Finding, sharing, and playing with that Tony Palmer BBC rejection letter
There has been some righteous indignation in the arts press this week about the philistines at the BBC declining to commission the Tony Palmer film about composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.
In The Observer, Mary Riddell was moved to opine that "Our national love of tackiness is killing culture".
Much of the ire has centred around the ludicrous rejection letter that Palmer received from the BBC. As quoted in The Observer, it read:
Having looked at our own activity via the lens of find, play & share, we came to the conclusion that a film about Mr Williams would not be appropriate at this time. This is essentially because we are... reconstructing the architecture of bbc.co.uk, and to do that, we need to maximise the routes to content.
We must establish the tools that allow shared behaviours, and so harness the power of the audience and our network to make our content more findable.
I couldn't help but find that the phrases used rung a distant bell in my head. Find, share and play are the three cornerstones of bits of the BBC's strategy on the internet - services should help people to find content, share it, and play it.
Here is the transcript of a speech given internally at the BBC by Simon Nelson on September 26th, at the BBC Vision Multiplatform day which I attended a couple of sessions of:
So having looked at our own activity via the lens of find, play and share we came to these conclusions:
* It is essential that we re-construct the architecture of bbc.co.uk to increase findability and to do that we need to maximise the routes in to content
* We must establish the tools that allow share behaviours – and so harness the power of our audience and the network to make our content more findable
That rather leaves open the question of whether somebody at the BBC was doing a very poor copy'n'paste hatchet job of their rejection letters, or whether Tony Palmer has misconstrued or misquoted what was sent to him as being a personal rejection letter for an individual project.
The BBC isn't coming out of this with much credit though. Whatever the origin and veracity of the email, given that the bulk of the words being quoted were said by the Multimedia Controller for the BBC's television output, having your spokesman suggest it can't be taken seriously seems a little, how shall we say, off message:
Television arts commissioning can find no record of receiving a proposal from Tony Palmer. This rejection letter did not come from them. We are unable to take this letter seriously without seeing it or being given the name of who sent it.
And that is leaving aside the question of whether a member of BBC staff was really suggesting they might reconsider if Mr V Williams could come up with something new in the next few months.
It isn't all bad for Tony Palmer though. His film is being shown by Five on New Year's Day. And, in what The Telegraph's review described as an 'unusual move', last week, prior to transmission, it was released on DVD - http://tonypalmerdvd.com/. How fortuitous for him that all that publicity over the mysterious BBC rejection letter should break at the very same time...