Paul Fox

Forename/s: 
Paul
Family name: 
Fox
Awards and Honours: 
Work area/craft/role: 
Industry: 
Interview Number: 
277
Interview Date(s): 
24 Mar 1993
13 Apr 1993
13 Sep 1993
Production Media: 
Duration (mins): 
330

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Interview
Interview notes

Paul Fox had been supplied with an outline of how the interviews are structured and some idea of the topics and questions to be covered, This can be found below this synopsis. [DS]

behp0277-paul-fox-synopsis

SIDE ONE

Born Bournemouth, 1926, son of a doctor, no pre-war experience. Whilst in the Army he joined an American army course on journalism and on being demobbed he wrote to many papers, got two replies, one from Auckland, New Zealand and one from the Kentish Times. Worked for two years in the Erith area then joined Pathe Pathé News as commentary writer; also worked as a holiday relief commentary writer for BBC TV News, then got a six- month contract with TV Newsreel; talks about the early days at Alexandra Palace. He then talks about the ‘takeover’ of the newsreel by the News Division under Tahu Hole; he talks about BBC coverage of the Korean War, also about the various ‘crisis’ events covered by the BBC Newsreel. He talks about his period as editor on Panorama, he suggests to Peter Dimmock a weekly sports programme, thus started Sportsview. He talks in detail on this.

SIDE TWO

The Olympic Games 1952 and 1956, the Hungarian crisis and then Suez. He talks generally about stories from Panorama and rivalry with Tonight. After two and a half years he moves to become Head of Public Affairs, and talks about various events and personalities.

SIDE THREE

The programme mounted after the Kennedy assassination; he talks about Grace Wyndham Goldie. Jeremy Isaacs, Derek Amor, 24 Hours, Nationwide. Then he talks about his period as controller, BBC1 and working with Huw Wheldon (Managing Director TV); Interview continues with him talking about the placing of the first Monty Python programmes. He explains why David Attenborough left his administrative job. He talks about Alan Whicker’s call to him that led to his resignation and his departure for Yorkshire Television.

SIDE FOUR

He talks about being given 24 hours to clear his desk by Huw Wheldon; he talks about his first meeting with the ITV programme makers, and the set up in Yorkshire, about the franchise renewal 1978/9, about the strike in 1979 when he became ‘the unacceptable face of ITV’. He then talks about the new franchise after the strike when ‘White Rose’ bid for the Yorkshire area, he talks about the meeting called by White Rose in Leeds Town Hall when they were hoping to sell themselves to Yorkshire. He then talks about going to the IBA HQ on December 27th to collect the sealed envelope which was to contain the message that Yorkshire had been successful BUT there were conditions which resulted in the demise of Trident Television and the making of Tyne-Tees into a separate TV station.

SIDE FIVE

He talks of the history of Yorkshire and their co-operation with Granada about he placing of ‘The First Tuesday of the Month’ series of programmes, about the moving of Emmerdale Farm from lunchtime, then to teatime and finally to 7pm. He touches briefly on Children’s Programmes under Joy Whitby. He then goes on to talk about the present system of auction to the highest bidder and the political attack, first on ITV then when that failed on the BBC. He says that the real enemy for television is Rupert Murdoch, who with Sky has the monopoly on subscription TV. He then goes back to talk about his time with the BBC.

SIDE SIX

He talks about how at the age of 62 he was approached to take over as MD TV with a contract for three years. He talks briefly about the Royal Television Society and then about his life since ‘retirement’.

[END] [Norman Swallow's notes and questions follow]

behp0277-Paul-Fox-questions.

[These are Norman Swallow’s interview plans and questions rekeyed from his typescript. DS]

1)     We always do our interviews chronologically: “Where were you born and when?” then early years, education, and what were your wishes in terms of a career (if any!)? Were you good at Sport? Wartime service.

2)     Journalism and then BBC Television. I suppose we can say that your ‘professional life pattern’ began in the late 40s and early 50s. Your passionate interest in Sport, Journalism, and ‘world affairs’. We’d like to hear about the Alexandra Palace, and especially about some individuals with whom you worked closely. What was ‘news’ like in those days? (I worked with Grace Wyndham Goldie in those days and in 1952, inspired by Cecil McGivern, began the Investigative Journalism series Special Enquiry.) Useful to know about the general creative atmosphere at AP, especially in retrospect. It was very small in those days, and maybe greater ‘creative freedom’ than today; I remember that a ‘Special Enquiry’ on ‘Has Britain a Colour Bar?’ was seen by nobody senior to myself.

3)     Sportsview. Apart from its historical importance as a series, it was surely a break-through in the relations between broadcasters and the ‘sports authorities’ and there must be a lot to say about this. Which could be a reason for us to discuss this relationship today, when to many people sport seems to be a slave of television, and TV decides (maybe?) when and where even soccer matches can be played. Its audience size is also a vital part of the ‘ratings war’, which seems to count for more than ‘programme quality’. Does real sport gain or lose from all this? The earnings of sports ‘stars’ all over the world is surely a consequence of TV. There is also much to say about the enormous developments in the technical resources available for sports coverage since the 1950s – which reminds me that when we interviewed Tony Bridgewater he told us about a pre-war OB coverage of the Derby: “You couldn’t tell one horse from another, but at least you knew they were horses.” And Paul, do please speak about Peter Dimmock and Ronnie Noble!!

4)     From Sport to Current Affairs.  And especially your years as editor of Panorama. In your hands it became much ‘tougher’ and ‘professional’. You can talk about Dimbleby and your great team of reporters (and how great they were!). Also any especially memorable ‘stories’, such as Mossman in Vietnam, and the ‘Georges Bidault Affair’ (in which I took part). The important developing relationship between Television and Party Politics. Your relationship, as Editor, with the ‘BBC Hierarchy’, from Grace Wyndham Goldie to Hugh Greene. Any views on Panorama in the 1990s – it’s 50 years old this year.

5)     As far as I remember, your time between Panorama and becoming Controller BBC1 were spent as a ‘Head’ in the general area of Current Affairs and as a Freelance I remember that you called on me to make several obituaries in the 1960s, most of them still to be transmitted!! I’m sure you can say much about Current Affairs in the important decade of the 1960s.

6)     I owe you a great deal as Controller of BBC1, when I edited Omnibus and later was Head of Arts Features. Please say much about your work as a Controller – with such marvellous colleagues as David Attenborough and Huw Wheldon – and the ‘general organisation’ and ‘creative atmosphere’ of the time, which must have changed a lot when you returned a few years ago.

7)     You went to Yorkshire Television, and why? Many of us were surprised and saddened (your departure and that of David Attenborough, were probably the main reasons why I left myself, and returned to Granada in 1974). This is really a point in our ‘chat’ when you should talk at length about ITV, and especially in the light of the recent ‘franchises’. Yorkshire, like Granada very successfully combined popular and serious television, and ‘local’ coverage of quality and still made a profit. But in 1993?

8)     Back to the BBC again, and why? And how had it changed since the 1970s? My own impression – I made a Forty Minutes in 1986 and a By-Line in 1989 – was that the structure was too complex and confused.

9)     Today British TV seems to many of us to be in a real mess. For the BBC, what of its own future? (read today that, by an Opinion Poll, a majority of the public want it to rely on advertising!) What do you think will happen in terms of its programme output and quality? What about Birt’s general strategy? As for ITV and Channel 4? (I have reason to be horrified by what’s happening in Granada).

10)                        Your concern with sport continues. Tell us more!

 

11)                        What about RTS, with which you’ve had a close connection for a long time. In the present environment, surely such bodies (including BAFTA, of which you are a Fellow) have a  more important contribution to make to the general argument.

12)                        Can we end with a general summary, maybe based on the consequences of all the world-wide technical changes since the early 1950s, when we had just one channel. Technical advance means that programme-makers can do a lot more, but does it also mean that in commercial terms it results in them doing less?

 

[END]

 

Transcript

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 1

I    =    Interviewer  -  Norman Swallow
R    =    Paul Fox
M    =    Alan Lawson

s.l.    =    sounds like

I:    The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project.  Sir Paul Fox.  One time Managing Director, BBC Television, Yorkshire Television.  Interviewing Norman Swallow.  Recorded on the 24th of March 1993.  Side 1.

First and foremost, where were you born?

R:    In Bournemouth, in 1925, long time ago.

I:    Schooling?

R:    Bournemouth Grammar School.  And then I mucked around a bit, and then I went into the Army when I was about 18.  And I had three years in the Army as a Soldier in the Parachute Regiment, and the Parachute Regiment did me a power of good.  I grew up, unquestioningly, I’m grateful to the Army for what the Army did for me.  I saw a bit of action, not as much as some others did, and when I saw enough I came out, I was wounded…

I:    Weren’t you [unclear 0:01:11]?

R:    No.  No, no.  

I:    It was just a rumour.

R:    No.  No, I jumped across the Rhine when the War was nearly over.  And I was wounded and I came out early.  I was fortunate that I came out of the Army early because that way I was able to get a job, I mean, I had no money and no background, nothing.  And I wrote to every single newspaper in the country and abroad…

I:    Can I stop you a second?  Why newspapers?  

R:    Well I…yes, why?  Because I went…in my closing days in the Army, I went to an American university at Biarritz, an American university, that the Americans had established for members of their forces, that gave some guest scholarships to British servicemen, and I was lucky enough to go there, and I did a six month course of journalism there.  I was invited to go to the University of Missouri, School of Journalism there, I decided against it.  And decided to seek…thought that journalism would be my career.  I had never done any journalism before.  There were no journalistic people in my family.  I just wanted to do journalism.

I:    [Unclear 0:02:26] when you were at a school before…

R:    No.  My father was a Doctor, and the feeling always was that I would go into medicine, and I had absolutely no wish to go into medicine, no inclination.  And in any case, neither the money there nor anything else, so I had to work.  And off I went, and wrote to every single newspaper, well not every…I wrote to about a 100 newspapers in this country and some abroad, and there were only two favourable replies.  This was 1940…

I:    6?

R:    …6.  I was 21.  And the two favourable replies were one from Auckland, ‘The Star Newspaper’ in Auckland, New Zealand.  And the other one was from ‘The Kentish Times’.  And I was tempted by Auckland, New Zealand, I truly was.  God knows what would have happened if I’d plumped for New Zealand.  Fortunately, I had met Betty soon after that and then soon after…so I took The Kentish Times job and became a trainee journalist at The Kentish Times in Erith, and I ran the local office...well very soon ran the local office down there.  But I did all sorts of stuff, flower shows, drama reviews, concerts, everything that a local journalist does.

I:    Except sport, maybe?

R:    Except sport.  Absolutely right, except sport.  What I did not learn was shorthand.  I did court reporting and I wrote with longhand, and the Editor said, “Look old boy, you really have got to learn shorthand.”  And I tried and I was absolutely hopeless.  And so after two years there, I didn’t really like living out in Erith, and I wanted to come back to London, because of Betty, and because I wanted to be in London.  

A job came up at Pathé News, and I went to Pathé in Wardour Street as a Newsreel Commentary Writer.  I wasn’t the only one.  But I learned more at Pathé, I suppose, than I did at any other place, other than in television, because what I learned was the discipline of writing to film, two words a foot, and I learnt it in a very hard school, taught by two Fleet Street newspaper men, one called David [s.l. Cole 0:04:42], the other one called Clement Cave, and this was Howard Thomas’ Pathé, of course.  Howard was the Editor in Chief, although I saw very little of him, I was too far down the table really, and Howard really was in charge of Pathé Pictorial, and Pathé News.  The Editor of Pathé News was this man, Clem Cave, whom I admired and respected enormously, as indeed I did David Cole.

Newly married when I arrived, God knows what I was paid, but not a great deal of money.  But the newsreels were, you know, those were the days, not quite the glory days of the newsreels, the glory days of the newsreels were before the War, but they weren’t bad after the War, they weren’t bad.  Pathé did all sorts of things…and that’s when I first got my affection for writing about sport, because I knew how to write.  I’d learned how to write to football matches.  I learned how to write to races.  Bob Danvers-Walker was the voice.  I wrote for Bob.  Bob was not a very pleasant chap, deeply unpleasant in fact, but in the end Bob just read what was put in front of him.  There were other people there, a man called Jack Rogerson who…God knows whatever happened to him?

I:    He was the sound recordist.

R:    Well no, he was a bit more…he became an Editor.  He was certainly a Producer.  He used to like putting his pencil in his mouth constantly.  Wasn’t very good.  I mean, I wrote quickly.  I’m not saying it was great wonderful literary stuff, but I was able to do it quickly.  Noel Wiggins was the Film Editor.  And a man called Norman Roper was the other Editor.  Norman Roper’s still around somewhere, I think he went…he stayed in film.  Norman is a lovely man.  And Ted Bilsdon.  And, I suppose, I stayed at Pathé…Tommy Cummins… when Clement Cave left to go back to the Express, and David Cole went back to Fleet Street, the man who came in was Tommy Cummins from the Editor in Chief of Pathé.  And Tommy was past his prime by that time, by the time he arrived at Pathé.  He was pretty idle.  He had a sick wife.  He lived too far out in the country.  But when Tommy started telling the stories of the old newsreel days it was great fun.  

And so, I suppose, I stayed at Pathé 2 years, 2 ? years, perhaps a bit longer, in Wardour Street.  Enjoyed it.  Got to know the cameramen.  Got to know the film editors.  And really liked the news aspects of the business.  Film industry wasn’t of great interest to me.  Pathé wasn’t a bad place.  Howard Thomas was clearly very ambitious.  He was gonna take the place…the outfit further.  But one could see, even though there were two newsreels a week, and on occasions they did a special newsreel, I mean, on an occasion like the Grand National, the Cup Final and things, longer than the days before television, they did special editions, rushed the prints into the cinemas, and you worked through the night, it was quite fun that that.  Quite fun.  But it clearly wasn’t to be my long term future.  

And then I saw an ad for holiday relief work at the BBC, at the BBC Television newsreel.  And that really was the next thing I did.  I applied to do some holiday relief writing at the BBC.  And much to my surprise I was taken on and I came up to AP, I mean, we were honestly too poor to take a holiday, children had arrived, one…Jonathan had arrived, certainly, by that time, yes.  So there we lived in [s.l. Brunswick 0:08:08] Park, not really terribly well off, with one child, and I was earning what, well Pathé…no, this was Jonathan, the older one, just earning a reasonable amount from Pathé but not much, and then the holiday relief work came, and I did two weeks at the BBC, contracted by Jack Mewett, paid 4d?d, but it was a wonderful experience, of course.  

And this was in the days of the newsreel when the BBC only had one station, of course, one transmitter, Crystal Palace.  Ted Halliday was [unclear 0:08:45].  Roy Cole, actually, was the scriptwriter at that time, and Roy was on holiday, and I took Roy’s place.  Dick Cawston was there by that time already.  Chris [s.l. Corke 0:08:57], Dennis Edwards, all those people were there.  Philip Dorté was the boss of the film department.  You, Alan, were there at that time, and one or two cameramen.  But not the really…the top of Fleet Street yet.  

And I’m not sure whether I did this twice?  I think I did the holiday relief work twice.  Because at the end of the fortnight, I certainly enjoyed it, and at the end of the fortnight they said, “Will you come back again?”  I said, “Yes, whenever you ask me.”  And somehow I managed to get some other holiday, some leave from Pathé, and came back for a second time.  And at the end of the second time somebody, could have been that awful chap Harold Cox, who really was the worst manager in the history of television newsreel, of television, Harold Cox may well have said to me…I think it was Philip Dorté actually…or Jack Mewett said, “Look, there’s a permanent job…” or, “…there’s a temporary job here if you’d like to come, we’ll give you a six month contract.”

I:    That would have been Philip.

R:    That was Philip I think, yes.  And so there it was, I gave…threw up the newsreel, Tommy Cummins and Norman Roper, and all those people, Gracie Fields, and went on a six month contract to the BBC.  And I loved it.  I truly loved it.  I mean, this was in the very early…still only one transmitter, still only Crystal Palace, ‘cause I remember writing the newsreel when the Sutton Coldfield transmitter opened and we did a special film arranged for the Midlands, to greet the Midlands as Sutton Coldfield opened.  Now this was a small world, the newsreel world, Dick Cawston, unquestionably, was the most important influence there.

I:    What was his official title at that time?

R:    BBC Television newsreel.  What was my official title?

I:    No, Dick’s…Dick Cawston?

R:    Super…no…

I:    Anyway…

R:    …I honestly can’t remember what Dick’s title was.  But Dick was the most powerful influence.  (A) because force of personality.  (B) because he’d been there a long time.  And (C) he understood the thing.  He knew what was wanted from the newsreel.  

I:    Had Monty arrived then?

R:    Monty was there…but Monty was in his closing days.

I:    Yeah.

R:    Monty was there but, I mean, it was coming to the end, I mean, Monty was old, as you know, and Dick, I mean, Dick was thrusting, firing, still full of bad temper, I mean, throwing typewriters out of the window and all that sort of stuff, and shouting at people.  But he was a terrific influence.  Philip Dorté, of course, was there as well did understand it.  Did understand what the newsreels were about.  Jack Mewett was a bit of a pain, I mean, he was an administrator and nothing else.  But the newsreel was valued.  And when I arrived, I suppose there were two editions of the newsreel a week, soon after that we went to three editions a week, and then, certainly, before the end came it went to five editions a week.  

Now in…Ted Halliday was, again, a very important part of that.  He had, I mean, he was nothing but a voice, but he was a reassuring voice, a comfortable voice, and he was an excellent reader, of course.  He was a portrait painter, Ted, close to the Royal Family, very close to the Queen, I mean, all the jokes we made about Ted, if you mentioned the Queen he would stand up and always mention Her Majesty and all that, I mean, there was a little bit of that.  But it was…he was excellent, Ted, and, I mean, compared to Bob Danvers-Walker who was the other voice I knew, I mean, Ted was way ahead of that because he knew how to read it, he knew where to make the pauses, and he was exceptionally good, very…a very nice man.  Philip was good value, but Philip, well you see already even at that time Philip thought he was involved in the politics of the BBC.  I mean, this was in the days of McGivern, Norman Collins, the television at Alexandra Palace was derided.

I:    Early 50s, yeah?

R:    Early 50s.  1950 I arrived at the BBC.  1950.  Television was derided in those days.  Sir William Haley was still the Director-General and thought nothing of television, it was something up the road at Alexandra Palace, I mean, it was remote…and it was remote, I mean, the journey up to Alexandra Palace was hazardous, I mean, truly difficult.  I didn’t have a car in those days so I used to come by train and up the hill in that awful single decker bus…

I:    Wood Green Station.

R:    Wood Green Station.  Until Dick Cawston…Dick had a car, and Dick was then kind enough to give me a lift fairly regularly really.  We met at Swiss Cottage and Dick would pick me up.  I’m still ashamed how often I kept him waiting.  Anyway, Dick was terrific, I mean, super man.  Dick was the most powerful influence, but he was not the boss of the newsreel.  The newsreel man…I think he was a Newsreel Producer that was his…the Newsreel Manager was this awful chap Harold Cox.  How he got into the place.  How he ever kept a job down I do not know.  He knew nothing about the newsreels.  He sat in the morning in the theatre and looked at the rushes…didn’t understand what the rushes were.  

And the people who made the newsreel were, in order of priority, Dick Cawston, undoubtedly, and then Dennis Edwards.  Dennis was a marvellous Film Editor, chap out of the RAF, he knew what he was doing.  He got on with it.  He was quick, lightening quick, and a most wonderful companion, most terrific colleague.  He was very even temperament.  Lived down in Muswell Hill, always near to the place.  Chris Corke was there as the other Film Editor, and Vernon Phipps was the chap in the Dubbing Theatre.  I remember them all with warmth, with affection.  I learnt an enormous amount from them, and with them, and the newsreel must not be underrated.  

