Waitrose marketing their business and products via a Heston vehicle. It would probably cost a fraction of their current spot spend once the mind set for it changes both in the retailer head and that of the agencies which understandably are currently against any ad spend being diverted away from their hands. Is this behind the recent news highlighted in Broadcast of creative agency Beagle looking to expand into original content production?

Amazon is ideally placed to be at the forefront of this initiative with it already providing a huge retailing offering coupled with an existing television operation and a tech based infrastructure and knowledge base to deliver content to its massive database of customers all with credit cards already registered with the e-tailer. A range of subscription, micro payment or free services awaits to be exploited. Potentially good news for talent agents and producers.

Existing broadcasters

Where does all this leave the existing broadcaster model? Not in a good place I would suggest. Opportunities still exist in low cost serials (Soaps) where brand loyalty still exists in fairly large numbers. News will also be an area that traditional outlets will succeed. The continued viewer engagement with “constructed factual” and youth programming may also an area PSBs can continue to be a leader, as well as the exploitation of secondary windows for advertiser funded projects, older feature films, sports highlights packages and local output. Of course many of the traditional broadcast companies have been expanding their production capacity and would be ready to exploit any growth in production requirements for new outlets. Their existing channels provide an ideal test bed for new ideas and the skill base acquired over many years makes these companies ideal targets for well funded tech giants to buy into a ready- made production and distribution outfit.

When all is said and done producers should do well as there will remain a need for a well constructed, professionally produced product. The existing broadcast model will largely be absorbed into a new construct although a rump will remain much like the print newspaper industry exists today in a much smaller capacity.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

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Songs of Praise

It seems odd that a series that certainly on the face of it lacks commercial value should be transferred to an independent producer whilst more commercial offerings such as “Holby City” remain with a tax payer funded BBC.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with commercial production companies producing any type of show and indeed they do. Some argue that transferring BBC produced programmes to commercial producers simply means profits are being made by dastardly shareholders from taxpayers money but it could equally be argued that those profits simply represent inefficiencies within the BBC being driven out. If the overall budget stays the same or falls then the taxpayer has not been exploited any more than it is already.

But there is a wider issue at stake here. What is happening is an inexorable drift towards privatisation of BBC assets. Firstly BBC Worldwide has a fully commercial remit and is run to all intents and purposes as a private commercial enterprise albeit owned by the BBC.

Next and inevitably BBC Studios is being commercialised and in fact it is the stated aim of Mark Linsey as reported in Broadcast in October last year “that he wanted BBC Studios to “mirror” the structure of superindies such as Endemol Shine and All 3 Media.”

This process of commercialisation is underway highlighted by the announcement of 300 BBC production redundancies in October 2016 and more will follow as less valuable programming is pushed out to the independent sector and BBC Studios takes on a more “Indie” structure causing a transfer of full time production jobs into less secure and shorter term freelance roles. The reality is that independent producers are more financially efficient solely because they do not have to carry all of the costs of full time staff and benefit from the ability to offer short term contracts and extract the tax benefit of not having to pay employers national insurance on a significant part of their freelance workforce and front of camera talent costs.

What then for the last piece of the BBC asset jigsaw, the commissioning bit?

One of the many things a publicly funded broadcaster, as opposed to a producer, can and should be doing is fund programmes which ordinarily the commercial sector would not find viable. This would be perfectly possible even with a commercial BBC Worldwide and a commercial BBC Studios if the commissioning stayed independent but is it likely?

To the criticism that the BBC would stop showing niche and specialised programmes of little commercial value but justifiable in terms of social cohesion and public information a government could point to Channel 4 and claim this remit is adequately catered for by its Charter at a zero cost to the tax payer.

We know that politicians of all parties dislike the BBC’s impartiality. Labour over Hutton and the Conservatives over election coverage in 2015 to name but two. The dominant Conservative Party, the current party of government, also has an ideological hatred of nationalised corporations. The triumvirate of BBC Worldwide in distribution, BBC Studios in Production and BBC Broadcasting as a commercial enterprise with the potential to add a billion or two into the national accounts (Sky has been valued at £18.5bn) under the auspices of a Conservative lead Government must for the blue party be making them positively delirious at the prospect.

The downside is that the costs for users would go up but this wouldn’t be a problem for politicians. The value would be settled by the market not by the government. The current services provided by the BBC are extremely good value given that it covers substantial radio, TV and online services because of the fact that all owners of a television fund all services. A privatised business would have to offer “choice” leading to a radically different payment structure. Possibly this could be advertising but more likely some form of subscription. Some free to air television content might continue much as we currently have with Sky 1 but for premium content the charge would almost certainly increase. The corporation would be forced to compete more and more head on for rights with the likes of BT, Sky, Netflix and Amazon if it were to maintain a pre-eminent position. The proposed takeover by Fox of Sky is partially being justified by the claim that Sky would be better able to compete for rights with the backing of a financial heavyweight. Likewise the BBC privatisation would put it in the frame for a takeover by a well funded overseas investor and for a government intent on generating the highest value this would almost inevitably become the preferred source of suitor.

The biggest potential loser of any privatisation would be radio and especially local radio. Whilst the large audiences of Radios 2 and 4 could be used to cross promote other services it would seem difficult to justify the non-revenue or revenue lite potential of the other radio assets in the wrapper of a commercial television company.

Much like Scottish Independence there seems to me to be a certain grim inevitability about the privatisation of the BBC. Not an if but a when.