Eddie Mair: I meet, therefore I am (in a meeting)

Inside the Beeb - an exciting electronic room-booking system is now in place

New Broadcasting House has a New System For Having Meetings. As you can imagine, this is a fantastically important development because at the BBC we like to have meetings. Our priorities are very clear. They are printed on the back of every BBC ID card.


The words might as well be imprinted on my heart because I can recite them for you here without even consulting my card. They are about BBC Values and what we stand for.

1 Try to have a meeting.

2 If you’re not having a meeting you should be planning one.

3 If you’re not having or planning a meeting you should be talking to someone about the pointlessness of your last meeting.

4 Actually I’m a bit vague on this one. Something about educate and inform?

5 If you are unable to have, plan or talk about a meeting, and there are no other options, make a programme.

For the past few weeks an exciting new electronic room-booking system has been in place. Every meeting room must be booked online in advance. You enter a room by holding your ID card against a screen. If the light stays yellow, you cannot enter. If it turns red, you may pass! It’s a perfectly fine system let down by the buffoons who can’t use it. By which I mean me.

I acknowledge that I do not know how to set the out-of-office autoreply on my email, or which hand of the director-general to kiss first. But I’d hoped I could manage the new system. Yet most days at 11am or 2.45pm you can see me trying to gain entry to a PM meeting, pointlessly holding my card against the little screen, only to have it reject me every time. I must rely on the kindness of strangers to go to my own meetings.

A colleague tells me my ID card might have to be reprogrammed, though the look in her eyes suggested she thought I might benefit from a digital overhaul.

Wrong place, wrong person

After reading a recent column about crematoriums, a friend tells me of a funeral she attended. Like me, she only knew the deceased, not the family, and solemnly trooped in to pay her respects. After a burst of The Lord Is My Shepherd, as the congregation held back tears, the minister intoned that it was indeed a sad day for everyone who knew Brian Davidson.

Sadly my friend had gone not for Brian but for Lily. It was an extra sad day for her because she was at the wrong funeral. Lily would not be formally mourned for another full week.

What would you do? Classily, my friend stayed and grieved for whoever Brian was, but dashed out the second the ceremony was over. She felt bad about even that because by all accounts Brian was a lovely man.

Twenty Fourteen

In a future edition of RT: why did one Newsnight presenter secretly complain about a colleague’s legs? Which BBC boss got into trouble for going to Umbria? Why does Frankie Howerd dominate top-level meetings at Broadcasting House? And why does his ID card work but mine doesn’t? I’ll be reporting from the set of Twenty Twelve spin-off W1A, set in the heart of the BBC.

Eddie Mair presents PM, Mon—Fri 5pm, and iPM, Sat 5.45am, both Radio 4