So let’s… leaving my part out of the newsreel at that time had some of the scars of the cinema newsreels, you know, silly stories about fashion shows, and silly stories about the first signs of spring, and the first signs of winter, all those boring traditional newsreel stories, but slowly and slowly it came along, and more important stories.  Because more important stories came along the news division at Broadcasting House, under that dreadful man Tahu Hole, the New Zealander, finally realised that there was something up there that had something to do with news.  And whether it was Tahu Hole or whether it was Jacob by then already, may well have been Jacob may have arrived, said there must be some liaison between news at Broadcasting House, the Tahu Hole whole version of news and the newsreel at Alexandra Palace.  We didn’t pretend to be the days news, we were, and…but the newsreel.  And Tahu sent along a man called Michael [s.l. Bulkwell 0:15:52] who was a wonderful man, I mean, truly sweet, very keen on horse racing, and racing still took place at Alexandra Palace in those days, and Michael was…always watched the horses, knew about them.  With Michael…there was a very quick liaison established between Michael and Dick, and I suppose myself really.  And the newsreel did become more and more important, dealing with more stories of the day, and dealing with issues.  

And I suppose the breakthrough really came with the Korean War.  When the Korean War started, 51/52, whenever it did, we decided to send a cameraman out to Korea to cover the War for the newsreel, and the man who went out was Cyril Page.  And Cyril was a brave and remarkable cameraman.  And Cyril…the story that I remember, I mean, after all the Americans were very soon on the retreat, MacArthur had to leave, if you remember, Seoul was burning, and Cyril got a most wonderful picture story of the refugees leaving Seoul, and this was six years after the War for goodness sake, the refugees leaving Seoul over the frozen Imjin river, and the animals on the ice, and the people putting their little rags down so that the animals could walk on the house, and Cyril’s pictures were marvellous.  Now how did you write the commentary to that?

I:    So there wasn’t any sound?

R:    No sound at all, it was silent, he was absolutely on his own, Cyril on his own with a heavy Newman Sinclair, carrying it around.  He was absolutely on his own.  And you had to go on his dope sheets and the cuttings, newspaper cuttings, and I wrote the commentaries to that.  And the great thing, I mean, I suppose the thing I learnt quickly was to write as…not to over write, to write as little…I mean, pictures were Cyril’s…of that thing, they were terrific.  And Cyril, I suppose, was out there for 18 months, possibly even two years, without a break, each week sending the pictures of the Korean War back.  And the newsreel, it mattered, and the stories were seven/eight/nine minutes within the newsreel.  And here for the first time the Korean War was being reported on television.  Now, of course it wasn’t with a reporter on the spot and all that, but the pictures were there, and the pictures were impressive.  

And the next chap…when Cyril came home he had to be relieved, Ronnie Noble went out.  And Ronnie, of course, was a different cameraman from Cyril.  Ronnie was a journalist cameraman really.  And Ronnie was there when the Glosters were massacred by the Chinese, and Gloster Hill and, you know, Colonel Carne won the VC, and lots of Glosters were captured by the Chinese, and Ronnie was there for that and sent that story back.  Now, of course, the stuff had to come back…had to go from Korea to Japan, and from Japan back to England, then it would go in the labs, had to be developed, it was on 35mm, course it was four/five days late.  But nevertheless, wasn’t as late as some of the Falklands film was afterwards, I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, you know, for different reasons.  But the thing was there, it was uncensored, and it was on the screens at length.  

Ronnie then had the great nous to link up with Rene Cutforth.  Rene was there as the BBC’s radio reporter and they were briefed to get together.  Now here were two massive personalities, Ronnie Noble and Rene Cutforth, and of course at first they thought, who the hell are you and who the hell are you?  I’m not gonna work with you…hear the stories from Ronnie.  But soon they knew that they could work together.  And this truly was the first war correspondent report with sound from Korea, filmed by Ronnie, without a sound…he didn’t have a soundman with him.

I:    Lesley Mann?

R:    Lesley Mann, you’re absolutely right, quite right, with Lesley Mann.

I:    But it wasn’t…was it [unclear 0:20:00]?

R:    Well he did a little bit of stuff into camera, and Rene, but mostly was a commentary and then laid over it.  Now this was a, you know, this was a true war report and it…I mean, not…again, not weekly, not even…I mean, certainly not daily, nor even weekly, but at that time it was stories like that that helped Philip Dorté to persuade Cecil McGivern that the newsreels should become five days a week, and as indeed it did.  Now there were other stories.  That’s the Korean War, and Ronnie then went on to Malaya, the uprising in Malaya, he filmed that for the newsreel.  He went to Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising, and I can see some of Ronnie’s films still very clearly in those days.  

Now, just to underline the awfulness of that chap Harold Cox.  Harold, at no stage, did he ever send a cable or any message to Ronnie saying, well done, good story, do this.  So I took it upon myself to send him the cables…”Terrific, wonderful story, how about doing this and this that and the other.  We used 15 minutes…” I mean, the chap was absolutely out on his own 1,000s of miles away, never had any idea whether the film arrived, let alone it being used.  So I always gave him the most detail.  Then one day I got caught on that, that cable, and I was summoned for an interview by H. Cox, went into my annual…he thought it was absolutely outrageous that I did that, contravening BBC discipline, all sorts of rubbish went on, and I think I was taken up to Philip Dorté actually, and reprimanded, but I went on doing it.  And Ronnie…and that’s how my friendship with Ronnie really grew, and we became friends as a result of communicating across 12,000 miles.  

    Now that was one aspect of the newsreel.  The other aspect, not to be forgotten, American politics suddenly became interesting.  Here was Harry Truman, the President who came into office as a result of President Roosevelt dying, and who then won the election in ‘51, whenever he won the election, to everybody’s surprise.  And we did the campaign, we actually…the conventions and the campaign was on television all written back in London, scribbled away with Ted Halliday’s voice, but wonderful coverage from NBC who were then the BBC’s great partners, and for many years were.  And there was a man in London called Red…

I:    Harrison…no, [unclear 0:22:33].

R:    No, not Red Harrison.  Red, something or other…who used to come up to the screenings.  We got the footage from NBC it was used almost as NBC…so the newsreel on certain nights would consist of, say, 12 minutes from Korea and 9 minutes from the American convention.  Now this was most unlike any other cinema newsreel that you’ve ever seen.

I:    You had your commentary over the American…?

R:    No, we wrote it ourselves.

I:    Yes…

R:    Yes.

I:    Not NBC?

R:    No, [unclear 0:23:00].  No, I wasn’t the only writer, there were about, as time went on, more writers came into the place.  One was called Les Ketley and the other one was called Sylvia Clayton.  Those were the three writers in the place.  And others came in occasionally, I mean, Stephen Hurst arrived, fresh from being a detective at Marks & Spencer, or whatever he was.  Stephen Hurst arrived and wrote a bit, not very successfully.  And a friend…a cousin of mine, a cousin of Betty’s called Jack Gee, G-E-E, arrived, he wrote a little bit and went on to become a writer…the writer correspondent in China, was nearly arrested.  Stephen…well we all know what Stephen went on to become.  All sorts of people arrived there and did a little bit of work, but in the end the writing team was Ketley, Sylvia Clayton, and myself.  Harry [s.l. Govern 0:23:51] came along and arrived as a, sort of, Assistant Producer, I mean, Dick strengthened the team, and these were Dick’s people, totally loyal to Dick and totally disloyal to Harold Cox, all of them…supported Philip and Philip Dorté was fine.  

But to give you an indication of what the place was like at that time also, I mean, how unprepared Alexandra Palace was.  The night King George V died, or the morning King George V died, I mean, the announcement was delayed until the morning, if you remember he died at Sandringham…

I:    6th…

R:    King George…sorry the night King George VI died, I mean, the…just to take it in sequence.  The story was this.  Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip went off to Kenya, for a trip to Kenya, and Alan Prentice was the cameraman at London airport to see them off, I mean, the Queen, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth went off to see them off, and Alan had the big Tom lens on the King, I mean, there were stories that the King wasn’t well, and you looked at those pictures and you could see at once that the King was dying, I mean, he looked unbelievably thin, and he stood there with his hat off in the bitterly cold wind at London airport.  And that story we, kind of…I mean, let’s be clear we ran royal stories, and we ran royal stories at length.  For example, when King George VI and the Queen went off to South Africa, George Rottner was the cameraman who went out with them and filmed it at great length, and there were long stories on that.  And they were marvellous stories.  Wonderful sunshine and here…anyway, come back to the King, 48 hours later the King was dead.  

Now, the announcement came from Broadcast House.  The story is, they had to wait until John Snagge had found his black tie in order to announce it on the radio.  I don’t think it’s totally a false story, I’m sure it’s true.  Anyway, the story came from there.  Pat Smithers phoned me up and said, the King had died, what will television do?  And we had a meeting.  What did television do?  There was no obituary available on the King.  Nothing in the most…nothing.  So television did the obvious thing, television closed down.  Cecil McGivern and possibly Norman Collins may still have been there, I’m not sure.  Anyway, somebody decided that television should close down out of respect for the King’s death, and we closed down.  

It was very fortunate that then we started work on the obituary of the King.  And we worked through the night, I mean, it was Dick at his best, Ted Halliday, all sorts of people.  It was the first time I met Cecil McGivern because as we were dubbing it during the night in the Dubbing Theatre, Cecil came…Vernon Phipps as a Dubbing Mixer.  Ted inside.  Me writing it.  And Dick producing it.  And Eddie Edwards, Dennis Edwards, cutting it like mad.  We got a very very good obituary together.  It wasn’t marvellous but it was a pretty good obituary, because we had those wonderful pictures that Alan Prentice had taken of the King at Heathrow.  We had the terrific pictures from South Africa.  And there was a lot of royal coverage and I’m not ashamed of it.  The royal coverage was very good and it did a…had a considerable part in the newsreel.  

Anyway, television…BBC Television reopened the following day, and the first film that went out, first programme that went out, was our obituary on King George VI.  I have no idea how long it was.  I would have thought it was about 15 to 20 minutes.  And from there, of course, then all the scenes of mourning, the proclamation of the new Queen, all that was on film.  The funeral of the King, of course, was done by OBs, Peter Dimmock did that.  But this was in the days before telerecording.  Telerecording was not available in those days.  Telerecording with Jimmy Redman didn’t really come till quite a bit later.  So that night…we had film cameras along the route as well, and then filmed…put a compilation together of the Kings funeral.  I mean, you remember the shots at Paddington as the…I mean, we haven’t had a royal funeral of that scale, obviously, for 4 or whatever it is, 40 years.  Longer.  And then the funeral procession arriving at Windsor.  And all that was on newsreel from that night.  So where are we?  Tiny pause?

I:    Yes.

[Interview paused - 0:28:27]

[Interview resumed - 0:28:28]

I:    Are we running?

R:    Running?

I:    Yes.

R:    Right, so the newsreel, it…in my view it prospered.  It prospered in its limited way, with five editions at week.  Other commentators came along.  The lovely Michael…chap in the wheelchair…

I:    Oh yes, Swan.

R:    Michael Swan.  Michael Swann was a commentator.  Alexander Moyes came along.  Frank Philips.  Alvar Liddell.  I mean, we took the great voices from radio along and they were only too happy to work on the newsreels, but they were voices.  When it came to sport, I mean, the first tour…the Wally Hammond Cricket Tour of Australia came back on film and, of course, it was deep winter here, and I used to write it and Brian Johnston came along to do the commentary.  And Brian did some of it off the cuff.  But Brian, of course, being Brian provided the sound effects as well, because he bought a bat along and a ball, and each time a bat and ball was struck Brian did all the work, I mean, Brian was, I mean, wonderful as only…

I:    He did that in the Dubbing Theatre?

R:    …as only Brian…in the Dubbing Theatre…as only Brian could be.  So sport was coming along slowly.  One mustn’t forget though that outside broadcasts, I mean, Dimmock and Lobby and Alan Chivers were doing a great deal of live sport work but, of course, there were no recordings were available.  Recordings, to my knowledge, did not become available till I went to Lime Grove, and that must be about ’53, soon after Sport Style.  We’ll come back to that in a minute.

I:    Lobby is, we should say for those who listen and don’t know, is Seymour…

R:    S. J…Joly de…

I:    …de Lotbiniere.

R:    Seymour de Lotbiniere, yes.  Now, leaving OBs to one side, I mean, the newsreel was moving along but there was no long term future in it.  It was quite clear it wasn’t.  The most difficult stories to do always were internal BBC stories.  And I remember there was one…the order came down to do a story on some birthday of the Colonial Service, or the Colonial Service, Bush House, and I was sent along and said, “Go and see the man at Bush House who runs the place.”  And that was my first meeting with Hugh Greene, who was then the boss of the Colonial Service.  And inside BBC stories, stories about the BBC, were fearfully difficult.  Just as they were the stories about the BBC transmitter network spreading…when it spread to Moscow, when it…Moscow…when it went to Holme Moss, to Manchester, and when it went to Scotland.  All those stories had to be done, and they had to be done on BBC lines, and the commentaries had to be checked with BBC engineers, and they were the most awful stories, I mean, boring and…proper news…proper stories, and political stories came out, and reporters were being used, and people asked questions, and interviews were taking place.  Slowly.  But it was most unlike the cinema newsreel.  I have no doubt about that.  But it was not the news.  Now, eventually then the politics, BBC politics intervened, and the fight really was between Philip Dorté, on behalf of the television service, fighting to keep the newsreel, and…

I:    Tahu Hole?

R:    …Tahu Hole at Broadcasting House saying, if this is gonna be news he, Tahu Hole, had to control it.  Jacob was the Director General, and the decision came down in favour of Tahu Hole.  Norman Collins had gone by that time, or maybe that was one of things that may have prompted…no, Norman Collins had gone by that time.  Norman Collins had fallen out earlier.  McGivern was the boss of the television service.  Philip…McGivern lost the battle to keep the newsreel within the television service.  Tahu Hole and his marauders came in and, frankly, suddenly, there was no job for Dick Cawston.  There was no job for me.  There was no job for Harry Govern. There was no job for Dennis Edwards, or Chris Corke, or any…I mean, the newsreel really was decimated.  Harold Cox was kept on somewhere or other.  Dick, I mean, the…Tahu Hole came in…he sat in on the thing and looked round and had various meetings and followed the newsreel for a while, and then issued his edict saying that this must disappear, the only people who could run the news were his people, and there began the disastrous experiment of BBC news in vision…

I:    Yeah, talking heads.

R:    …talking heads, or rolling captions. I mean, it was the biggest disaster of all time.  It…Jacob has always been sorry that he’s done this…that he did this.  It lasted for a year and then McGivern sent in two young bright men from Lime Grove to report on the news, and their names were Michael Peacock and Donald Baverstock, and as a result of that, the news changed and became an updated thing, and Michael Peacock ran things.  Now, I’m not sure of the dates in all this but that is the correct chronology, and Tahu’s forces were set back.  Nevertheless, the news from…the news division, the news directorate still ran the news from Alexandra Palace, but we became more of a television operation.  People like Pat Smithers, Walter McGuire, and of course Michael Peacock himself came in, and the product improved enormously.  The news improved.

    Dick went on to Panorama.  Dick, of course, then Dick Cawston went on to Panorama.  He became ill first, and Dick was intended to be the first Editor of Panorama.  Unfortunately he fell ill, he had TB, and Michael Peacock was appointed in his place.  And when Dick was fit enough to resume, I think he came as a Producer on Panorama for a time, but not for long.  So that is that story.  

    I, in the closing days of the newsreel, had proposed a new sports magazine to Peter Dimmock, who was then partly based at Alexandra Palace, at least I met him, and said, what was needed was a weekly sports magazine, a sports news magazine, and I had the brilliant idea that it should be introduced by him, and no one else…

I:    What was his job at the time?

R:    Peter was the Assistant Head of Outside Broadcast with Lobby...

I:    As Head.

R:    …Seymour de Lotbiniere as the Head of Outside…Peter was the Assistant Head.  And Peter had energy, drive, enthusiasm, and of course, tremendous credibility and status in the place because he’d produced…he persuaded Churchill and the government, that the coronation should be televised from Westminster Abbey, and Peter produced it himself.  And without Peter…I mean, Peter is the most important factor in television becoming wildly popular.  So I proposed this thing to Peter, this weekly sports magazine.  Peter sold it to McGivern.  McGivern had accepted it.  It became a fortnightly sports magazine, and it came absolutely at the right moment for me professionally because, quite frankly, I was out of a job.  Tahu certainly didn’t want me.  Nor did I want to stay at Alexandra Palace.  I went to Lime Grove and started the Sportsview unit.  Asked Ronnie Noble to come and join me.  Asked Dennis Edwards to come and join me.  So, in a way I had newsreel friends and colleagues with me.  Dick was then on…Dick was ill at that time, but more and more, some of the people who had been in the newsreel unit at Alexandra Palace were coming to Lime Grove.  And Sportsview began.

I:    You were a sports enthusiasts then, you were?

R:    I became a sports enthusiast.  I…to be fair, I was keen on sport and, certainly, I knew how to write sports stories.  Even in my Pathé newsreel days I wrote the sports stories reasonably well, and I certainly wrote them well at Alexandra Palace.  And this was a, I mean, a sports magazine had been established beforehand, run by Barclay Smith, and it was so dull, what happened was that opening title was Barclay skating the opening title, or somebody skating the opening title, I forget what it was called, Swann’s…I mean, it was boring beyond belief.  What I brought to it, and what Dimmock brought to it, and Ronnie and others brought to it was that it was a news magazine, even though it was only fortnightly at first, half an hour on a Wednesday night, 8:30 to 9:00, introduced by Peter Dimmock, “Good evening welcome to Sportsview.”  And we had a hell of a lot of things.  

Peter brought, from the United States, a teleprompter; first time the teleprompter had ever been used in any BBC television programme.  And it was a very old fashioned teleprompter, certainly wasn’t automatic, but the script was on there and somebody had to run the handle, and the handle of the teleprompter moved the teleprompter along.  And among the people who ran the teleprompter, one of them certainly, was Robin Scott, later to become Controller of BBC2, Controller of the Live Programming.  Robin ran the teleprompter on an attachment to OBs.  The teleprompter was…I mean, Peter was able to look at the camera and brilliantly read all these cues, the cues worked, Dennis Monger was the Producer up in the gallery.  The programme was live.  It was very slick, it moved.

Now what made the programme, on the third edition, we got the tip off from Norris McWhirter that Roger Bannister would run…would attempt the four minute mile at Oxford that day.  That was on a Wednesday evening.  We sent Alan Prentice who…we had got him across from television news, I’d got a few mates along…across.

I:    Very good team.

R:    And Alan Prentice and Fred Clarke as his sound recorders, went to Iffley Road, stood in the centre of the track, and got the only film record of the first four-minute mile.  Bannister, Chataway, Brasher, running it and…

I:    It’s been shown a million times since then.

R:    Been shown…yes, if I’d got the royalties on that I would be very rich.  That film…now, contrary to common belief, that film was not shown on the night of the mile, of the four-minute mile.  It was not.  The race wasn’t run till 5 o’clock/6 o’clock.  We were on the air with Sportsview at 8:30.  The film was shown the following night.  But on that night we had a driver up at Oxford, at Iffley Road, and the driver’s name was Bunny Stoneham, never to be forgotten.  

Bunny Stoneham was a friend of Alan Prentice who was a very, very fast driver and he persuaded Roger Bannister to step into the car and to be driven to Lime Grove studios for the show.  Roger was still in his tracksuit at that time, and felt he couldn’t possibly appear in that way on television, and was…persuaded Bunny to drive him to his home in Harrow where he changed into a suit and a proper tie and all that, and arrived in the studio.  Now, of course, to have live in the studio the first man to run the four-minute mile, for a ten-minute interview, on the night he’d done it was terrific.  Sportsview was made from that moment on.  I mean, that was it.

I:    Yeah, terrific.

R:    And very soon afterwards McGivern was good enough to say, well fortnightly programme, you can go weekly.  And Sportsview then attempted all sorts of things, I mean, live OBs, we did things that had never been done before.  We were in the weighing room with Lester Piggott at Newmarket.  We had the Don Cockell fight against Rocky Marciano, somehow.  We had got the film of the Grand National when Dick Francis lost the Grand National.  We got all sorts of things, scoops undoubtedly, people to be interviewed, Gordon Perry, all the big names…Chris Chataway, all the big names for those days were available on Sportsview.  And it became what was, to coin a phrase, an action packed half hour weekly magazine full of sport, lively, good audience figures, the budget went up.  And one of the great things one learnt at that time was, you started off with a fortnightly programme with £150 budget and you knew that six weeks later you’d be running a weekly programme with a £500 budget, with film cameras available, working at Lime Grove, at a time when television was, you know, becoming accepted and was booming.  And the people, the company at Lime Grove was terrific, I mean, everybody was available at Lime Grove in those days.

