Dear Santa


Dick Hobbs. TV-Bay Magazine
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Issue 108 - December 2015

My Christmas list this year is very modest. I really do hope that my naughty:nice ratio has been appropriate and you will be able to get at least some of these down my chimney.

1 less bad language. I dont mean swearing: that is all right in appropriate situations. Indeed its absence can be silly: there is a pre-watershed police procedural called Cuffs on the BBC at the moment, and the sanitised language is one of the many laughable aspects of a dismal production.

No, I mean calling a spade a hand-held agricultural excavation implement. Our industry is full of words I really do not understand at the moment, like programmatic trading (which I think is something to do with advertising). In the old days the people in a company who organised the holiday rota were called the personnel department, then they got above themselves and adopted the name human resources. A press release this week announced the appointment of a new head of people. Disgraceful.

Professor Daniel M Oppenheimer of the UCLA Anderson School of Management recently studied the use of language, coming to the conclusion that simple, clear and direct is the best policy. Then he shot himself in the foot by offering the distinctly un-simple, clear and direct quote To the extent that you use long words, you make it more disfluent to read your prose, people will judge you disfavourably.

2 could we have some comedies that are funny, please. Something to make us laugh. It will probably need John Finnemore to write it, so give him a lot of money and tell him to get on with it.

Otherwise we are stuck with to take just one example The Almost Impossible Gameshow, which has the pitch line whats funnier than watching a contestant fall over once? Watching them fall over 10 times while wearing lycra!. If only Anthony Jay and Jonathan Lynn had thought of that rather than wasting their time writing Yes Minister.

3 while Christmas is the time of goodwill, I would love to see sanctions imposed on people talking and/or writing about stuff they clearly do not understand. Advocating 4k to future-proof content, without any evidence that anyone will ever want to watch 4k. Talking about the cloud when actually they mean virtualisation at most, and probably just doing stuff in computers. Things like that. As an aside, I recently visited ZDF in Germany in the company of Andy Newton of Pebble Beach. He made the rather good joke, I thought, about a lot of proposed cloud solutions being vapour-ware. Ill let you think about that one.

4 and while I am into sanctions, can we weed out the sound supervisors who are clearly hard of hearing. BBC Radio 3 broadcast a Prom this summer featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim (a particular favourite of mine) with none of the singers microphones working. Only this week I watched Bryn Terfels birthday concert on Sky Arts, although I did not hear much of it because of the awful music balance. There are good sound people out there: just give the work to them.

5 because I am a very humble person, I have put the most important request last. Can we do something about the appalling under-representation of women in our industry, particularly at the top and particularly in technology?

Yes, I know that Naomi Climer has just been appointed the president of the IET, but she remains, sadly, something of an exception. The IBC Daily Executive Summary, which reflects the views of the great and the good, this year includes 49 interviews. Of those, just five were female: Delia Bushell of BT, Joan Gilman of Time Warner, Muki Kulhan and Fran Unsworth from the BBC, and Laurence Miall-dAout of TV Beat.

As I write this, social media is buzzing with the news that a technology start-up conference organised by Telefnica in London was treated to a cheerleading show. The break entertainment at an event for innovators in technology was a bunch of girls with large pom-poms. Really? Has my binge-watching of Doctor Who transported me back to the sixties?

Also in the news today is a story that HSBC is to black out the names on CVs as part of its drive to get more women into senior jobs. It is a sad day when our great industry has to take management advice from a bank.

Thank you Santa. If you can bring me any of those gifts I will be eternally grateful. And once I have unwrapped all my presents and made myself sick by eating too much of the chocolate orange, my thoughts will turn to New Year resolutions.

I would like us all to be nicer to each other. There is too much nastiness on television. I know that The X Factor has probably reached the end of the line so we have no need to listen to Simon Cowell tearing hopefuls to pieces. But television still supports the likes of Jeremy Kyle, and it really should not.

Let us hope that 2016 sees us all nicer people, sticking up for better technical and creative standards, but asking for them politely. In return, I promise to try to be less disfluent.


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Contributing Author Dick Hobbs.

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