This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rumours II- R&D changes

Although the technology and new media bit of the BBC (now known, bizarrely as 'Future Media and Technology') has emerged from the latest round of cuts relatively unscathed, there are indeed some changes on the way. The largest from where I'm stood are those impacting on the old R&D area. It's now called R&I (Research and Innovation) by the way, but let's not go there.

The changes are really three fold- we're relocating, splitting into two main groups, and clumping the projects differently.

The Move- we always knew that Kingswood Warren was going to be sold, and it went on the market a few weeks ago. It's a bit of a shame (who wouldn't lament the loss of a Victorian mansion in acres of landscaped surrey countryside as a workplace- sigh) but the real worry has always been the impact on the work, not so much the sentimentality or love of the place. It has, right now, got some of the most brilliant research infrastructure and culture- studios, labs, test chambers, RF facilities, dedicated server suites, and it's own wonderful IT staff, not to mention a dedicated technical library (with real librarians- WHOOT 'Shhhhh!' sorry), and some of the most fabulous rooms for meetings and mini conferences. It is too big, and too far from the rest of the BBC though, and has been a bit of the boffin gulag for too long.

I think, personally, that in trying to fix the admittedly broken relationship with the rest of the BBC something rather awful happened. A 'shock and awe' decapitation of a difficult area was followed up with an ill planned administration, shades of the emerald city perhaps, but at least now, with these new changes, there is a recognition that not only must some things be stopped, some others need to begin. (Oblique, moi!?!). So, we're moving. Except not to a similar more appropriately sized facility in the neighborhood.

See, that had been 'PLAN A'- a new, smaller, KW nearby, perhaps on a better connection to central London. However, apparently management were surprised when that sort of thing, for the accom alone, looked like being about £10million. Frankly that appalls me. Not the cost, but that fact that it was a surprise. I mean, if you're going to sell something for £20 million (best guess at the low end of the market value for KW) and want something half the size nearby, well maybe you'll be paying about half that. So anyway, all shocked and stuff, we're not buying a new gaff. Fair enough. We're moving to the grottiest offices we have in W12- White City- the Ministry of Truth, the monstrous carbuncle, Ceacescu Towers. Yes, as Factual deal with loosing headcount, and promptly bail on their worst cubby holes, we pile in. And I suspect that the budget for fitting them out will not be free. I wonder if anyone senior will be 'surprised' by the cost.

Weirder is to come though, because we are also going to have the heavy kit- the studios, the server suites, the labs, slotted into Television Centre. That too is on my list of crap BBC buildings, and I'm not at all sorry we're selling it. At least, I wasn't, until they told me they were moving part of my dept. into it. Kind of makes you wonder just how much left hand/ right hand comms are going on. Or if there's much of a future in anything other than the shortest possible terms for the group. Ah well, I'm sure it will be fine. I know I'll do my level best to make it fine, brilliant even. But still, you know, weird isn't it.

Gosh, this has gone and got big. Ok, so more of the split and reclumping next time, and perhaps also a comment on the importance, or utter irrelevance, of the Amazon S3 European launch from a large scale A/V master archive point of view.

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