I:    Terrific.

R:    And we had a terrific programme, made in studio two.

I:    You mention Lime Grove and just for the record we should say, of course, Alexandra Palace has now finished.

R:    No.  The news was still up there.

I:    Only the news, I beg your pardon.

R:    The news stayed up there, and the news stayed up there, first under…the first person who was put in…

I:    Briefly.

R:    …no, the nightly news.

I:    Yeah, not…it…stayed…not for long.

R:    Well it stayed for about three or four years.  Oh yes, absolutely.  Quite a while before they came…or at least three or four years, possibly even longer.  Possibly even longer.  Stuart Hood was up there first.  Then Michael Peacock.  Then Walter McGuire, all those sort of people.  And slowly, the news got better at Alexandra Palace, or the news programmes got better, I mean, it couldn’t have got any worse as it was.  Sportsview boomed, there was no doubt about it.  And there was, I suppose, in the terms of television history, there were two important things, one was…I mean, here was this magazine programme, news magazine programme, running along quite well, I mean, I think perhaps we were too pleased with ourselves, but it wasn’t doing badly.  It was something that had never been seen before, and one major thing came along and that was the 1956 Olympic Games.  The Olympic Games…the 1948 Olympic Games had been seen in London, live, black and white, covered by BBC outside broadcast…

I:    And they were…

R:    …but in the London…

I:    …they were from…

R:    …area only.

I:    …yeah, they were from here, the Olympics, 48, here.

R:    They were the ones in London, yeah, the 48 games were in London.

I:    Yes, correct.

M:    Can I just stop you and turn over.

I:    Great.

[End of transcription - 0:43:41]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 2

I    =    Interviewer.
R    =    Respondent.
M    =    Male.

s.l.    =    sounds like.

I:    Paul Fox, Side 2.

R:    So, we come to the Olympic Games.  The 1948 Olympic Games took place in London.  They were televised, just about, in the London area only, of course, televised by the BBC in black and white.  The 1952 Olympic Games took place in Helsinki; we did not have the rights.  Ronnie Noble was sent across to Helsinki by Dick Cawston as a Producer of the newsreel, and Ronnie proceeded to pinch the Olympic Games in a good old fashioned newsreel way, I wrote the commentaries, and we saw a little bit of the 1952 Olympic Games.  At least we saw McDonald Bailey racing.  

And so we came…by 1956 the Sportsview unit, as Peter Dimmock always called it, was established.  And the 1956 Olympic Games, we were gonna get coverage from Australia.  Television in Australia had just begun, ABC television had just begun, and I was sent out…or I went out to Australia to get coverage from the Australian people.  Now you have to remember the time, this was the autumn of 1956.  Soviet tanks were in Budapest.  The uprising had taken place in Budapest and the emphasis, the news emphasis, was entirely on what happened in Hungary.  At the same time the Suez adventure was beginning.  Eden had got us into all the problems with the Suez.  And as I left Lime Grove, on my way to fly to New York, en route to Australia, that night Eden was making his last broadcast out of Studio P before…or his last warning to Nasser before we sent the troops into Suez.  I mean, it was an appalling time to leave, quite frankly, and I shall always regret actually because one missed a large lump of social history in not being in this country during the time of Suez.  

Anyway, flew out to New York the old-fashioned way, still in a sleeper, got into my berth on the…sleeping berth, got up in the morning, looked down below and there was Ian Jacob the Director-General below, in the berth below me.  Never met me before in my life…in his life.  I introduced myself and he was on the way to Australia as well.  Stopped in New York.  Went on to…took three or four days to get to Sydney.  By the time I had got to Sydney the European Broadcasting Union, then it’s…then in it’s embryo, and the Americans, had decided to boycott the Olympic Games.  And the reason for the boycott was this, the Olympic Committee, then run by Avery Brundage, the American, had insisted that the television networks, then in fledgling television network, paid for news coverage.  And somebody had the courage, either in the EBU or Jacob, or somebody in America had said, “We will not pay for news.  News must be free.”  And when the IOC said, “Sorry you’ll have to pay if you want any news coverage,” we said, “Okay, we’ll boycott the Olympic Games.”  

And the…as I arrived in Sydney, Bob Stead, who was the BBCs representative in Sydney said, well you might as well go home we’re…the broadcasters are boycotting the games and in any case there’ll be…the War is on, the troops are on and they’ve gone into Egypt, but the Americans have already asked that the troops come home.  The Dutch are boycotting the Olympic Games because of the Hungarian uprising.  The Hungarians were only there in small numbers.  I mean, the thing was a bit of a shambles.  But I thought, what the hell, I’ve come all this way.  I went to Melbourne and for the first time, the only time in my life, in 40 years in television, I worked for radio for Charles Max-Muller.

    But, back to the boycott, because the boycott is the important thing.  The Games were boycotted.  No coverage of the Olympic Games was seen…of the 1956 Olympic Games…was seen in the United Kingdom, in Europe, or in the United States.  The Australians, of course, they weren’t involved in the boycott, and ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, did televise the Games and showed them.  But nothing whatsoever was shown in the United Kingdom, or anywhere else.  And as a result of that boycott, the International Olympic Committee relented and agreed that news access would be free, and as a result of that, the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome were televised for the first time.

    But the News Access Agreement that was established at that time…the News Access Agreement remains in force to this day.  And about two or three years ago, and I’m talking…well three years ago…1990, the News Access Agreement was enforced again in this country, and by agreement between the BBC, ITV, and Sky, news access became possible to each others exclusive sporting events.  And as a result of that, BBC News can now show the cricket in India, which is exclusive to Sky.  Sky can show excerpts from the Grand National, exclusive to the BBC.  And both Sky and the BBC can show the football League Cup Final, exclusive to ITV.  A News Access Agreement drawn up on the eve of…between the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games still was in effect…was still showing how effective it can be in 1990, in the 1990s.  And that was the important thing about the Olympic Games.  That was the important thing about Melbourne.  

I mean, we missed a great deal in Melbourne.  This country won seven gold medals in Melbourne, and they were never seen until the film of the Olympic Games became available.  But what it then led to was the Olympic Games being televised live in 1960.  And I was there for that in Rome.  Commentators were David Coleman.  We had Richard Dimbleby there for the opening ceremony.  David did most of the athletics.  Sport had become a very big operation by that time.  Sportsview was a regular programme.  Grandstand had arrived.  Sports Special, the forerunner to Match of the Day, had arrived on Saturday night with football.  

In 1960 the last remaining bastion that had held out against television gave in, and that was the Grand National, we televised the Grand National live for the first time.  We did the Olympic Games, and I thought it was time to move on.  I had done seven years in sport from ‘53 to ’60.  Sport had become a very big operation and the Lime Grove base, that’s where it was run from, always…I mean, I’m only talking about the studio based programmes…programmes all run from the studio, either by Dimmock or by Coleman, or by Ken Wilson, and others.  And we ran programmes Wednesday…one on Wednesday and two on Saturday.  

Don’t underrate the importance of Grandstand.  Grandstand was, for the first time, live OBs were linked via the studio.  It was a big operation.  And the strength of the BBC, and the strength of its contracts, sporting contracts, suddenly were shown on a Saturday afternoon, and you’d get three or four live sports linked.  But not done in a boring way with, you know, from beginning to end, but the best bits were shown in Grandstand.  We were able to come back via the studio.  And Grandstand when it started, 1 o’clock, finished at 5 o’clock with the football results, live on the teleprinter, was a cracking programme, and a form of sports journalism that hadn’t been practiced before.  So that was that.  End of sport story.

I:    You mentioned Ronnie Noble earlier; he’s still very much involved with all this isn’t he, at this time?

R:    Ronnie Noble was solid in that.  Ronnie was co-Editor with me on Sportsview.  He was certainly involved on Saturday night.  I mean, the Saturday night…I mean, this was the days before videotape, telerecording had just started, but it was the days before videotape and football…I mean, this was before Match of the Day…football began on a Saturday night, a programme called Sports Special introduced by…with Bryan Cowgill as a Director upstairs.  And the very first programme, scheduled to run 45 minutes, ran two hours.  Full of interviews.  Full of film.  And the film in those days…Ronnie was in charge of the film operation, and Alan Prentice and other cameramen went out to film the football matches from…with a…those awful cameras, what were they called Alan, those big…?

M:    You mean, don’t mean the Newman’s, you mean the Mitchell’s.

R:    The Mitchell, the big Mitchell cameras with 1,000ft magazines.

M:    35, yeah.

R:    All on 35mm, and the key thing was, not to miss any goals while they were changing magazines, only one camera went out.

I:    I know, yes, every ten minutes.

R:    That’s it, every ten minutes.  Now the 1,000ft roll…only those rolls were developed in the labs that had goals on them.  I mean, the kick-off, the second half kick-off was developed, but then after that only the rolls that actually had goals on, so it was quite a big operation.  Now there were occasions, obviously, when goals were missed.  Alan Prentice was the cameraman who hardly ever did miss a goal, but he did occasionally miss goals.  They didn’t film it all, they filmed most of it.  

And the stuff came back to [s.l. Kays Labs 0:10:03] in Archway by…occasionally by helicopter, the first time the helicopter was used, mostly by motorcycle.  And Ronnie and a man called Ronnie Spillane ran that film operation, and somehow, I mean, the matches ended at 20 to 5, the stuff had to be got back to the labs at Finsbury Park, and from Finsbury Park by motorcyclists brought, again, in ten minute chunks to Lime Grove for editing.  And there were many a night when the programme started on the air and the last roll of film wasn’t there, I mean, out of the question, couldn’t possibly have been there.  

Now that was commentary on the spot.  We didn’t have to worry about the commentary.  Commentators were there.  Wolstenholme was a commentator.  David Coleman, I suppose, was a commentator, and others.  And we used to show two matches.  And there were appalling nights when we missed goals.  And there was one famous story, a match between Newcastle and Sunderland, I mean, the rivalry between those two clubs was always…always been acute, and the film was fogged and somebody let the…the film was fogged.  Newcastle…Sunderland won 3-2, terrific match, we had one goal out of the five.  We showed the one goal and Wolstenholme who was linking it all to Coleman said, “Awfully sorry, we couldn’t show you all the rest, there was fog on the film.”  And the cartoon in the ‘Newcastle Journal’ the following day said…showed the film crew at St. James’ Park and somebody saying, “Bring on the fog, bring on the fog,” because it was a beautifully sunny day.  Never to be forgotten.

    The other time, of course, telerecording was just beginning then and Jimmy Redmond later Sir James Redmond, one of the BBCs great Engineering Directors, was in charge of the telerecording equipment at Alexandra Palace, and the equipment…I mean, this was…outside broadcast cameras went to the match and it was telerecorded back at Lime Grove.  And the cameras were used…Scotland was always inventive in that, and BBC Scotland sent the cameras to Rangers/Celtic, another match [unclear 0:12:20] blood feud [s.l. after all 0:12:21].  The cameras were there.  It was to be recorded, telerecorded in London, and we would use ten minutes, that was our ration.  Sure enough all went well.  Match…Celtic won, as would be.  Always remember it.  Went for the telerecording, went to get the thing and Jimmy Redmond came to me ashen faced and said, “I’m afraid there’s nothing on the film.”  I said, “Why not?”  “Somebody forgot to take the lens cap off.”  And it was…I mean, Jimmy Redmond…

I:    Not really.

R:    …will remember it to this day.  He said, he had never been dressed down in his life as much as he was by me that day, I mean, he was bawled out and never forgotten.  And the Scots, I mean, they…BBC Scotland went mad, they had advertised the thing, Scotland would never forgiven us.  And of course, the people who supported Celtic believed firmly that it was done deliberately because we didn’t want the public to see that Celtic had won the match, rather than Rangers.  But it was, the lens cap was left on throughout.  There was nothing whatsoever on the way.  Those were some of the incidents.

    Grandstand itself, well it’s still running now, I mean, this is…Grandstand began about 1958, and here we are 35 years later and it’s still going strong, and almost unchanged really, I mean, it’s a programme…a chap sits in the studio, links various outside broadcasts…

I:    Same format, yeah.

R:    …gives the football results…

I:    Get the results, yes.

R:    …unchanged, [s.l. get it going 0:13:55].  Sports Special has become Match of the Day.  Cowgill brought that about, outside broadcast cameras, go to the football matches, once videotape was available that was the only way to do football, and it’s still going today after all those years.  Sportsview has become Sports Night.  But the three programmes that were all founded in the late ‘50s are still running today in some form or other.  

So after seven years I thought it was time to leave sport and go somewhere else.  I applied for the job of Editor, BBC Television News, I thought that might…would be quite nice to go back to Alexandra Palace, to run the news.  It’s the only time I ever attended a BBC appointments board.  Michael Peacock was the other candidate.  Michael Peacock at that time was running Panorama.  Michael Peacock got the job, and I got his job as Editor of Panorama.  

    And I came into Panorama from sport, I suppose, some of the people within Panorama must have thought, who’s this unsophisticated chap from sport, who hadn’t been to university, coming up to run Panorama, the weekly prestige programme?  Fortunately, I mean, (a) Michael Peacock and I had always got on, and Mike arranged a very very nice handover for me and showed me was it was about.  The other great advantage I had, I knew Richard Dimbleby.  And I knew Richard because he’d done some work at Alexandra Palace for a while, for one season, I suppose, we ran a weekly compendium of the weeks newsreels, on a Sunday evening.  And the best stories of the week’s newsreels.  And Richard came in on a Friday evening to link that…when we filmed the links in the Dubbing Theatre at Alexandra Palace, and then the film was put together, various news stories, and Richard linked them, and I used to write those links for Richard, and Richard and I got on.

    Just one story about Richard Dimbleby, and that concerned the boat race.  I mean, the boat race was done live in those days, but telerecording had started…must have started somewhere or other.  Anyway, the week’s newsreel programme on Sunday night was going to include the boat race, rode on a Saturday, which we dropped in on Sunday morning.  Richard had to do the links on a Friday evening.  So we did the obvious links, Cambridge had won, Oxford had won.  Richard wasn’t totally satisfied with that, and Richard said, “Well say if it’s a dead heat.”  And I said, “Don’t worry Richard, I mean, it hasn’t happened since 1877.”  “Yeah, but say there’s something…something…I mean, it may not be Oxford winning or Cambridge winning.”  I said, “Well what do you want to say?”  And he said, “Well there’s a result that nobody expected.”  And that was the link that was used because that was the year when Oxford sank…stroke by Chris Davidge...and Richard always, I mean, triumphant on Saturday afternoon…phoned me on Saturday evening, phoned me up and said, “There I told you.”  And so Richard and I had a fellow feeling, we did get on.  And if you got on with Richard you were successful in Panorama.

    But of course I inherited…I mean, I was…Michael Peacock had established a very good reporters team, I mean, it was a marvellous team.  And the reporters at that time, when I arrived, were Ludo Kennedy, who was there at that time.  Jim Mossman.  John Morgan had just come across from Tonight.

I:    Kee?

R:    Robert Kee.

I:    That’s the lot isn’t it?

R:    No, there were five reporters.

M:    Another one.

I:    Kennedy, Kee…

R:    Maybe it’s here.

I:    …Mossman, yes.

R:    No, that’s right, Robin Day, Ludo…and Robin Day

I:    Robin Day.

M:    Robin Day.

R:    So…how can one forget.  So the reporters that I inherited from Michael Peacock, and who were established then, I mean, first Richard Dimbleby who of course had started Panorama, the proper Panorama, there was a Panorama beforehand, but the Panorama that Grace Goldie got on the air with Michael Peacock as Editor, the proper Panorama was the first person who said good evening and said good evening for a long time, fortunately, was Richard Dimbleby.  By the time I came the reporters were, Robin Day and Ludo Kennedy, having recently joined from ITV, those two.  Jim Mossman the ex-Reuter correspondent in Africa.  Robert Kee, ex-Picture Post.  And John Morgan, just transferred from Tonight, he had started on Tonight.  Now with a reporting team like that it was absolutely sensational, I mean, it truly was sensational.

    The other Producers at that time were David Wheeler.  Don Haworth.  David J. Webster, the David J. Webster organisation, as a PA.  And then rebel guests and others came along.  But the key to the thing, unquestionably, was Dimbleby and this terrific team of reporters.  I mean, Peacock had established that those reporters…I mean, the Hungarian uprising and Suez had been the things that made Panorama, just as Bannisters four-minute mile made Sportsview, the Hungarian uprising and Suez made Panorama.  And Panorama in those days at 8 o’clock on a Monday, had audiences of 8, 9 and 10 million, and it was the most important event on television at the time.  Now I take no credit for it whatsoever, it was founded beforehand, but in the two years that I was in charge, (a) I enjoyed it enormously, (b)…

I:    Only two?  Three?

R:    Yes, may have been three.  Anyway…I think it was only two.  I think it was always thought that was the limit because you really had to work seven days a week.  It became…there was a…I mean, it was a magazine programme in those days and I firmly believed in it being a magazine programme, and there were three or four items.  But, of course, all hell was breaking loose all over the world.  I mean, there was Africa constantly troubled and we were able…I mean, Robin Day in those days was still travelling as a Foreign Correspondent doing extremely well in South Africa.  The whole of Rhodesia was up in flames.  Kenya was still in trouble in those days.  So there was Africa, and one was able to report freely and easily from Africa, long before the days of difficulties, cameras not coming in.  America was wide open to us.  And then, of course, the Vietnam War started.  So, you know, the assassinations in the United States, all those sort of stories.  But, I mean, one was…plus the Macmillan era at home, I mean, one didn’t forget stuff at home, political development at home.  

And an invitation to be interviewed on Panorama was a royal command, I mean, there was no question about it, and everybody came.  And either Dimbleby did the interview, or Robin, or Robert Kee, or Ludo, I mean, they were all exceptionally…they were ambidextrous reporters.  They could work in the studio.  They could be interviewers.  They could be outstanding reporters out in the field.  And it was a privilege…it was a privilege to work with them at that time, and Lime Grove was a buzzing place.  Grace Goldie was officially in charge of Panorama, but when there were difficulties you could also go to Leonard Miall who was a Head of the Department, and Leonard understood this game backwards.  And I have to say there were no problems with Broadcasting House, other than once or twice.  There was the interview with Georges Bidault who was then a rebel.

I:    He was expelled from France because…

R:    That’s right he was…

I:    …he had a row with a girl about…over Algeria, wasn’t it?

R:    That’s right.  And came to England and we interviewed him, and the French Ambassador kicked up a fuss.  And by that time Hugh Greene was Director-General, and actually I think Hugh Greene caved in, and the Bidault interview was not used…was used…?

I:    It was used, yes, I think…yes.

R:    Was used.

I:    It was postponed a week by Hugh Greene because the girl was in England on the Monday when it would have gone out.

R:    That was it.  That was one thing.  Again, you see, in the end, you get events that marks ones own role in the thing.  Very early on in my time as Editor, President Kennedy came to London on a private visit.  I mean, Kennedy had such close links with Macmillan, and of course you also saw Macmillan.  But it was not a presidential state visit.  And on his first night…he arrived on Monday…and on his first night he went to stay with his, then, brother in law, Prince Radziwill, somewhere in the West End of London, married then to one of his sisters.  And I send Ludo Kennedy to say, go on Ludo…and the live camera in those days, to go and interview President Kennedy.  I mean, the Embassy said, “Out of the question the President will not give any interviews.”  

Ludo, for all sorts of reasons, the name, of course, he’d also established himself with President Kennedy at the Democratic convention in San Francisco, when Ludo stood up at a Panorama film and a press conference took place, and President…not then…Senator Kennedy as he then was, asked for questions, and Ludo stood up and said, “Kennedy, BBC Panorama,” and John Kennedy said, “Oh that’s a very useful name to have.”  And from that moment on he knew Ludo.  

