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Global swoop in for Maitlis and Sopel
An amazing coup for Global as they sign up the BBC’s Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel for “a major new podcast for Global Player, as well as hosting a show together on LBC and providing commentary and analysis for lbc.co.uk”
I imagine it’s a blow to the BBC, well at least to staff morale, as there has been an exodus of news staff from a combination of cuts and the re-location of departments around the country.
The Times’ Jake Kanter talked about the worry about whether this is starting to affect output. I imagine not entirely, there’s still a huge number of people there, and cock-ups can always happen. However it does all play into a narrative of decline. The Guardian’s Jim Waterson and Caroline Davis quote an unnamed person: “Sources said there was a sense that BBC [news] had not grasped how big podcasting was becoming because it was still fixated on servicing its old broadcast channels, and could not compete on money, talent and editorial freedom.
Talent-development in a fast-changing media sector is more and more important. The rise of digital media opportunities, and the difficulty of cutting through with new products means the potency of talent is hard to ignore and looking after them becomes even more important.
That’s problematic for BBC talent who are assailed from all sides and get caught in the cross-fire of national newspapers/politicians lobbing grenades at Auntie, having to follow stricter guidelines than any other operator, and get their salaries published too.
Emily Maitlis has been harangued a number of times over scripts and social posts and I imagine if Jon Sopel’s desire to be political editor was going to be overlooked, it’s perhaps not surprising that they’re off to do something else.
At the BBC they all earned around £350k each, the Global deal will be generous, but it also frees them up to do other things too. However to encourage them to give up plum jobs there will have needed to be both a cash and creative incentive.
Other than broad outlines, Global have been non-specific about what Andrew Marr, Jon Sopel and Emily Maitlis will do on LBC. If they’re paying top dollar they will want their pound of flesh. Looking at these hirings it would seem mad to me if they’re not planning on launching a TV station around LBC. They have already upped the visual elements on the channel, but with competitors like GB News and talkTV getting into the news/opinion business, why wouldn’t Global, with already some of the best talent, not be readying themselves to do that too?
Also joining Jon and Emily is their old podcast producer, Dino Sofos. Previously looking after some of the successful BBC News podcast launches, one of his key skills seems to be talent relationships - including putting together Emily and Jon for Americast.
In one of my previous companies they hired a firm to map all the relationships in the business, irrespective of reporting lines. There were a few, but powerful, supernodes. People who were the connective tissue to much of the smooth running of the organisation. The names were quite a surprise to the business’ bosses, they often weren’t particularly senior but they were essential for information flow and belonging.
The danger with a lot of restructuring is that its hard to know the knock-on effects of the changes will be, relationships are often non-linear. It’s easy to lose a supernode. Who was responsible for fighting to keep Emily or Jon? Or did it partly get lost in the wash?
The appointment of BBC political editor has been notable by how many people have ruled themselves out. Looking at the grief Laura Kuenssberg got on social media, the pressure from other media and the perhaps lukewarm defence from the bosses - why would you want to say yes to that? Particularly now for talent enjoying success, and with an energised market for those skills, being cared for and looked after has never been more important.
I caught up with ex-Times Editor and ex-Head of BBC News, now Founder and Editor of Tortoise Media, James Harding, on last week’s edition of The Media Podcast. It was fascinating to hear how think about slow news, membership and their new focus on audio.
Also joining me was the Guardian’s Media Editor Jim Waterson and CEO of Nine Lives Media Cat Lewis.
Listen on your podcast app of choice or by clicking here: podfollow.com/themediapodcast.
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