Anyway, Ludo turned up and doorstepped him…doorsteped the house.  Stood outside the house, rang the bell, and Radziwill opened, and Ludo knew Radziwill, they’d played backgammon together and said, “Hello Ludo what are you doing here?”  “Well I want to interview President Kennedy.”  “Well come in he’s inside.”  And Ludo was taken inside, introduced to President Kennedy, and President Kennedy could not possibly have known that Ludo was coming; it was out of the question.  And Radziwill said, “Mr President, this is Ludo Kennedy,” and Kennedy said to him, the President said to him, “Oh yes, I’ve just read that marvellous book you did on the Notting Hill Gate murders, what an excellent book, blah, blah…what can I do.”  He said, “Well it’s Panorama, I’m a reporter for Panorama, we’d like to do an interview.”  He said, “Certainly.”  And out he came into the…in front of the door and did a live interview into Panorama, I mean, never to be forgotten. I thought it was unbelievable that the President of the United States can stand on the street in London…now it wasn’t a very deep interview, it wasn’t very…not many searching questions.  But here was this new, young, President, live in the street in London reporting…being interviewed for Panorama, it was one of the great coups.  

    The other one was, there was a famous…there was a railway strike, threatened.  Ernest Marples was the Minister of Transport in the Macmillan government, and Marples was a great publicity seeker, always full of the headline.  The annual conference of the National Union of Railwaymen was taking place down in Brighton, and the man…secretary, was a man called Sidney Greene, a man with a hangdog face, and who always…was only there to give bad news, never a smile on his face or anything.  

And we somehow…what we managed to do, we had a live camera in Brighton with Sidney Greene.  Ernest Marples was in the studio being interviewed by Richard.  And the way it began…the way the item began, I mean, Panorama was live in those days, of course, naturally…the way it began was, Richard interviewed Marples in the studio and said, “Now what about this strike, blah, blah, blah?”  And Marples made all sorts of reassuring noises, I mean, he was a publicity conscious Minister of the first order.  And then there was Sidney Greene on at the same time.  And Richard went down to Sidney Greene and asked him a few…”Well the Minister has to give us some better assurances.”  And Richard, being the born journalist that he was, turned to Marples and said, “Well can you give him any reassurances?”  

And here, actually, live on the air, on the eve of a railway strike, the Minister of Transport and the General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen were negotiating in front of you.  And because the programme was live we were able to extend the item, run it on, keep going, and it was, I mean, it was a sensational piece of television.  No one… I mean, it has seen many times since then but that was the first time it was ever done.  Richard at his best.

    I mean, Richard did other things, you see, his presence was so enormous.  There was the time when he interviewed Prince Philip live in the studio.  A little bit creepy, I suppose, but it…you know, a little bit too subservient but [unclear 0:27:26].  The time he interviewed…the time…the first time he interviewed King Hussein, and King Hussein arrived, never to be forgotten, called Richard, Sir, throughout the programme.  And a real relationship was established with Hussein, I mean, Richard naturally called him Your Majesty, Richard was formal in those sort of ways, but Hussein called him, Sir.  

And a year later there was some particular trouble in the Middle East, you know, one of those crisis…may well have been on the eve of the Six-Day War, and we…no, it wasn’t it was earlier…whenever it was.  And I, as the Editor, phoned Hussein and got through to him and said, “Do you remember Sir that you were interviewed by Richard Dimbleby?”  And then he called me, Sir, for a while and said, “Could you come on tonight to be interviewed by Dimbleby again?”  “Oh most certainly, most certainly.”  And sure enough, there was Richard Dimbleby, that night, live in the programme, I mean, it was the most…some major crisis was developing on that day…interviewing Hussein.  

Richard was brilliant at those things.  And what one didn’t know at the time was how ill he was.  The cancer had already started and yet, despite all of that, he threw himself into the work.  He was available Saturday and Sunday.  He came in on Sunday.  He did like to write his own links, but in the end he would also agree, well this needs altering a bit.  Richard always, allegedly, refused to use the teleprompter, in fact he had a teleprompter, and if he didn’t have a teleprompter he had bits of paper stuck all over the studio.  

But the great thing with Richard was, he was able to move around the studio.  He was not stuck in his desk.  He could move.  He could walk.  He had a presence in the studio.  He had a wonderful Floor Manager in Joan Marsden.  He wanted his own people around him.  I mean, he knew…there were a few people he trusted, and provided those people were around him, and Joan Marsden as a Floor Manager was one of those, he always asked for her.  And Richard was the…I mean, the importance of Richard Dimbleby as ensuring the good name of the BBC cannot be exaggerated, and the trust he engendered in people.

    I mean, moving on, I suppose I’d left Panorama by then, the Cuban Missile Crisis, I suppose was the nearest time that we came to war after the end of World War II.  There was nothing closer than…there were…worse occasions were to come but, certainly, the Cuban Missile Crisis in ’62 was the nearest thing we came.  And I think, whatever it was, whatever job I had, we did a…I asked Richard to do a special programme on that night of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  And it was announced, it was trailed in the papers, this was an item, I mean, the Soviet ships were heading towards Cuba.  The missiles were in Cuba.  President Kennedy had not, at that time, achieved any contact with Khrushchev.  It really looked as though war could break out within 48 hours.  And the phone rang, on the night of that special programme, on the eve of it, half an hour beforehand, and somehow a viewer had got through to me, and the viewer said, “Are you involved in this programme with Richard?”  I said, “Yes.”  “Well could you give Richard Dimbleby a message from me?  What I want to hear from him tonight is an assurance that my daughter can go to school tomorrow, and go safely to school.”  

And that was Richard’s fantastic skill.  And no one in BBC history, before or afterwards, carried that authority, or that assurance.  And I know he was mocked.  I know he was derided by people who thought he was too courteous to the Royal Family, he had manners, that’s what Richard had, old-fashioned manners, and old-fashioned standards.  And he was immensely responsible for the success of BBC factual programmes at that time, because he was trusted.  He was trusted by the audience, and he was trusted by the colleagues he worked with, and that was it.  So he was the key person.  And the affection in which he was held really became apparent during his illness and when he died.  And it truly was a tragedy, a tragedy, he died much too young.  

He died unhonoured.  He had no recognition from the government.  He was never in an Honours list.  He had an OBE for his work during the War.  The work he did, if it didn’t deserve a Knighthood, it deserved a life peerage, even…perhaps life peerages weren’t invented at that time…but Richard deserved some proper recognition.  And I suppose one thing I did, I did establish after his death the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, and that ran for a while.  Richard was…well I…only repeating myself…the key figure in Panorama.  And while one or two of our slick reporters, particularly on Tonight, may have laughed a little bit at him, they had enormous respect for him.  

The rivalry between Panorama and Tonight is not to be exaggerated.  Here was Tonight invented by Donald Baverstock, run by Alasdair Milne, and without Alasdair Milne the programme would never have got on the screen, because Donald would still be talking now.  The…it was a very inventive programme, I mean, no question.  Five nights a week.  It was a programme that broke the Toddlers’ Truce.  It was Grace’s idea.  It was Donald who got it on the screen, and with Cliff Michelmore it was inventive, it was clever, it was sharp, it was witty, it had every…it did all those things.  

What it did not have was anything to do with the news, because Donald Baverstock derided the news, and so did Alasdair Milne, they didn’t want the news.  News was anathema to them and so was Panorama.  And even though we ran the same department at Lime Grove, and even though we ate in the same canteen, we worked more or less in the same corridors, shared…drank in the same club, Donald Baverstock had given instructions to Tonight that they should not speak to the people from Panorama.  I mean, it was the most childish thing you could imagine.  I’d known Cliff for donkey’s years, and of course I’m gonna talk to Cliff…to Richard…Cliff wanted to speak to Richard.  Derek Hart was an old friend of mine.  I knew Kenneth Allsop.  I mean, it was ludicrous.  Alan Whicker I’d known long before he ever came to television.  Of course we were gonna talk to those people.  But there it was that Donald had instructed them not to speak, and there were times when they wouldn’t.

The other thing, not only were they not on speaking terms, but more seriously, Panorama…Tonight, being on the air two hours before Panorama, took great delight in pinching stories from Panorama on Monday nights.  If they could interview a Minister half an hour ahead, an hour ahead of Panorama, they did.  There was never any exchange of information.  We were deadly rivals on a Monday night, one night in the week.  And we had to keep secrets from each other, even though we worked in the same department.  And there was nothing Grace could do to bring about peace, or Leonard Miall, they stood back and let us fight it out, quite frankly.  

And it wasn’t…I mean, it was quite fun at times…irritated other times, but it did work, because Panorama was perhaps too much so in my time, too much of a news programme.  Donald Edwards who was then the Editor of News and Current Affairs called it a news bulletin deluxe, a weekly news bulletin deluxe.  ‘The Economist’ said it was difficult to do a news…it was done on the worst day of the week, Monday, we always had to work over the weekend, and as ‘The Economist’ said one year, “To do Panorama on a Monday was to do it before the news of the week was a gleam in Khrushchev’s eye.”  And there was something to it, I mean, news happened more later in the week, I mean, parliamentary news was never available on a Monday, and we really had to work quite hard over the weekend to get it in.  But it worked.  It was successful, I think.  It had big audiences.

I:    And it made news, of course.

R:    Oh, and of course it made news.

I:    I mean, you’ve mentioned one or two items, but several, of course.

R:    Oh, it made news.  It made news because the people who were the reporters and the producers were journalists, solid hard-working journalists, and with decent film.  You were there Norman, fortunately, forgotten when you came, were you…did you…

I:    I came at the end of ’61 till spring ’63.

R:    Well there was then the argument who should…when I left, who should succeed me, and no doubt you should have become the successor, instead, David Wheeler became the successor.

I:    Well I defected with Dennis Mitchell.

R:    Indeed.

M:    So when did you actually leave Panorama then?

R:    I left in ’63.

I:    ’63, yeah.

R:    I did two years.

I:    And it was David Wheeler then, yes.

R:    And David Wheeler became the Editor of Panorama.  Panorama went on…I was…the Talks Department then became the Talks and Current Affairs Department, divided into three departments, Tonight productions…I mean, this was the time…by that…this was the time when Donald Baverstock went up the road to Television Centre to become the Assistant to Stuart Hood, terrible appointment, both…both Stuart Hood’s and Donald Baverstock’s…

I:    [Over speaking] As Assistant Controller 1.

R:    …as Assistant…no, as Assistant Controller, it was before BBC2 had arrived.

I:    Oh yes, sorry, yes.

R:    Basically to give Stuart some help…Stuart Hood some help, because he knew nothing about television.  Donald, of course, being Donald, always ran past Stuart to Kenneth Adam, he ignored Stuart.  It was a bad time.  Anyway, the Talks Department at that time was divided into three, Head of Tonight Production, Alasdair Milne, dealt with Tonight, and all the programmes that sprang from Tonight, including of course, That Was The Week, that was, absolutely, Alasdair’s doing, with Donald’s help.  And then there was the Music and Arts Department run by Huw Wheldon.  And then there was Public Affairs programmes run by me.  

And the Public Affairs programmes included Panorama, Gallery, and special programmes.  And in those days special programmes were, on the night of the Orpington by-election, when Eric Lubbock won and Peter Goldman was defeated, we ran a special programme.  On other special nights, on assassination night, we ran…because Tonight was unable to deal with news in any proper way, special programmes had to be done, and they came out of the public affairs stable, basically staffed by Panorama and Gallery, John Grist was there, and David Wheeler, and other people.  It wasn’t very satisfactory, but there were some special programmes on [unclear 0:38:41], notably on the night of the Cuban Missile Crisis and, of course, the best known one was on the night President Kennedy was assassinated.

    Let me just talk about that briefly.  Kennedy…President Kennedy was assassinated on a Friday, November the 13th.  It…no, not November the…

I:    October?

R:    …November the 20…well, whenever it was.  It was November…

I:    Oh, sorry.

R:    …but it was certainly a Friday.  It was the night of the Academy, Television Academy Awards, and the whole of television, BBC and ITV, had gone to the Dorchester Hotel for that night’s presentations.  I had remained behind at Lime Grove, basically, I can’t remember for what…any special reason, to see Tonight go out on the air, possibly, and it was during Tonight that the news came that the President had been shot, Cliff gave it, and…Cliff Michelmore gave it, and then the service was instructed…Tonight was instructed to close down and continue with normal programmes.  And the news of the assassination, that the President was dead, was given by news department, and presentation made the fatal mistake of going on with a half hour programme from…with Harry Worth, I mean, it was a disastrous decision.  But it was taken by presentation.  I have to say it was taken by Rex Moorfoot.  

    So, there we were at Lime Grove, John Grist and I…and as was the case in the BBC in those days, in the Talks Department, as the news of the death of the President spread people came into Lime Grove to see what they could do, what work they could do, how they could help, because they knew that a special programme would be made that night.  And among the people who came in was Tony Smith, Anthony Smith, now a Master of Magdalen College, former Head of…Director of the British Film Institute, where we’re sitting, a chap who…key figure in the cultural life of this country really.  And Tony arrived and others, and the girls arrived, I mean, girls like Jan [s.l. Fairo 0:40:58] and Jennifer Jeremy, all sorts of people arrived because they…without being summoned in any way, without being called in…and suddenly we had a team in.  And I decided, really off my own back as Head of Public Affairs, that we would do a proper programme later that night to mourn the President.  And that programme would have to contain the Prime Minister who was Alec Home, at that time.  The leader of the opposition who was Harold Wilson at that time.  And the leader of the Liberal Party was Jo Grimond.  

Now on the Friday evening, in this country to try and find the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, and Jo Grimond, was a major task.  I have to say that I phoned No.10, Harold Evans was there…not the Harold Evans of ‘Sunday Times’…but Harold Evans was then Alec Home’s Press Secretary, as he had been Harold Macmillan’s.  I spoke to him.  He had the news of the assassination, obviously, I said, “We need the Prime Minister to arrive, to come back to Lime Grove to take part in a programme.”  He said, “Well I’m afraid the Prime Minister is on his way to spend the weekend with the Duke of Norfolk.”  I said, “Does he know that the President has been assassinated?”  “No, I’m afraid he doesn’t.”  “He doesn’t?”  “No, he does not.  He left before it happened.  He’s on his way.  We will tell him when he arrives and turn him back.”  

I thought, well this really wasn’t very satisfactory quite frankly.  God knows what would have happened if a bomb had gone off, I mean, how the Prime Minister was gonna make a decision when he was out of contact with No.10, I mean, I thought it was unbelievable.  What I did, I rang the AA and got an AA patrolman to stop the Prime Minister’s car before it got to Arundel, and the Prime Minister was told by this AA man to ring No.10…(a) was told to ring No.10, (b) that the President was assassinated, was dead, and (c) that the BBC needed him that night.  And to do justice to Alec Home, he didn’t go to Arundel, he turned the car round and drove straight back to London.  

Now there are two versions what happened next.  Leonard Miall’s version is that Alec was dressed in a dinner jacket and felt he couldn’t go on the air in a dinner jacket, and therefore went back to No.10 to change into a suit, and put a black tie on.  I believe that he was…because he was on his way to the Duke of Norfolk, he was wearing country clothes and felt he couldn’t go on, and also went back to No.10 to change clothes.  And by that time we had to decide that Lime Grove would too late for him, for that programme…he went to Broadcasting House.  

Prime Minister arrived…here’s the Prime Minister having changed, black tie on, arrived at Broadcasting House, studio was downstairs, he went in the lift and the lift got stuck.  And here we were quarter of hour to 10 minutes before going on the air with a…going on the air with a programme to mourn the passing of the President of the United States, with the Prime Minister stuck in the lift at Lime Grove.  Fortunately we managed to…somehow…Leonard Miall was there, and got him out, and into the studio.  

    Harold Wilson was at a Labour Party meeting in North Wales, and Tony Smith got hold of him, and Tony persuaded Wilson to drive to Manchester, which was the nearest studio that was available at that particular time.  And from North Wales, somehow, H. Wilson got to Manchester, we managed to get the Manchester studio opened up and Wilson was in Manchester.

    Jo Grimond was at the Oxford Union, and the Oxford Union, stuffy as ever said, “Oh no, you can’t possibly get a message into him.”  I said, “Look, this is important, the President of the United States has been assassinated.  We need Jo Grimond, we need him on the air.”  And fortunately, two rather bright undergraduates said, they’ll drive Jo Grimond, got him out of the Oxford Union and drove him down and got him into the studios at Lime Grove.  

    So there we had…the cast was complete…the Prime Minister at Broadcasting House.  H. Wilson at Manchester.  Jo Grimond in London.  Dimbleby did…did Dimbleby do the Prime Minister, or was it Ian Trethowan?  Either Dimbleby or Ian Trethowan…no, Dimbleby did the Premier, I think…Richard may have been so ill already…no, Richard was so ill, Richard couldn’t…Trethowan had to do the…Ian Trethowan did the programme…and there we were, and various other people…and the other chap who spoke was Alun Chalfont, Alun Gwynne Jones, as he was then, who had been a regular commentator.  It was…I mean, there was no doubt about it, I mean, it was a remarkable programme.  

Earlier…

[End of transcription - 0:45:35]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 3

I    =    Interviewer
R    =    Respondent
M    =    Male

s.l.    =    sounds like.

I:    Paul Fox, Side 3.

R:    The night of the assassination of President Kennedy.  I have to say that our programme was late.  It was, I suppose, 11 o’clock, before we could get all those people together.  Earlier in the evening Rediffusion had done a programme on ITV, and the Producer of that was Milton Shulman, and Milton had got together George Brown, that Canadian actor Ellie…whatever it was.  He’d got a cast of people together who really were nothing to…and that was the night…I mean, here was a programme to mark the death of President Kennedy and George Brown was drunk out of his mind, on the air, and Milton put him on.  

And, I mean, I’ve always blamed Milton that it was absolutely wrong to go on with a drunken George Brown.  And George was uncontrollable, I mean, totally…spoke about my friend Jack and how well he knew LBJ, and this that and the other, and there was, as I say, a couple of actors on.  Milton would tell this story quite well.  Milton is terribly proud that he got that particular programme on the air, and got it on early.  I suppose there’s something to it.  But it was the most appalling programme and did Rediffusion an enormous amount of harm in getting a programme like that on.  And it did George Brown’s career an enormous amount of harm.

    We…I know we were later, quite a bit later, but at least we had a programme that had authority, standing, and had a proper sense of mourning, quite honestly.  By the time we were…before we went on the air the people had come back, the BBC Chiefs had come back from the Dorchester, Kenneth Adam was drunk.  Grace Goldie was drunk.

I:    Really?

R:    It was a pretty depressing sight, quite frankly, to see those BBC people there.  They came back thinking that they were gonna take charge of what was going on.  Fortunately, by the time they came back, it was 9:30, the thing was well in hand.  What Grace then got down to with Donald was, for the following night, the That Was The Week programme to mourn President Kennedy.

    Now that programme’s always been thought of as a most remarkable programme, because it had Dame Sybil Thorndike, Bernard Levin, and Millie Martin, singing a song.  No opening titles.  It was a tribute to Kennedy and, no doubt, Sybil Thorndike’s thing that…reading that poem to Jackie was quite [unclear 0:02:53] so was Bernard Levin’s thing.  But (a) it was done 24 hours after it had happened, and it had its moments but not nearly as bad as they should have been.  

    When we came back after having done our programme that Friday night, Richard was there so maybe Richard must have done it…perhaps Richard had come in…because then the question came up, what will we do about the funeral?  And Richard, even though he was ill by that time, went over and did the commentary on Kennedy’s funeral.  And, of course, it was one of those occasions when every single world leader was present at the funeral.  And I can always still see that shot of de Gaulle walking down behind Kennedy’s coffin, marching down, whichever street it was in Washington, where they went, and the sight of Jacqueline Kennedy with her two children, and LBJ full of mourning.  It was a sight to behold.

    Right, where do we go from here?

I:    Well you’re still Head of Public Affairs.

R:    Head of…yes, so then Grace retired, I suppose.  Leonard had been moved…Hugh Greene had fired Leonard Miall, for reasons still beyond me.  Eric Maschwitz then persuaded Kenneth Adam to intervene on Leonard’s behalf, and Hugh Greene relented, and Leonard came back to do a job for BBC2 at Television Centre.  Grace became in charge of the department, the Talks Department, and the Talks Department was pretty distinguished, I mean, you went to a Talks Department meeting, not only were you there Norman but there were people like David Attenborough and Huw Wheldon, and it was a most distinguished assembly of people, and I always felt really a bit inadequate to be at those fancy meetings in S35 in Sangers [unclear 0:04:52] just get the department and Grace went on, on a monologue.  Alasdair Milne of course, I mean, you know there were some great people.  

    So I became…then when Grace retired I became Head of Current Affairs Group, and I suppose I did that for a couple of years.  What…Panorama was, by that time, in the hands of Jeremy Isaacs, a mistake…

I:    Only for one year.

R:    …which I had made…a mistake I had made.

I:    One year wasn’t it?

R:    Yes, Jeremy was not a success at Panorama.  The reason that Jeremy was not a success was that he wanted…from making it, (a) he didn’t like Dimbleby and didn’t get on with Dimbleby, and said…I mean, and Richard was…and Richard got to hear this, and Richard was so skilled…when I introduced…I had a lunch to introduce Jeremy to Richard, and Richard said, “Ah you’re the man who wants to get rid of me.”  And of course Jeremy was taken aback and quickly fell under Richard’s charm.  Nevertheless, he wanted to get away from the magazine programme and make it a single subject programme.  

    And the very first programme that Jeremy did, as Editor, had Jim Mossman in South America, where the poverty of South America and the role of the Catholic Church.  It was a wonderful film, I mean, most marvellous film, but it wasn’t worth 50 minutes, quite frankly.  And it missed Richard.  Now Jeremy realised the mistake very quickly and by the second programme Richard was there.  But Richard’s role became…was reduced and, of course, by that time he was pretty ill.  And Richard…I mean, Jeremy, of course, then, became an admirer of Dimbleby as anybody who ever worked with him became.  

    But Jeremy’s stay at the BBC was not a successful one.  He was there a year, perhaps a little bit longer.  And then Cyril Bennett persuaded him to come back to Rediffusion.  I’ve always felt guilty because it was I who persuaded Jeremy to come to the BBC over a lunch at the Gay Hussar, I remember.  Jeremy has forgiven me, and he always felt that the year at the BBC didn’t do him any harm.  He went back to Rediffusion.  He became the Head of Features and, of course, eventually the Director of Programmes and so on, and on to Channel 4, etc.  But no doubt the year at the BBC was not a happy one, for him or for the BBC.

    Political programmes grew, I suppose, Gallery became an important programme.  Panorama went on.  During my time as Head of Current Affairs, Tonight came to an end, I brought it to an end, I certainly recommended that it should come to an end.  I thought it had lost its nerve, quite frankly.  It had lost its skills.  It didn’t work at 6 o’clock any longer.  What was needed was a sharper programme at the other end of the evening, and so began 24 Hours, at first three nights a week, under the editorship of Derrick Amoore.  And Derrick…with Tony Whitby…and Derrick, having lost Tonight, threw himself wholeheartedly into 24 Hours.  He was very, very good about it, even though he loved Tonight and was one of Donald Baverstock’s disciples, he then did do very well with 24 Hours.  

And 24 Hours, introduced by Cliff, with Kenneth Allsop, and other reporters, was a much sharper programme, reflected the news of the day much much more, and dealt with the issues of the day much more, and there were some very good people in it.  Tony Smith still worked in it.  Tony became the Editor.  Tony Whitby became the Editor.  Tony Smith became the Editor.  And in the end 24 Hours went on.  And, of course, at the other end of the evening Nationwide began.  But Nationwide began…by that time I’d gone to become Controller at BBC1.  

So I spent six years altogether in Talks and Current Affairs, or whatever you wanted to call it at Lime Grove.  Two years as the Editor of Panorama.  Two years as the Editor of Public Affairs.  And two years as Head of Current Affairs Group.  And then the call came from Huw Wheldon to become Controller of BBC1 and that was that.

I:    Do you…sorry, to go back, did you…I mentioned in my note to you Paul, were you there during the Yesterday’s Men crisis?

R:    As Controller of BBC1 I was, yes.

I:    Ah sorry, yes.  Well we’ll mention that later.

R:    Now the Yesterday…well, the Yesterday’s Men crisis is interesting.  I did that election, the election when Wilson lost.  I was a Producer of that election with Dick Francis as a Director.  And there was no doubt the relationship between Harold Wilson and the BBC had soured, and it had soured to some extent, I suppose, I mean, he certainly pointed the finger in my direction saying that I had soured it.  

Now what one had to remember about the whole Wilson premiership is this.  Before Wilson became Prime Minister he had appeared regularly on BBC television.  He was there in and out, and he was an exceptionally good operator on the television screen.  Always available.  He got to know the people involved, and we were on Christian name terms.  It was Harold, very close to John Grist, etc., and he was there at Lime Grove.  He would stay to drink afterwards and tell all sorts of stories, and we really got along.  

He got to know Hugh Greene fairly well, who was then the Director-General.  Hugh entertained him in his house in Holland Park.  And when the election was called, the ’64 election, when the ’64 election was called the BBC schedule on that Thursday night included Steptoe, Steptoe & Son.  Steptoe at that time was the most popular comedy programme on British television.  The audiences were 12, 14, 15 million people.  Marcia Falkender…Marcia Williams, as she then was, was working for Wilson at that time and she knew about things, she had a feel for things.  And Marcia realised that if Steptoe went out on Thursday night at 8:30, half an hour before the polls closed, that Labour would lose a lot of voters on that night.  And she said to H. Wilson, who then…”Get Steptoe off the screen on that night.”  And Wilson, being close to Hugh Greene, persuaded Hugh Greene to take it off on polling night.  

    Now, did Greene make a mistake?  I honestly don’t think so.  I think it was in the public interest that a programme…that people went out to vote, and that people were not kept at home because there was a popular television programme on the air.  And Greene did the decent thing, not because of Wilson, he did it, quite honestly I think it was the correct thing to do.  And Steptoe came off and as we all know Labour won, a very, very narrow win on that night, four seats wasn’t it?  Whatever it was.  And no doubt, no doubt, the fact that Steptoe was not on the air that night…not a new edition of Steptoe was not on the air that night may…was…had an effect on the outcome of the election.  Wilson was pleased.  He continued to be friends with the BBC.  But of course the relationship changed.  Once the man goes into No.10 Downing Street it’s a different thing.  

    Wilson then tried to persuade Hugh Greene to allow him to speak to the nation, say, “What I want to do Hugh…” was fireside chats, regular fireside chats, the way President Roosevelt used to do on radio.  And Greene said, “Well of course by all means, if you want to take up…have a fireside chat, that is your right, you call a prime ministerial broadcast, I just have to tell you one thing that we…the BBC will invite Alec Douglas-Home and Jo Grimond to give similar broadcasts on the following days.”  “Oh really, why is that?”  “Well that is a thing called balance Prime Minister.”  Said Hugh Greene to Wilson.  And from that moment onwards the relationship soured.  Wilson thought Greene was difficult.  Wilson thought that Lime Grove was difficult, and that the people at Lime Grove, notably…he got on with Grace but, notably, Paul Fox and, notably, John Grist, were difficult people who didn’t like him.

    Ted Heath began to emerge as a more popular figure on television.  And there were two major rows between Wilson and the BBC, and one was at a Party Conference in Brighton, when John Grist was summoned by Wilson, who was then Prime Minister, and given an almighty dressing down in front of everybody, in front of the press, in front of colleagues.  And John behaved most honourably and kept quite, and took the dressing down like a gentleman.  Wilson was wrong…I’ve forgotten what the hell it was about, I mean, the issue really doesn’t matter.  It was a public dressing down, which was then reported in the papers, and Wilson was playing to the gallery as he always did.  So the relationships were bad.

    He was then out of office, Heath came in, and by the time we came to Yesterday’s Men…by the time we came to that election…let’s talk about the election first…I had taken it upon myself as a Producer of the election to try and get an interview with Wilson, live from the train on Friday morning.  The train that was bringing him from Liverpool to what one assumed would be Downing Street.  And we had rigged the cameras and the…all the equipment to do a live interview from the train, which was quite an innovation.  John Morgan was the interviewer.  And we thought, well, John Morgan is a friend of Wilson’s he’ll persuade him.  

Now, to be fair, I had not asked Wilson’s permission or…(a) for the interview or approval for the interview, I had not issued any invitations, nor had I asked permission, not that I thought it was needed, to do the live thing from the train.  Wilson took it amiss, I mean, he thought he was…he was outraged that I had assumed, without asking him…or Marcia may have been outraged…that I had gone ahead in this thing without ever speaking to them about it.  And he flatly refused to talk to the BBC.  Flatly refused to speak to his friend John Morgan.  What was worse, he gave an interview to ITN.  ITN did not have the facilities on the train.  ITN threw the tape out at Crewe Station and got the interview on the air before we did.  

    But we had one little thing left in reserve.  Desmond Wilcox had just arrived at the BBC from Rediffusion, and I’d asked Des to go to Euston Station to meet Wilson off the train and do the interview.  And Wilson, looking at Wilcox, thought here’s another man from ITV and gave the interview to Wilcox, never realising that Wilcox was then working for the BBC.  And Des had done…did the interview and we managed to get it.  But Wilson, he never forgave me.  He never forgave the BBC.

    And then years later, when he was out of office, came the story of Yesterday’s Men.  I went and had…I suppose, I was Controller of…I may have been still…whatever it was…I had lunch with David Dimbleby at Chez Ciccio’s in Kensington [unclear 0:17:00] [s.l. still remember the thing], and David sold me on the idea, when Wilson’s out of office we’ll do a programme on the end of the Labour government.  We will interview Wilson.  We will interview Tony Crosland, Jim Callaghan, Richard Crossman, Roy Jenkins, all the people who had been in power, and we’ll do a programme on them.  I thought excellent idea.  Smashing.  

Foolishly, I did not ask David what the title of that programme was going to be.  David went on, did the programme.  I was at Television Centre as Controller.  John Grist was the Head of the Current Affairs Group.  Tony Smith was the Editor of 24 Hours.  David was working…David Dimbleby was working on this programme…he was a freelance…was working on the programme to Tony Smith and to John Grist.  The programme happened.  Everybody was interviewed.  First of all there was the enormous row when David did the interview with H. Wilson and asked him about the price…how much money he got for his memoirs.  And Wilson said, “Outrageous, stop the recording at once.”  And then the recording started again and David asked exactly the same question, “What was price of the memoirs?”  Or, “How much money did you get from your memoirs?”  And Wilson said, “Have you ask Ted Heath where he got the money for his yacht from?”  It was one of those child-like rows.  But of course it became known, inevitably, it got in the prints, and Wilson was very difficult.

    All the other, all the others, agreed to be interviewed by David.  Jim Callaghan who was Foreign Secretary.  Roy Jenkins was Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Dick Crossman, Tony Crosland, all those people.  The programme was put together and, eventually, was produced by that woman called Angela…

I:    Pope?

R:    What?  Pope.  Angela Pope.  And eventually it became clear when Radio Times billings came along that the programme was to be called Yesterday’s Men.  To be fair, I was Controller of BBC1 and I didn’t think…I didn’t think it was a particularly witty title but I didn’t think anything dreadful about it, as a title.  But then the row broke.  The programme was in the Radio Times, Yesterday’s Men, Producer, Angela Pope, blah, blah, blah.  Charles Curran was by that time Director-General of the BBC, and Charles Curran gave a dinner party at the Television Centre, and this was in the summer of whatever year it was…July…June…he gave a dinner party for Fred Friendly and others.  And in the middle of this dinner party the phone went, Huw Wheldon, “Could you come to the phone…” have you heard this story?  Has this been told?  

Huw Wheldon…Huw went to the telephone, “Who’s on the phone?”  “This is Lord Goodman.”  “Oh yes, hello.”  “I am speaking on behalf of Harold Wilson, I am representing…I am his Solicitor and I’m complaining about this particular programme, and if nothing is done about this we will issue an injunction first thing in the morning to forbid the programme going out.”  This was on the eve of transmission.  “Thank you very much.”  Lord Goodman put the telephone down and went off.  

Half an hour later the phone rang again, Charles Curran, can you come to the…”Who’s on the phone?”  “Lord Goodman.”  “Lord Goodman.”  “Yes, I’ve just spoken to Mr Wheldon and I’m afraid I didn’t get a very satisfactory reply I am speaking on behalf of Harold Wilson, Tony Crosland, Roy Jenkins, Jim Callaghan, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, and we will issue an injunction tomorrow morning, we think this programme’s absolutely outrageous…” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, “…and unless something is done about it tonight…”  “Well I’m at a dinner party…”  “Well we’ll have to talk about it…”  

Charles Curran went back, talked about it to Huw and between them they decided, well this dinner party’s got to end, and the Americans thought it was absolutely unbelievable that there would be such outrage caused by one programme, and that this Solicitor would be phoning up.  Anyway the Americans were sent packing, and a number of us got together and said, “Well the thing to do is we’ll have to go and see Lord Goodman.”  This was midnight by then on the Wednesday night.  And off we trooped…”Lord Goodman lives in Portland Place?”  “Yes, he lives in Portland…”  

By that time, of course, all the secretaries and everybody had gone home and there was this team of BBC Executives, led by Charles Curran and Huw Wheldon, going along Portland Place, “Where does he live?”  “Oh, I don’t know, he lives somewhere in Portland Place.”  “The number?”  “No, I have no idea of the number.”  There were these senior executives striking matches and lighting cigarette lighters, walking along Portland Place seeing where Lord Goodman lived.  Eventually, 12:30, 12:45, found Lord Goodman, had a most amiable conversation with Arnold, and he said, “No, no, maybe not, maybe we won’t issue an injunction but…” blah, blah, blah…”…we’ll see what happens…what you do tomorrow.”  

By that time, of course, Charles Hill was the Chairman of the BBC, at that time.  There was a meeting of the Board of Governors due to take place on that Thursday, and Charles Hill demanded to see the programme so that he should see it and be able to talk to the Governors.  That’s the first time in the history of the BBC that the Chairman had demanded to see a programme in advance of transmission.  It was outrageous.  But he was the Chairman and Charles Curran could not persuade him to do otherwise.  Charles had seen it by that time.  Huw had seen it.  Both thought it was okay for transmission.  Neither of them liked the title.  Hill saw it and thought, well it was okay, didn’t like the title, but he could convince the Governors that it would go out, and go out it did.  

And just before the real furore broke one story worth telling.  Jim Callaghan, who had been Foreign Secretary in that government appeared on 24 Hours on Friday night and at no stage did Jim complain about the programme, either in the chat beforehand or in the drinks afterwards, or during the programme.  It was Wilson who…I mean, Tony Crosland made a fuss because his house in Ladbroke Grove was shown without permission but, I mean, that was just Tony being mischievous.  Roy didn’t make a fuss.  Jim Callaghan didn’t make a fuss.  The only person who made the fuss was Wilson.  And I suppose when you look back on it, the title Yesterday’s Men was pejorative.

    Two postscripts to this story.  One was, when they…on the Wednesday night, on the eve of the thing…when the trouble was…when it was clear there was gonna be trouble, Angela Pope the Producer had taken the programme home with her, or allegedly home with her, took it with her, certainly didn’t take it…and when people asked, “Well where’s the master of this thing?”  “Well Angela’s taken it with her.”  “Well could somebody ring Angela please?”  Well Angela wasn’t sleeping at home that night, but she’d got it under her pillow somewhere or other, wherever she was sleeping that night and that’s where the cassette was.  That’s one postscript.

The other postscript, more amusing actually than that, was this Thursday was Huw Wheldon’s day in the BBC box at Royal Ascot.  And Huw said, “Well…” to me, he said, “Look it’s out of the question old boy I can’t possibly go to Ascot, you’ll have to take my place, you be the host in the box and you enjoy yourself, because I’ll have to go the Governors meeting and make sure that this programme goes out.”  I said, “Okay, fine, terrific, wonderful, had a lovely day.”  “Oh…” he said, “…just one tiny spot of bother, Lord Goodman is among your guests.”  

And so we went…Betty and I went to Ascot and all sorts of people were there, we arrived, good time, entertained our guests.  By 1 o’clock time lunch no sign of Lord Goodman, of course, naturally, none whatsoever.  People kept putting their heads round the door saying, “Has Lord Goodman arrived?”  “No, awfully sorry.”  We started eating, kept a place for him.  Sure enough at 1:45 Lord Goodman bowled up, “Ah very nice to see you…” blah, blah, blah, all wonderful, lovely.  Ate his food.  People arrived, kept whispering in his ear.  Goodman had a terrific helping of salmon.  Ate the strawberries.  Had a bet on the Gold Cup.  Chatted about Southern Rhodesia, he’d just come back as Wilson’s envoy.  The row with the BBC from the previous night was never mentioned.  Not at any stage was it mentioned.  It could never have happened.  He stayed for the Gold Cup.  Naturally, he’d backed the winner.  He collected his winnings.  Had another portion of strawberries and buggered off.  

And the programme went out that night and that was the end of Good…he never…you would never believe that he and the BBC were gonna meet in court.  Out of the question.  It was hilarious.  

So Yesterday’s Men…if…truly after all these years, looking back on it, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the programme.  If the programme had been called, Last Thoughts of the Labour Administration, or, H. Wilson Looks Back on Ten Years…or however many years…in Downing Street, it would have been fine.  It was the title, which was unquestionably pejorative and the title should have been spotted.  It cost John Grist his job as Head of Current Affairs, there’s no question about that.  That was the consequence.  And John Grist was moved, either to Washington, either to New York, or…no, he was moved, became Controller Midlands, he was moved out in the regions.  And that was that Yesterday’s Men story.

I:    Fascinating.

R:    Go on, anything else?

I:    Well, you’re now Controller 1, you’ve just…

R:    I’m now Controller BBC1, what did I do as Controller BBC1?

I:    Yeah.

R:    I enjoyed myself hugely.

I:    Important years, they were.

R:    Undoubtedly.  Well, they were important years.  They were years like…the years [unclear 0:27:08]…the years had certainly included the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, I suppose, that was the most important thing.  We certainly…the most thing that happened because we reported on it well.  Lots of…other assassin…the assassination of Martin Luther King.  The assassination of Bobby Kennedy.  And, I mean, the most important, the Russians in Czechoslovakia.  

    And thanks to the bravery of the Czech’s we were able to get television coverage out of Czechoslovakia, live on the air, and were able to plan the BBC1 schedule so that it reflected the news of the…special programmes were a great thing in those days.  I had a marvellous…two wonderful colleagues in planning.  First of all, Colin Shaw and later on Tony Preston and, indeed, Peter Rowley who’d been a distinguished BBC Correspondent in Algeria and in France, so those were the three people in planning who helped enormously readjusting the schedule and making sure that we could get the stuff on the air when it was wanted, when it reflected the news.

    And BBC1 was a lively channel in those days.  Did I do anything…what do I look back on with satisfaction?  I suppose, one of them was, unquestionably, I managed to get the news back to 9 o’clock.  The news in those days was either at 8:50 or 9:10, and the reason for that was because BBC programmes, as indeed American programmes, were…had a running time of 50 minutes.  And therefore, it was very difficult to get to an hour, to get to the…on the hour for a change of programmes.  And to get the news to 9 o’clock did require a certain number of adjustments, and playing around with the schedule.  I enjoyed playing around with the schedule.  Once the news was established back at 9 o’clock, where it should have been, the 9 o’clock news, from that on the news run in those days by Desmond Taylor, lovely chap, wonderful news programmes in those days, wonderfully professionally, the 9 o’clock news became established.  That, I think, gave me [unclear 0:29:16].

    In the…my views, really, on the Heads of Departments were there…that the Heads of Departments were there to offer programmes.  If the programmes worked they were on the air.  It was up to them to get on with making the programmes.  What I had available were the two most important things any person could have, I had air time and budgets, I had control over those two things.  And in that way, one was able to control the schedule.  I was lucky I had David Attenborough next to me as Controller of BBC2, at first, and then later on Robin Scott came along, and BBC1 and BBC2 were going concerns in those times.

    Huw Wheldon was the boss, first as Controller of Programmes.  Kenneth Adam was still there.  But Kenneth Adam by that time was pretty much the worse for wear, even in the mornings.  And when Kenneth retired, Huw became the Managing Director…or the Director first and then the Managing Director.  David then became…David Attenborough then became the…

I:    Director of Programmes.

R:    …Director of Programmes, really a job that wasn’t very satisfactory.  And Robin came…Robin Scott came next door, and BBC1…I…two things I believed in, unquestionably, I did believe in the ratings, and felt the ratings were important, that we mustn’t fall behind.  I did believe in a schedule, landmarks, I’d built the schedule around landmarks.  The schedule didn’t change too often.  But the content of the programmes was up to the Heads of Departments.  And I had terrific group…Heads of Departments.  In drama was Sydney Newman first, followed then by Shaun Sutton.  In light entertainment I had Tom Sloan first, followed then by Bill Cotton.  And two terrific Heads of…one of comedy, one of light entertainment, Duncan Wood at first, wonderful, and then Michael Mills, enormous successes.  And it was up to the Heads of Departments to get the programmes on the air.

    And over at Kensington House there was Bryan Cowgill in charge of sport.  And you, Norman, in music and arts.  Steven Hurst was there.  Aubrey Singer in charge of science and features.  And it was…I mean, again, I was very fortunate with the reporters in Panorama, I was exceptionally lucky with the Heads of Departments.  And the Heads of Departments were allowed to choose the programmes they wanted to offer.  And once the offers meetings had been concluded and I said…I only had…I had…only had three words to say, really, at those meetings, yes, no, or, maybe.  I either said, yes, to an offer, or no, or maybe.  And it worked.  And it worked, I believe, very well.

    Planning Department were terrific because they helped to get the schedule going, they found the resources.  And I liked it…I mean, I know I had a wonderful time in those six years.  I’d like to think that BBC1 looked good.  That BBC1 was popular.  And that BBC1 had some distinguished programmes.  I have to say I didn’t read the scripts in advance.  I didn’t feel that this was my job, that’s what the Heads of Departments were there for.  Nor…I did discuss casting occasionally, but in the end those decisions were left to the people who were running the departments.  It was their job to get on with it.  And they did get a great deal of freedom.

I:    I remember showing you one programme in advance, which was Ken Russell’s film on Richard Strauss, do you remember?

R:    Indeed I do.

I:    Dance of the Seven Veils.

R:    Indeed.

I:    But you let it go.

R:    Well I [unclear 0:32:57].

I:    And David was with you too, David Attenborough.

R:    Yes.  Well because I didn’t feel sufficiently confidently in being able to make a judgement on that particular…on that bit…but there was also Tony Palmer’s film on Vietnam, if you remember?

I:    No, All My Loving.

R:    All My…

I:    Yeah, pop music.

R:    Pop music…sorry, pop music.  But it included…

I:    It had a sequence about a burning monk.

R:    …it included that sequence…no, it also included that sequence…

I:    Oh yes, sorry, yes.

R:    …of the Police Chief in Saigon putting the pistol to the guy…to a prisoner’s head and killing him.

I:    That’s right.

R:    Now I had enormous doubts about letting that go.

I:    And Tony showed it to the background of The Beatles, on the soundtrack.

R:    Yes.  In the end, because it was Tony and because I thought he was pretty serious about this, I let it go.  I don’t…I have no regrets about that.

I:    It’s been repeated two or three times.

R:    Well I have no regrets.  I mean, I’m…the relationship with the news was excellent.  The news got airtime.  The relationship with sport was good.  Special programmes went on the air.  While I believed in the sanctity of the schedule, when the events dictated, the schedule was thrown overboard and special programmes went out.  There were lots of trailers; presentations did a super job in those days.  I mean, obviously, with a value of hindsight I look back on it as good days.  

Monty Python started in that time.  It may not have started at the best time.  They were the people I did meet because they were very unhappy about the slot I allocated them.  It was experimental comedy at that time.  They came on, on a Tuesday evening at a time when it was only visible in London.  And Michael Mills, who was the Head of the Department, and John Cleese and the others, were furious that it was done at that time.  And eventually, once the programme had been established, it was promoted to better times.  It never ran on BBC2.  It only ran on BBC1.  And I still speak to John Cleese now…I must go.  I’m perfectly happy to come for another session…

       [Interview paused - 0:35:04]

[Interview resumed - 0:35:05]

M:    Right, we’re running now.

I:    Yes, let’s continue.  Monty Python Act 2.

R:    Well the Monty Python…the placing of Monty Python in the BBC schedules was a course of heated debate.  I mean, the real problem, as I said, was, that it was not seen outside London, and that they were irritated by this.  But this was, to some extent, I mean, let’s be clear, the first series was avant-garde comedy.  One was…one thought this was something for London only.  I know John Cleese and the others were deeply irritated by this, but the second series, and the third series, and the fourth series, and however many series there were after that, were certainly placed in a prominent position.  And I have to say that whenever I see John Cleese now, and I do bump into him occasionally, or any of the others, I mean, Michael Palin I see at football and at other places, I mean, they could not be more pleasant, all the…such arguments as there were, were professional arguments, all forgotten.  I admire them enormously.  And, of course, they’ve achieved…they’ve made wonderful achievements.  If you look at John Cleese as a major movie star.  Michael Palin as a major contributor to BBC television programmes, the travel programme.  And the others have all done really tremendously well.  Monty Python was a joy.  Michael Mills who brought it to the BBC was a most inventive Head of Comedy, and he died much too young.

I:    True.  Okay then, we…probably reached the end of your BBC career part one, Paul.  So we’re in the early ‘70s aren’t we?  Is it ’70…?

R:    3, something like that?

I:    ’73, yes.

R:    Yes, I suppose…

I:    And then…

R:    So I’d been Controller at BBC1 for seven years, and I’d always been one of those people who had moved on to other jobs.  And the set up at the BBC at that time was that Huw Wheldon was the Managing Director.  David Attenborough was the Director of Programmes.  I was in charge of 1.  Robin Scott was in charge of BBC2.  It was a splendid arrangement, worked wonderfully well.  And then David suddenly…David Attenborough suddenly decided that he’d rather go back and put his shorts on again.  And the reason for that, quite straightforwardly was, that I had a gap in my Christmas schedule one year, I suppose it was ’71, maybe it had been ’72, and there was an hour’s gap and the programme that was needed, unquestionably, was a nature documentary, a documentary about…natural history documentary.  And I knew the chap who could do it better than anybody else, and that was David.  And David then in his exotic role as, whatever he was called, Director of Programmes, by and large in charge of the lavatories and the computer project, in a boring job, jumped at the chance to go off.  He wasn’t sure whether he could still do it.  But anyway, there he was.  Off he went.  Did a most wonderful programme, which got an audience of 11 or 12 million on Christmas.  And David suddenly thought, by golly, I can go back to the old stuff and to hell with this bureaucracy.

I:    Yeah, what was the programme?

R:    I’ve honestly forgotten the name of the programme.  It was a programme that was placed on Boxing Day, or may have been the 27th of December.  It was the most marvellous programme.  I don’t know, he’d gone to Borneo or somewhere, one of those places that David used to travel to.  And he was, having been a bureaucrat, a BBC bureaucrat, for 8/9/10 years, and having done a wonderful job, having turned down the chance to become Director-General as, indeed, David…David was offered that by Lord Hill, absolutely turned it down flat, and went back and said, “I’m leaving my desk.  I’m going.”  Huw Wheldon couldn’t hold him.  He’d done a…David had done a sensational job for the BBC.  He had rescued BBC2, unquestionably.  He made friends around the place with everybody, and it was a pleasure to see him, wherever David walked.  And the combination of Huw and David was incredibly strong.  I mean, here were these…egging each other on, as far as the stories were concerned.  It was a wonderful time to be on the 6th floor of the Television Centre.  

    David went, a large plank had left…had dropped out of the…Huw was clearly coming closer to retirement.  He’d been made Deputy Director-General.  His chance of becoming Director-General had gone, and I was getting bored.  And the opportunity did come.  Huw did say to me, in passing, how would you like to become Director of Programmes, take David’s job?  And I thought that seeing how disenchanted David had become with this job, I thought that this was something that I didn’t really fancy, and I said so to Huw, “No, I’m not interested.”  And he brought Alasdair Milne back from Controller of Scotland into the job as Director of Programmes.

    Now Alasdair and I had known each other in Lime Grove.  We were colleagues.  We were friends, but we were cool friends, let’s put it clearly.  I admired Alasdair enormously.  Here was this young man who’d come, more or less, straight from Oxford after having done his National Service, into the BBC.  Without him Tonight would never have happened, would never have got on the air.  Donald Baverstock may have had the idea but Alasdair actually ensured that the programme got on the screen.  And then he left the BBC in rather sad circumstances, because Donald left, he felt he ought to go.  And Huw Wheldon brought in him back, and brought him back, first, as Controller of Scotland, and then brought him back into the centre of things at Director of Programmes.

    And, quite frankly, having been Alasdair’s equal, so to speak, in the old Talks Department under Grace Goldie, I didn’t really fancy Alasdair suddenly becoming my boss.  I’d got on with David because we were equal.  And Alasdair then started sitting in on office meetings and things that, in the past, really had been left to the Controller of BBC1, and I got…I mean, I don’t think I got tetchy but I was just slightly irritated.  And suddenly Alan Whicker phoned up.  And Alan said…Alan, who had left the BBC, was working for Yorkshire Television.  But Alan and I had always been friends.  He was still living in Regent’s Park in those days, in London.  And Alan said, “Why don’t you come over to lunch on Sunday, I want you to meet somebody.”  And over lunch on Sunday, at Alan’s home, I met Ward Thomas, then the Managing Director of Yorkshire Television.  

And Ward and I we’d met each other briefly, we knew each other vaguely, and we chatted.  And Ward said, “How would you like to come to Yorkshire Television as Director of Programmes?”  I said, “You’ve got a Director of Programmes…” Donald Baverstock was the Director of Programmes.  He said, “Well Donald is coming to the end of his time and Donald will have to go and you take his place.”  That was an extraordinary circumstance, because 7/8 years earlier, I had been in a consortium with Tim [s.l. Heward 0:42:22] and others, to apply for the Yorkshire franchise.  I mean, it was a combination of that marvellous…it was Tim Heward, David Coleman, James MacTaggart, Alan…whatever his name was…the variety chap…and I.  Tim as the Director of Programmes.  I as the Deputy Director…so we tried for Yorkshire Television ages before…when Yorkshire first started.

I:    Yeah, well this will be 1967, before they began, or the year before…

R:    Correct.

I:    …what it is ’67, I think.

R:    Before I became Controller BBC1…and when I lost that I became Controller BBC1...and we lost that franchise.  Ward Thomas and his group headed by Sir Richard Graham and the Yorkshire Post, won the contract, and here seven years later was Ward offering me the job to go to Yorkshire Television.  Well it took a little bit of negotiating.  But the terms…quite frankly, the financial terms were so good, and so much better than the BBC, plus the possibility of actually getting some shares in a public company, that I was deeply attracted.  I was bored at the BBC and I didn’t really…I wasn’t really looking forward to working with Alasdair, so the negotiations with Ward were kept wonderfully secret.  Nothing leaked out.  Nothing at all.  

I went into Huw on a Monday or a Tuesday said, “I’m sorry I’m gonna go.”  And Huw was deeply upset, I mean, truly was.  And it was still in those days…he said, “Well if you’re going you’ve got to within 24 hours or less, clear your desk.”  I was a little hurt, I mean, I’d done, whatever it was, 23 years service in the BBC, I’d given it a fair whack of my time.  And Huw said, “Off you go.”

M:    Sorry, stop there.

[End of transcription - 0:44:29]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 4

I    =    Interviewer
R    =    Respondent
M    =    Male

s.l.    =    sounds like.

I:    Paul Fox, Side 4.

R:    So, Hugh said, “Clear your desk, off you go.”  And, I have to say, that I left the BBC after 22 years service without a drink, without anybody…I mean, my secretary and I had a drink.  She was upset, Anne Fox, and I left and that was it.  Now fortunately arrangements were in hand that Betty and I would go on holiday, 24 hours later, to Portugal.  And there I was, having left the BBC, cleared my desk, gone home, following day, or 48 hours later we went off to the Algarve, had a few messages down in the Algarve from people.  And two weeks later, after the Algarve holiday, I turned up at Yorkshire Television in Leeds.

    Donald having gone…I mean, the truth of the…the fact of the matter was that Donald had been fired by Ward and I had taken his place.  Arrived at Yorkshire, in fairly strange surroundings, I didn’t know many people at all.  But found that there was a great deal of work to be done.  We decided not to move house, not to move homes, up to Yorkshire.  Yorkshire Television offered me a house up at Menston on the way to Ilkley, and I stayed there.  And the decision about moving really was made, really, by what Lord Thomas said to me, “You’ve gotta make up your mind where you want to spend your weekends.”  And quite honestly, Betty and I had decided that we wanted to continue to spend our weekends at home in London, and there we stayed.

    And I did, during the next 15 years, I suppose, in Yorkshire Television.  I spent more time than I would have thought on the M1 and on the train between London and Leeds than I spent in the office, because I did find that the bulk of the work, all the lobbying, all the negotiations, all the meetings, all those things took place in London.  And I wanted to ensure that Yorkshire Television, fairly new major television company, ITV company, had to have a place in the sun.  Had to be there at the top table with the big boys.  And I suppose one helped to bring that about.

    So, on to Yorkshire.  My first meeting in ITV was…I mean, ITV was totally dominated by meetings.  You were there at meetings all the time.  The Controllers met.  The Managing Directors met with the Controllers.  You met with the IBA.  You met for this.  You met for that.  The meetings were constant.  And one met a large number of new people as a result of that.  I mean, David Plowright, John Birt, Michael Grade, Brian Tesler, Cyril Bennett, all people I’d known vaguely before, I met, and we became colleagues, we became friends, and these friendships to some have lasted to this day.

    My very first meeting in ITV was at the old ATV House.  It was a meeting of the five major Managing Directors and the five Programme Controllers.

I:    That in Cumberland Place was it?

R:    In Cumberland Place.  Cumberland Place at old Lew’s place.  And I arrived at…in time and, I suppose, I was the first one there.  And Lew was there, and Lew said, “Good morning Paul, how lovely to see you, have a cigar.”  And opened the cigar box and, “Have a cigar now and put two in your pocket for later on.”  And I suddenly realised what the difference was between meetings in the BBC and meetings in ITV.

    Meetings in the BBC always began with the immortal phrase, “Have you had coffee yet?”  Meetings at ITV clearly begun, “Please have a cigar, and take one for later.”  And Lew, of course, I mean, those were the days when Lew was around.  When Howard Thomas was still around.  When Sidney Bernstein and Cecil, indeed, were at Granada.  And Denis Forman, of course.  And who else?  And London Weekend Television was then run by John Freeman.  I mean, it was, let’s be clear about it, the people, the calibre of the people who would sit round the table in ITV outshone the talent of the people who were in the BBC.

I:    And they knew a lot about programmes.

R:    And they knew a hell of a lot about programmes.

I:    And which were good and which were not.

R:    Absolutely.

I:    And how to make good ones.

R:    Absolutely.  Because they were all programme makers.  They were all programme makers.  The people who were the bosses in ITV were programme makers.  Let me just, it’s just worth going through it again.  ATV, Lew Grade, I mean, the master showman of all time, in the days when he was still, I mean, I suppose I joined when he was still…I suppose, he’d just been made Sir Lew Grade.  Lew Grade assisted by Bill Ward, the pioneer of television.  

    At Granada, Sidney Bernstein was in full flow, assisted by his brother Cecil.  Assisted by Denis Forman.  Assisted by David Plowright.  I mean, all of them knew what programme making was about.  

    At LWT, John Freeman, I mean, here, you know, the man who had been a master diplomat, Ambassador in Washington…and High Commissioner in New Delhi.  The man who made face to face, had as his Programme Controller, Cyril Bennett.  The lovely, wonderful Cyril, who had been all over in commercial television, knew what it was about.

    That’s three companies.  And then there was Thames.  Thames?  Yes.  And then there was Thames headed by Howard Thomas, with Brian Tesler as Director.  George Cooper the man…no, with…Howard Thomas as the Managing Director and Brian Tesler as his Programme Controller.

    And then there was Yorkshire, I mean, Brian being in television…I knew Brian when he was in the BBC, one of the outstanding intellects of our time, and also a wonderful producer of entertainment.  And Brian ran Thames brilliantly.

    And then there was this new company, Yorkshire Television, headed by Ward Thomas, who had been trained at Granada by Sidney in the Sales Department.  Had then gone on to become Managing Director at Yorkshire Television.  Was a bit feared around the place because Ward could be cool and tough.  But Ward ensured that Yorkshire Television had its place at the top table, and insisted that Yorkshire was one of the big five.  And I helped him do that.  And I have to say, I had one hell of a good time in ITV in those days.  The company was terrific.  Of course there were hard negotiations, and when the five companies dominate…the five majors dominated the network, the network worked extremely well.

    There were enough people around that table to ensure that there were good place for public affairs programmes.  David Plowright ensured that.  I ensured that.  Cyril Bennett ensured that.  Bill and Brian, you look at the group of five Programme Controllers, Bill Ward, Cyril Bennett, David Plowright, Brian Tesler, and I.  It was a fantastic collection with old Frank Copplestone as the Chairman, and later on Berkeley Smith as the Chairman.  

I mean, here were people who understood television.  Who cared for television.  Who were interested in ratings.  Of course, we were interested in ratings.  No question.  But we are also interested in good programmes.  And while each of the majors had to have its share of programmes, and we negotiated hard for that, we also knew (a) that the schedule mattered more than anything, (b) that the audience mattered, most of all, and thirdly, that there had to be compromises.  And the compromises came about because we understood each other, and we were…may have been rivals but we were also mates.  And it worked extremely well.

    So that was that run of Yorkshire Television.  I really, truly enjoyed it.  Yorkshire was…I mean, Yorkshire programmes…there were two people at Yorkshire who had helped to make good programmes…three.  One was Peter Wills who had ensured that there was a wonderful drama tradition at Yorkshire.  He’d come from Rediffusion.  Here was this old war hero, former Hollywood actor who was a showman in the extreme really, limping away on one leg.  Moaning like mad.  But doing wonderful drama.

    Secondly, Tony Essex had gone there from the BBC to start the drama tradition…to start the documentary tradition, and there was a strong documentary tradition at Yorkshire, quite apart from Alan Whicker.  The Whicker programmes, Whickers World was at its best, it got ratings and they were good programmes.  There was another documentary tradition.  And when Tony died he was succeeded by a man called John Fairley, who is now the Managing Director at Yorkshire Television, and John, who had been brought in by Donald Baverstock, from radio, he’d never done…been in television before in his life, ensured that there was a strong tradition of documentary programmes.  Strong local programmes.

    And the one thing that I did, I brought in Duncan Wood from the BBC, to head entertainment.  And Duncan was sensational, I mean, I’d always admired Duncan at the BBC.  Not only was he great as a boss of comedy, Duncan was also much underrated.  A wonderful manager of people and resources.  And I knew how to get Duncan across to Yorkshire Television, it wasn’t money.  What Duncan wanted was longer holidays, because to spend more time on the golf courses.  And I ensure…and to spend time in Spain.  And what I gave Duncan to get him across from the BBC, I ensured that he’d have seven weeks holiday a year, instead of the four weeks…and he came.  And Duncan and I got on wonderfully well.  And I got on with John Fairley as well, very well.  And Peter.  

And Duncan really turned…helped to turn Yorkshire around, because the entertainment side had been awful.  Absolutely appalling.  There was a fellow called John Duncan who was one of Donald Baverstock’s mates, who was running entertainment and…hell of a nice fellow but hopeless at light entertainment.  And the very first act I took at Yorkshire Television I yanked a comedy series off the air, it had been on for two episodes.  It was Jimmy Edwards.  I can’t remember the title.  But it was the most appalling show out.  And I said, “No, alright, this series will not go on the air any longer.  We’re killing it and that’s it.”  And Duncan arrived two or three weeks later, and as a result of Duncan’s arrival, we managed to get Rising Damp.  And he brought in Vernon Lawrence as his deputy, and we suddenly set off on a great run of comedy programmes.  And so Yorkshire was [s.l. established 0:11:31] and everything was going well, fine, dandy.

I:    Wasn’t Joy Whitby there too?

R:    Joy Whitby came along afterwards…

I:    Children’s programmes.

R:    …as the Head of Children’s.  Yes, indeed, yes.

I:    And Tony Preston?  Yeah?

R:    Well, let’s come to Tony.  I assumed…I mean, the person who…just to go back to the beginning of this, I mean, Ward Thomas was the Managing Director.  Sir Richard Graham, splendid Yorkshire landowner, figure in Yorkshire, was the Chairman.  But Yorkshire Television was owned by Trident Television.  And the Chairman of Trident was James Hanson, great Yorkshire figure.  And before I was…before Ward could actually settle my contract I went along to meet James Hanson.  And there was this 6 foot 5 figure I’d heard about, you know, the man had been engaged to Audrey Hepburn, it’s well known, and here was this great tycoon on the way up.  Exceptionally handsome man, and vigorous, and all that.  And I took to James, I have to say, I immediately took a…liked him.  And he said, “Well, all goes well you’ll be the Managing Director of this company within three or four years.”  And he kept his word.

    And sure enough after being there, I don’t know, perhaps five years, I became first Joint Managing Director with Ward, and kept my Controller of Programmes job, so I was Joint Managing Director and Director of Programmes.  And then Ward decided to move further up, somewhere or other, Hanson became the Chairman of the company.  Ward became the Group Chief Executive, and I was a Managing Director and Director of Programmes at Yorkshire Television.

    So the meetings in London were continuous.  Perhaps it’s…looking back on it, perhaps I should have appointed a Programme Controller, what I did instead was to bring along somebody as Deputy Managing Director.  And the man I went to was an old chum and one of my oldest mates, from the BBC, Tony Preston.  I’d first met Tony when he was my Planning Assistant when I was Controller BBC1.  He then became the Head of Planning at the BBC.  He then went to light entertainment, Bill Cotton moved him, made him Assistant Head of Variety.  He then succeeded Bryan Cowgill as the Head of OB and Sport in the BBC.  And then, once I’d been in ITV for a couple of years, I suggested to him that there was a vacancy as Controller of Programmers at…Controller at Southern Television, when Berkeley had gone, and Tony went there.  And that his first time in ITV.  He worked for John Davies, for David Wilson.  

But we were great mates.  We talked to each other once a week on the telephone.  And when the Yorkshire vacancy came up, I persuaded Tony to come up to Yorkshire to join me.  And I have to say, he was absolutely marvellous, Tony, I mean, incredibly loyal, wonderfully hardworking, and terribly good for the place because he was so good with people.  And he was always there.  He always…always in Leeds.  Whereas I spent, quite possibly, too much time in London.  But I spent time in London because I had to go to these flaming meetings, (a) with the IBA, (b) with the council, with other ITV companies, and no doubt I decided that meetings in London were Monday and Fridays, and sometimes they were Tuesday’s as well.  So quite often I’d only spend two days in Yorkshire, Wednesday and Thursday.

    Tony and I shared the house.  It saddens me to say, there’s no doubt, it…his move to Leeds ruined his marriage.  He…his wife decided not to come up to live in Leeds.  He’d got a wonderful house from the company, she should have come up, and Tony would have been the King of Yorkshire.  Sadly, she decided not to and the marriage broke up as a result of that.  

    So, Yorkshire days, just one…a couple of key things.  Franchise renewal.  Yorkshire had had one easy franchise renewal.  The next one that came along when Lord Aylestone was the Chairman of the IBA, and the dreaded Brian Young was the Chief Executive…yes.

I:    What year was that, Paul?

R:    I’m hopeless at years.  I’d been there about five years, I suppose, about ’78, a bit longer?

I:    Something like that.

R:    ’79 maybe?  Something like that.  There was a franchise renewal process and…or was there an extension?  I think there may have been an extension.  Anyway, Yorkshire got its extension.  But then the next franchise renewal was, again, with Brian Young in charge and Bridget Plowden as the Chairman.  And those…that franchise renewal process was appalling, I mean, absolutely dreadful, for a number of reasons.  This followed the strike, this franchise renewal.  And the strike in…

I:    That was ’79 wasn’t it, the strike?

R:    Yes.  The strike in ITV was a very, very unhappy time.  It was a very unhappy time for the whole of the ITV network.  It was particularly unhappy in Yorkshire Television.  And it was particularly unhappy for me.  I was…I suppose…I think I was the Chairman of the ITV Council at that time…or I had some prominent role in the thing.  And foolishly, or bravely, or foolhardy, I certainly became a key figure in the strike, no doubt.  Seen by the ACTT as this…this is the unacceptable face of ITV, no question about it.  And I was…I dug in…I dug in very hard.  I felt we were being taken to the cleaners by the unions.  And particularly, by the unions in Yorkshire Television.  We had a very, very tough job, led by a man called David Dale, who was the presentation Editor, hell of a nice fellow, unbelievably tough shop steward.  And another guy who then left to go to Thames Television, who’s no longer in television.  Anyway, it was a deeply unhappy time.

    The strike happened…I mean, it was very interesting the story of this strike.  The strike happened during the parliamentary recess.  It was in August.  So at first, quite frankly, ITV didn’t…August, dead time, okay we’re off the air, we’re off the air, the transmitters were closed down.  We had enough staff in Yorkshire Television…enough management staff in Yorkshire Television to get us back on the air; there was no question…non union people.  I mean, there was Ted Wright and other people around who could get us back on the air.  We had enough programmes lined up to get us back on the air.  What we needed were the transmitters…was the Yorkshire transmitter.  

And Ward Thomas who was as strong about keeping the unions out, I mean, whether it was a lockout or whether it was a strike, don’t let’s go into the argument, as far as we were concerned was a strike.  As far as the ACTT was concerned it was a lockout.  Ward was determined that they shouldn’t win, and that we should get on the air.  And he phoned up the IBA.  Brian Young wasn’t there at the time.  The man who was there, who’s now the Chairman of LWT, who was the Deputy Chairman…I’ll come to it in a minute…he was…what the hell is his name?  Man who’s just taken £6 million, £8 million out of LWT, in a share scheme?  Anyway, gone.  He was there.  And Ward said, “Look, could we get the transmitter out?  Could the IBA get the transmitter on the air?”  And he said, “I wish you hadn’t asked me that question, I don’t think we can.”  

And a week later Brian Young was back from holiday and we asked the question again, could we get the transmitter on the air?  And why not?  Well other unions were involved it would be dreadful.  Quite frankly…and Brian Young was undoubtedly scared to…I mean, all it needed was somebody to press a button, the Yorkshire transmitter would have been on the air.  We had a link established between Leeds and the transmitter, and we would have been on the air, and would have defied the union.  And in the end that would have broken the strike.  There’s no question, the IBA should have helped us and decided not to help us.  And the strike went on.  And in the end the strike, I suppose, lasted 6/7/8 weeks?  It was an appalling, a truly appalling…

I:    Yeah, a couple of months I think.

R:    …no revenue…certainly we weren’t paying any wages, but no revenue was coming in.  And the times were exceptionally…it became quite clear.

I:    Well I was Granada at the time.  

R:    So it was tough.

I:    I knew quite a bit about it.

R:    And what the conclusion, I think, it was started by John Freeman, I suppose, really.  John and Denis Forman, and others, decided, look…and Bill Brown at Scottish…we’ve got to settle.  And settle we did, on very unfavourable terms, I have to say.  And I remember being at Yorkshire Television when they came, to be fair to the union, I take my hat off to them now…or soon afterwards actually…they came back…and they came back…and they marched, I mean, all of them came back together, and there was no doubt, I mean, whatever it was, 3/400 people, they’d lined up outside, and they didn’t come back in dribs and drabs, they came back as a union, solidly, marching into the building.  And there we were.

    David Dale and I made peace shortly thereafter.  People who’d been out, who’d been Producers and senior figures, like, Duncan Dallas, and others, came back and life returned to normal.  It was never quite the same.  And the reason it was never quite the same was because some of those people then got themselves involved into a Consortium that bid for the Yorkshire franchise.  Bid for our jobs and for our livelihood.  One of them was Duncan Dallas, and there were others.  Another who’d come out of semi-retirement was Donald Baverstock and Austin Mitchell.  

Austin was an MP by then.  I don’t know how he could possibly have become a member of a…whether he would…he would have had to give up his seat, had that group won its franchise.  Another who was involved in it was Jonathan Aitken, who had also worked at Yorkshire Television.  And another who became involved in it was Stella Richman.  So it was quite a formidable line-up against us.  Donald Baverstock, Stella Richman, Austin Mitchell, Jonathan Aitken, and various people from the Yorkshire Television staff.

    And the story, of course…was the story…was, the Yorkshire Television staff wanted to dump their owners.  Now it wasn’t…I mean, same time we still had to make programmes with these people.  Some of them were, in opposition, having meetings…I stopped them having meetings on our premises.  But certainly, down the road, bidding for my job, for Tony Preston’s job, for our shares, for the company.  I think it was called the White Rose Consortium.  And there was no doubt one had to see them off.  But the IBA thought, oh, there’s something splendidly romantic, here’s the staff bidding for this franchise.  There were other bidders in the wing.

And the franchise…and the great coup…sorry, the one great coup that Austin Mitchell secured, they secured Harold Wilson, then retired, as Chairman of this Consortium.  And here was Sir Harold Wilson chairing the Consortium with Jonathan Aitken, who’d brought in city finance.  Austin, Donald Baverstock, and others.  And this is how the franchise process went.  There were meetings around Yorkshire taking the people’s mind, as Brian Young’s wonderful phrase was.  I went to the first meeting.  First meeting took place at Doncaster Racecourse.  Been widely advertised.  The people of Yorkshire could speak about their television company, make the criticisms.  And the people in the audience were, two old grannies holding their brown bags…two bag ladies, who’d just come out of the rain.  Three boy scouts on an initiative test, and two other worthy citizens of Doncaster.  I promise you there were more people sitting on the platform than there were in the audience.  And that was the one public meeting I went to out in…outside Leeds.

    There was then a final meeting at Leeds Town Hall, which was a deeply unpleasant meeting, when Yorkshire Television were on the platform.  The IBA were there and some IBA authority member was sitting there on the platform…in the chair…and Austin Mitchell, and others, were in the audience, and some members of Yorkshire staff were in the audience.  There were those members of Yorkshire staff who were against the company and had lined with the other Consortium, while still being employed by us, while still having their wages paid by us.  And it was a bitter scene.

    But when we went to the IBA…I mean, of course, the fascinating thing was, here was Bridget Plowden, Brian Young, Colin Shaw had joined them by that time as Deputy Director, and various other people, sitting there in that room on the 8th floor of Brompton Road, and in we trooped, Sir Richard Graham and the Chair, Ward Thomas, as whatever he was, Group Chief Executive.  I, as the Managing Director, this that and the other.  We’d taken Duncan Wood along.  We’d taken Peter Wills along, to show that we were the programme makers, that we…that this is really what it was about.  And we had a perfectly decent interview.  I think we made a good impression, because we talked about programmes, and Bridget listened to all this.  

The next Consortium in was led by H. Wilson, I mean, would you believe here was the former Prime Minister leading the bid against us.  Now Harold, you know, was a little bit gone a little bit by that time.  And suddenly there was Bridget Plowden facing the former Prime Minister.  But, I mean, Harold simply didn’t know how to answer the questions about television, I mean, really it was, quite honestly, it was a hopeless quest.  

But we didn’t win the contract as easily as all that.  We were the…I mean, other companies got their renewals.  Thames got theirs.  LWT did.  Granada did.  ATV did, with difficulty, David Windlesham had to do a fantastic job.  But we were…there were others still bidding.  And what the IBA where unhappy about was this group structure of Trident Television, which of course owned Tyne Tees and Yorkshire Television.  And what they disliked was the Trident Television Group with two programme companies.  And the decision that came down, we went…had to go and collect our envelopes on a Sunday after Christmas, I mean, it was the worse Christmas I’d ever had.  The only worse Christmas was when I was a solider in the Ardennes in 1943…in 1944.  This was, whatever it was, 30 years later.  And it was a thoroughly unpleasant Christmas.  Only the IBA could think of getting us in to get our…to make…announce their decision on the franchises, on the Sunday after Christmas, December the 27th was the date.  Why December?  The Stock Exchange was closed and was quiet.  And no, I mean, we truly, I mean, Christmas Day, Boxing Day were miserable because we simply did not know whether we’d renewed or not.  

Richard Graham and I went in to…on that Sunday…into the IBA, got our letter from Lady Plowden…got a letter…nothing verbal…got a letter…would you like to open the letter in my…no…Bridget, Brian Young sitting there in their two chairs, Richard Graham the Chairman, and I…and I as the Managing Director…opened our envelopes…renewal of Yorkshire Television…yes, you’ve been granted…on the following conditions.  And the conditions were that Yorkshire broke away from Trident Television.  That Trident Television was dissolved.  And that Tyne Tees went its way and that Yorkshire Television went its way.  And that was the only way we could [unclear 0:29:36].  We picked up our envelopes.  We murmured a few words of thanks.  Didn’t really feel like it.  Went downstairs and went across to the Basil Hotel, the outside, where Ward Thomas and James Hanson, by then Lord Hanson…no, by then Sir James Hanson…were waiting, and showed Hanson and Ward this letter, and Hanson was absolutely furious.  

He had been kept out…he’d always been…he had not been recognised by the IBA in any way, because he hadn’t been given a television contract.  The fact that he was the Group Chairman of Trident Television, a publicly quoted company, he was unrecognised.  He was absolutely frozen out by the IBA because they said, “The contract had gone to Yorkshire, gone to Tyne Tees.  This company Trident Television, we do not recognise.”  And James realised that if Yorkshire Television was to continue…and Ward realised…we all realised…we had to de-merge from Trident Television.  Trident Television had to close down.  Tyne…Trident, the group, had to close down really as a television company.  Yorkshire could go on its own way, and Tyne Tees went off on its own way.  And that’s what happened.  

Not quite.  Because there were difficulties about this de-merger, real difficulties, and we had to find new owners for Yorkshire Television.  Trident could no longer be the owner.  We had to find new owners, that became clear.  And I was sitting at home the following Sunday, the following weekend, and I got a call from a man I’d never met before called, James Lee who represented Pearson’s, the Financial Times Group.  And James said, “Look, you and I have never met and I’m interested in getting involved in Yorkshire Television, and we would like to take a shareholding.”  And the next call I got was from a man called Derek Palmer, who was then the Chairman of Bass, and he said, “Look, you and I have never met, but I’m interested in Bass getting in the leisure business and we’d like to take a stake in Yorkshire Television.”  And suddenly, truly, overnight, out of the blue, two people had phoned me who said, “Look, we are coming along to help Yorkshire Television.  We want to invest in Yorkshire Television.  We believe in it…” blah, blah, blah.  And we put this rescue operation into place.

    Bass became the shareholders with 20%.  Sir Derek…Derek Palmer, as he then was, became the Chairman.  Pearson’s came in for 20% and…with James Lee as Deputy Chairman.  The ‘Yorkshire Post’ who’d always been a supporter, stayed, and they took, whatever it was, 15%, which is all they could do.  So suddenly we had 55% of the company…Trident kept a little bit and the rest went out to the public.  And suddenly we had a company again.

One last, though.  Brian Young, in a move I will never forget, came to me, said, “Look…” I mean, this sounds like we’re boasting and egotistical but it is true, “…the reason that Yorkshire got the contract back was because you were there as Managing Director.  We wanted to get rid of the other people.  If I find you some new owners, another company, very keen on Yorkshire Television, would you stay with them?”  Now here was the Director General of the IBA trying to seduce me from my company.  I thought it was the most outrageous thing that had ever happened to me.  And I was so angry.  And I told Brian, this was dreadful behaviour and I absolutely wouldn’t hear of it.  He did the same thing to Peter Payne at Tyne Tees Television, because he and I swapped stories, because we both knew we were being seen privately by Brian Young.  Peter and I were the…I mean, he and I were…we exchanged stories.  I didn’t tell another soul, nor did Peter.  Obviously I told my wife, I thought it was outrageous.

Now there was another group waiting in the wings, unquestionably.  And it was a group that Brian Young had somehow got together, which had failed down in Southern Television, TVS had got the contract in the South, and another group had got together, and he had various people together said, “Look, they’ll get the contract, all they need is you to come in as the Managing Director, and I will give it to them rather than to Yorkshire people.”  And I thought it was monstrous.  And really, because of that, because I was so angry at that, that we…that we…we managed to get this group with Derek Palmer, Bass, Pearson’s, the ‘Yorkshire Post’, and eventually WHSmith came along.  So we had a very strong company with blue chipped shareholders, and they invested well in the company.  I was retained as Managing Director and Controller of Programmes, although within a year, I suppose, I decided that John Fairley should become Controller of Programmes.  

And five years later we floated that company on the Stock Exchange.  We were over subscribed, whatever it was, 55 times.  And it was an exceptionally good company.  Brian Young, thank God, had disappeared from the IBA.  Bridget had gone as well, to be succeeded by…John Whitney took…yes, I know…Bridget had…Bridget was succeeded by Lord Thomson, George Thomson, was a wonderful Chairman.  And Brian Young was succeeded by John Whitney.  And suddenly the whole thing at the IBA changed.  George Thomson having been a politician knew what life was about.  Was a much easier person to deal with than this appalling woman, Bridget Plowden.  And, of course, Brian Young that elitist of all time, who was totally wrong in the IBA…in the commercial field of the IBA…was actively disliked by people like John Freeman, and David Windlesham, and Denis Forman, was gone as well.  John Whitney came in.  John was not a success at the IBA, but life went on.

And then along came Mrs Thatcher and destroyed all of that with her Broadcasting Act.  There is no question of that.  She saw…I mean, one has to remember…I mean, one looks at the history…the ACTT strike…the strike at that particular time did underline that the practices…Labour practices in independent television were hopeless, were outdated, and the overtime situation was absolutely appalling.  The Yorkshire problems were greater than others.  And one of the reasons that the Yorkshire problems were greater than others, it had nothing to do with the ACTT actually, had to do with the ETU.  Yorkshire had to employ, as a result of being set up, the electricians that had been working for ABC in Manchester at Didsbury.  And when ABC became Thames Television and Howard Thomas took the best people down to London, he left the unpleasant bits of ABC Television back behind in Didsbury.  

And those people, who might have been out of work, had to be employed by Yorkshire Television, but the old Yorkshire Television.  And we inherited a group of electricians who were, quite frankly, appalling.  Truly appalling people.  They continued to live in Didsbury.  They were the most bloody minded people you could imagine.  They ran rings round us in labour terms.  They were earning unbelievable fortunes.  And we should have got rid of them.  And I’d attempted to.  I remember going to see…I mean, relationships were so awful.

The time came when I went to see Frank Chapple.  And rang Frank Chapple over a weekend because yet another programme had gone down, because of bloody mindedness by the electricians.  And rang Frank Chapple at home and said, “You and I must meet.”  And Frank said, “Okay, let’s have lunch.”  And I said, “Where do you suggest?”  And Frank, good old trade union boss, said, “How about the Ritz?”  And Frank Chapple and I had lunch at the Ritz.  And I said, “Look, this can’t go on Frank.  We cannot go on with these bloody electricians behaving in the way they are.”  I mean, there was simply no way of coping with them.  We couldn’t deal with them.  And Frank said, “Well I agree with you Paul I think they’re terrible people.  If I were you I’d sack them.”  And I said, “I agree with you Frank I’d like to sack them.”  “Okay, we’re agreed to…will you give me other electricians?”  And Frank said, “Well I can’t do that Paul.”  I said, “Well, you know, well where the bloody hell are we?  I can’t sack ‘em and I can’t…”  But of course that’s what we should have done.  

We should have sacked them.  And whether we would have found other people…you see, in the end that’s exactly what Murdoch did, in the end, Murdoch sacked the bloody printers who’d given him such a hard time and, of all unions, got the ETU in to run the place.  And we weren’t good at our labour practices, I mean, Tony Preston, Ted [s.l. Wright 0:39:25], and others…and I, we had a hard time with that.  The ACTT were…the ACTT were ready to work provided we paid them, and they were earning big money.  NATTKE were not so difficult.  The ETU was our problem.  

And all this became, of course, public property and the Conservatives around Mrs Thatcher realised that the trade union practices in ITV were appalling.  I mean, Lew Grade paid them…well in order to keep production going at Elstree, Lew paid the unions extra when ITV went into colour, something that the BBC certainly didn’t do.  And so the practices were dreadful.  Most…all companies were beset by it…by labour problems.  Yorkshire more than most.  And I suppose we should have examined our practices a bit more.  We should have dealt with them a bit differently.  Whether it would have helped or not…but there’s no doubt what Mrs Thatcher and the people around her saw, here was ITV beset by restrictive practices, and that’s how the phrase came out, you know, the last bastion of restrictive practices, and we’re gonna break that.  And she did.  And in doing so she ruined British broadcasting.  No question.

I:    No.  Well what is particularly interesting, in terms of your career and so on, is you’ve totally changed, of course, from the complete 99% programme maker into a, what, 75%, or whatever, administrator, boss, and that kind of thing.  Did you have any time for programmes?

R:    A reasonable amount, I suppose.  What I still did do Norman, and what I’m…what had never been done at Yorkshire Television, we still had regular programme meetings.  In the end, one learnt at the BBC, the only way to make better programmes was to talk about the programmes that had been on the screen, and talk in groups about programmes.  And I did institute regular programme meetings at Yorkshire Television.  And I chaired those meetings until the day I left.  Whether I was Director of Programmes, or Managing Director, I chaired them, not the Programme Controller.  And programmes were discussed and debated, and the values of programmes were assessed, and that’s how we came to a decent programme philosophy.

    John, I mean…and plus those…plus all the routine meetings, I mean, John Fairley as the Director of Programmes and I met each week and we discussed the programmes.  I mean, the output, let’s face it, Yorkshire Television contributed 15% of the ITV’s network.  It was a much smaller programme portfolio than I had at BBC1, obviously.  Did I…I had time for…I enjoyed…I continued to enjoy programmes, and continued to talk about programmes.  And, of course, I still went to Programme Controllers meetings for a while, where I then…really gave that up and became Managing Director full-time, but still talking about programmes, because by that time the other Managing Director’s at ITV had become programme people and we…sorry, the other programme people had become Managing Directors at ITV, and when we met round the table, I mean, here was David Plowright.  Here was Brian Tesler.  Here was Bill Ward, and here was I, four programme people met, and the only one…it was only later when the Accountants came in and the Sales Directors came in as Managing Directors that the discussions about programmes came to an end.  

The Managing Directors, we met for lunch once a month, and regularly talked about programmes.  And we were still involved in meetings with the IBA, the Network Programme Committee did talk about programmes.  There was a constant flow of programmes.  I was a Director of ITN at that time and so I went to ITN to talk about programmes.  But I have to say, administration, finance, those sort of things, did take up more and more of my time.  Plus preserving the name of Yorkshire Television.  Plus of course, this key thing, of launching Yorkshire Television as a publicly listed company, I had a big role in that.

I:    Yeah.  To go back historically, Paul, to the early days of Yorkshire, because I worked for…

R:    Christopher Bland was the…

I:    Ah yes, Christopher Bland, yes, sorry.

R:    …man’s name at London Weekend Television.

I:    He’s in the news this week, that’s right.

R:    Yes, indeed.  And Christopher Bland was the man who was then the…

I:    London Weekend.

R:    …Deputy Chairman of the IBA.  And we said to him, “Look how about the…you getting the Yorkshire transmitters switch on.”  He said, “I wish you hadn’t asked me that question.”

I:    Yeah.  Sorry, go back to the early days, because as you know, I worked in Granada in the ‘60s when you were, obviously, at the BBC.  And this is merely for the record…well, for students in the future, learning and reading all this and listening to all this.  Granada, of course, included Yorkshire at that time, yes?

R:    Yes.

I:    Granadaland included Yorkshire and both sides of the Pennines, and it was Monday to Friday…

R:    Correct.

I:    …not at weekends.  And ABC were…

R:    Yeah.

I:    …at the weekends.

R:    Correct.

I:    And I remember Sidney Bernstein’s famous quote, you remember, wasn’t it, “If Yorkshire break this thing up and we lose the other side of the Pennines I’ll appeal to the United Nations.”

R:    [Laughter].

I:    He said.  But, you know, in terms of…Yorkshire, therefore, began with what was half of Granadaland…

R:    Indeed.

I:    …before that…

R:    Absolutely.

I:    …historically.  And I made a note, Paul, I don’t know if this is correct, the early days, obviously, 6 million viewers, that means 6 million residents…

R:    In the Yorkshire…

I:    …in the Yorkshire area.

R:    Correct.

I:    At that time.

R:    Correct.

I:    Which doesn’t sound much now, but…

R:    No, but that was the population…it may be 7.  But the wonderful thing about them was, I mean, there were two…I mean, that was…there were advantages and disadvantages of that Yorkshire franchise.  The advantages, unquestionably, was…I mean, you know, Yorkshire is a bit special.  I’m not a Yorkshireman, but Yorkshire is a bit special.  And there was terrific pride in the company throughout Yorkshire.  The fact that it was called Yorkshire Television was an enormous asset, and the local programmes were watched very keenly.

I:    There’s a famous…is it…Calendar…a famous series.

R:    Calendar…absolutely…well that was a nightly programme.

I:    Yeah.

       [End of transcription - 0:45:55]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 5

I    =    Interviewer
R    =    Respondent
M    =    Male

s.l.    =    sounds like.

I:    Paul Fox, Side 5.

R:    So, Yorkshire Television programme, I mean, certainly Yorkshire was created out of the old Granada franchise, and broke off, and instead of…Granada were compensated by getting seven days, and Yorkshire got seven days on their own, and Yorkshire became a major company.  That was the thing.  Up till then there had been four major companies.  Now, as a result of the arrival of Yorkshire Television, there were five.  Now, of course, the other four companies resented that.  But by the time I had arrived in Yorkshire, four/five years later, the resentment of the 5th company…the 5th major…had gone, and there was certainly no resentment on Granada’s part.  I mean, Granada and Yorkshire were natural neighbours, and David Plowright and I often had meetings privately in Manchester, or in Leeds, or in London to ensure that the North would stick together against the South.  There was no doubt…Granada had this strong Northern tradition.  Sidney Bernstein had long given up being concerned about losing Yorkshire and, you know, I was enormously fond of Sidney, I had a great admiration both for him and…both for Sidney and for Cecil, and Denis Forman, of course, and liked the whole Granada setup.  And I think we were friends.  We did exchange certain bits of information.  Not too much, but certain bits.  

    Now the Yorkshire programmes, I mean, the Yorkshire people took enormous pride in their own company, the fact that it was called Yorkshire Television.  The local service was excellent.  There was a local programme called Calendar, weekly news programme, which was way ahead of the BBC, because we pumped a lot of resources into the local programme, and the local programme really did very well.  So I say, the other programmes were documentary programmes built up by Tony...created by Tony Essex, continued by John Fairley.  And along then came a young man called, John Willis, Ted Willis’ son.  And, I suppose, ten years down the road, we started a regular monthly documentary programmed called, First Tuesday.  

    Now the reason for First Tuesday was simply this.  Granada had World in Action every Monday at 8:30.  Thames had This Week every Thursday.  Here were these two companies with a major public affairs programme.  Central, even though Charles Denton was by then the Programme Controller, were interested in public affairs programme, they had people like John Pilger and they wanted to push those programmes in at peak time.  What John Fairley and I realised was, that we needed a regular monthly strike, to have a documentary programme on the air, which was there every month and could not be moved.  Could not be moved by the planners or the schedulers and had to be there.  And we came up with this idea of going on Tuesday night, the first Tuesday of the month.  

Now I have to say the title was pinched from an old NBC programme run by my old mate Reuben Frank, which was called First Tuesday, and once we’d decided that title we said, “Okay, we’ll go every first Tuesday.”  And I was still, I suppose, then on the Programme Controllers group.  And I ensured that this would be the [s.l. play 0:03:41].  And that programme was founded ten years ago in 1983 and has run every first Tuesday at 10:40, occasionally sometimes at 9 o’clock, since then.  And John Willis was the founding Editor.  And John made a fantastically good job of it.

    John was a distinguished programme maker by that time.  He’d made programmes like Johnny Go Home.  He brought out the dangers of asbestos.  He’d brought out the dangers of what happened at Sellafield with radiation.  Yorkshire documentary programmes were campaigning programmes.  Strong campaigning programmes.  But until First Tuesday arrived we did not have a regular monthly slot.  And that was the important thing.  And in the end ITV programmes had to be…if the ITV schedule had a series of, say, four programmes on the first Tuesday of the month, that series had to be interrupted to take on First Tuesday.  

And it is an indication of what’s happened to ITV that First Tuesday’s coming to an end this year, after ten years of critically acclaimed…loads of awards and big audiences, and enormous professionalism.  Many of its makers have gone on elsewhere.  John Willis is now at Channel 4 as the Director of Programmes.  The other chap who came in as a Producer is now the Director of Programmes at Yorkshire Television, and so on.  But the traditions that were created by First Tuesday, introduced first by Robert Kee…Robert Kee was the first?

I:    Well Jonathan Dimbleby later wasn’t it?

R:    Later on.  I think Robert…

I:    Not much later, yeah.

R:    …was the first one.  And then John…yes, it was maybe…and then Jonathan Dimbleby and now, of course, Olivia…whatever her name is.  It was…it has been a remarkable series and it saddens me that after…I know all programmes have got to change, but it…I mean, in the end it’s a…it’s not only a title it is a concept, there’s something that’s there every first Tuesday of the month, 12 months of the year, 12 programmes produced, with an enormously high tradition.  That was that.

    In drama terms, I arrived, Emmerdale Farm was there.  But Emmerdale Farm…

I:    ’72, I think it began?

R:    Yes, in the early days.

I:    ’72.

R:    Emmerdale Farm was an afternoon programme when I arrived and was played at lunchtime.  And it was okay.  I suppose it was on the air for 30 weeks of the year, twice weekly.  The first thing I did was to move it to teatime, sure that it went out at 5:15, twice weekly, and it did quite well.  And then the next move was to bring it to 7 o’clock into peak time.  And that was a…I mean, I’m not kidding myself, that was a major achievement.  To get Emmerdale Farm into the same slot as Coronation Street, 7:30, Emmerdale Farm at 7 o’clock, and Crossroads.  So ITV had a very strong hand.  Five editions of Crossroads.  Two editions of Coronation Street.  Two editions of Emmerdale Farm, in the evening.  

    The next thing to do with Emmerdale Farm…Emmerdale Farm was the only one of those that still took a summer holiday.  The next thing then to do…took off…took 13 weeks off…was to ensure that we could get Emmerdale Farm to 52 weeks of the year, 104 editions a year.  And that, of course, did take a fair bit of doing, in terms of production, and this that and the other.  Plus, of course, it was a programme that was set on a farm, and the problem with it always was, the harvest was being brought in, in flaming December, usually.  Instead of being fitting it…I mean, one of the great things about Coronation Street is, that Coronation Street celebrates Christmas Day in the street on Christmas Day when it goes out.  And celebrates the Coronation anniversary on the day it happened.  Emmerdale Farm was always six weeks, or eight weeks, or ten weeks behind, because of the production cycle.

    Now Tony Preston was the key figure, plus Ted Wright, in getting it right in…cranking up…gearing up the production process, so that Emmerdale Farm could become twice weekly.  Now that, for a company like Yorkshire Television, to move a twice weekly serial, which ran, I suppose, 26 weeks of the year at lunchtime, to 52 weeks of the year at 7 o’clock, was a terrific operation.  Unquestionably.  And it’s still there today.

I:    It worked.

R:    And it worked.  Other things that…I mean, where Peter Wills at first…then succeeded by David Cunliffe, there were great drama series, and some wonderful players, because we had good writers…

I:    Well, Glory Boys I remember, is that Rod Steiger…

R:    Oh yes.

I:    The Glory Boys?

R:    Yes.

I:    One off wasn’t it?

R:    Yes.  No, the best thing was that thing in Northern Ireland, Harry’s Game.

I:    Harry’s Game, yeah.  Gerald Seymour?

R:    Gerald Seymour, yes.

I:    Wrote it, I mean.

R:    I mean, because David was…had been taught by Peter Wills to go for the best writers.  And we got the writers, and Gerald Seymour’s book, Harry’s Game, was adapted into a three part television series, with wonderful performances, a terrific script, and wonderful music.  It was a hit that, you know, [unclear 0:09:13], and it, in many ways, had told more about Belfast than many a documentary, actually, what was going on in Northern Ireland.

    And then the comedy was very good because Duncan, again, went for the writers.  We had that lovely man, Eric…

I:    Chappell.

R:    …Chappell, thank you.

I:    Duty Free?

R:    Eric Chappell, who did Rising Damp, Duty Free, and Only When I Laugh.  Wonderfully cast.  Wonderful comedy series.  Still stand up today.  And comedy worked…while we were not good at variety, although we did some variety, it was comedy that worked.  So the Yorkshire programme portfolio was based on First Tuesday and Whickers World.  Emmerdale Farm and other good plays.  And a strong hand of situation comedies.  Plus strong local programmes, I mean, it was a programme portfolio that worked extremely well, that held on, and that gave Yorkshire Television a great reputation.

    Now, I…go on Norman, sorry, should answer your questions…

I:    No, not at all, I mean…

R:    …any other issues?

I:    …no, I’m…not at all…children’s programmes?  We talked about Joy Whitby.

R:    Well Joy came along…I mean, Joy Whitby, to be fair, is not the easiest person to work with.  But she did create some good children’s programmes.  And she set high standards, Joy.  I can’t remember the children’s programmes we made.

I:    The Book Tower.

R:    Indeed.  Sorry, it was the first programme…

I:    That right?

R:    Yes, absolutely.  The Book Tower was the first programme, really, about teaching children about the value of good books.  And she did that herself.  And she was…she set extraordinarily high standards.  But Joy in a control room, a production gallery, she was a pain.

I:    The…I don’t know if this is the right time to talk about this Paul, but you did…earlier on you talked about Maggie Thatcher, and so on and so forth, and the way things used to be.  The way things are now, I mean, you’re not personally involved directly with ITV scheduling, and so on, anymore.  But we keep reading about it, and as viewers, we know what the hell is going on and what isn’t.  I mean, the ITV situation today, as compared with what it was in the heyday you’re talking about, it seems to me to be…and not only me, of course…changed totally.

R:    Well it’s changed out of all…

I:    The whole problem is…I mean, the problems are awful.  If that’s not too strong a word?

R:    The problems are awful.  And it was…I mean, the architect of all that awfulness, without a doubt, is Margaret Thatcher and those people who surrounded her.  She insisted, really, that rather than the new contracts being awarded by the ITC, as it then was, as the IBA had become, to the applicants, they should be auctioned off.  I mean, that was…that is the only way to describe it.  It was like Sotheby’s.  Instead of the IBA being there, Sotheby’s could have had this…held this auction.  “What am I bid for this particular franchise?”  It was absolutely the same thing.  And it was a ludicrous way of doing it.

    Now, she’d been prompted in this by the real haters of ITV in her cabinet.  And those included, Nigel Lawson, who thought television should be treated just like oil, the North Sea oil, on tap, or we auction off the blocks, we’ll auction off the television franchises.  Nigel was enemy number one.  Well they’re all equal.  Enemy number one was Mrs Thatcher.  But Nigel Lawson was there as well.  That was [unclear 0:12:59].  The next person was David Young.  And the next person was Norman Tebbit.  Those were the three.  Norman Tebbit hated ITV almost as much as he hated the BBC.  Tebbit, young, the great entrepreneur, “This should all be opened up, these restrictions should be stopped.”  Nigel…Douglas Hurd was the Home Secretary at that time.  And quite frankly Douglas Hurd, in the end, thought, oh to hell with this, I’m not…there must be other things to do in politics than this, and I’m not gonna fight this particular thing.  And truly felt…and when Douglas’ memoirs were written you will find that he found the pressure on him as Home Secretary in charge of broadcasting so great that he said, “Well if that’s the way she wants to do it, well let her do it.”  And that was it.  And the Broadcasting Act was then written.

    The only good thing that came out of it…the only good thing was that David Mellor by that time had become the Minister of State at the Home Office, and it was David Mellor’s job to get the bill through the House of Commons…the new broadcasting bill through the House of Commons.  I mean, I suppose it’s just worth remembering that the first outfit to be attacked was the BBC, I mean, that was the first aim of Thatcher…Lawson, who’d worked in the BBC, I’d given Lawson a job when he was on his uppers and had been fired.

I:    In Panorama, wasn’t it?

R:    Gallery.

I:    Gallery, yes, I remember.

R:    Having been fired as…

I:    First time I met him.

R:    …Editor of ‘Spectator’ by Ian Gilmour, so that’s how he repaid the BBC.  Thatcher, Lawson, Tebbit, and David Young, were determined, first…well determined to sort out the broadcaster, that was the thing.  First we’ll have a go at the BBC.  Appointed the Peacock Committee to do something about the licence fee.  And by and large, the Peacock Committee were charged…why don’t we have commercials on the BBC?  That was Alan’s task, no question.  And that will solve the licence fee problem.  BBC will take commercials, that’s it.

    Now I have to say, the BBC fought a very clever campaign, but the advertisers also made…and the agencies made it clear, it was out of the question to have commercials on the BBC because that would ruin the market.  The whole business would come to an end.  And Alan Peacock, having been charged to say, look instead of the licence fee we’ll have commercials on the BBC, Alan Peacock came up and said, “Sorry, the licence fee must stay but it will be replaced eventually by some [unclear 0:15:53]…” some piece of rubbish that Alan came up with.  But it ensured that the licence fee continued.  

And the first thing that had happened to Mrs Thatcher, that her attack on the BBC in this way had failed.  So she turned to ITV and said, “Right instead of sorting out the BBC, we’ll leave the BBC for a little while.  We’ll sort them out when the charter runs out.  We’ll now sort out ITV.  And instead of the franchises being awarded we’ll have an auction.”  And I remember she came to Yorkshire Television for breakfast, she was in Leeds…and Tony had died by that time…Paul McKee was the new Managing…Deputy Managing Director.  And I gave her breakfast.  And she came, and to be fair to her, she did listen to our arguments.  All those stories, that she always destroyed any argument, that she wouldn’t listen.  She didn’t.  She did listen to the arguments.  She clearly didn’t take any notice of our arguments.  But at least she gave us the courtesy of listening to them.  

    And the Broadcasting Act was done.  I think it was abhorrent to Douglas Hurd, who was a decent Home Secretary.  Marvellous.  And a nice man.  And there was David Mellor came in to get the Broadcasting Act through parliament.  Now David takes enormous credit for changing the Act.  I think he takes, you know, being a self-centred man, I think he takes too much credit, quite frankly.  There were some changes made.  But the appalling nature of the auction remained.  Mellor eased it a little bit.  And Mellor eased a little of it because he was star struck.  He was lobbied very hard by a group that included, Simon Albury from Granada.

I:    Yeah, the campaign for quality television, that’s right.

R:    Yes.

I:    I was on…a member of that, yeah.

R:    Simon Albury, John Cleese, and other people.

I:    Rowan Atkinson.

R:    Rowan Atkinson, and people.  And David Mellor, never having sat in the same room as Rowan Atkinson and John Cleese, and other talented people, was undoubtedly overcome by these wonderful people, and did make…produced a little bit of softening in the Act.  But he’s claiming far far too much credit for changing the Broadcasting Act in favour of the ITV company, the basic thing remained, it was an auction.  And it remained an auction.  And that was an appalling thing.  And some companies bid too much, as it turned out, like Yorkshire Television.  And some companies paid far too little, like Central Television and Scottish Television.  

Central had frightened off all the opposition by a brilliantly fought propaganda campaign, black propaganda campaign, and paid £2,000 for their franchise.  And so indeed did Scottish Television, paid £2,000.  And Yorkshire Television, for a franchise worth far less than the Central one, paid £35 million, or more.  I mean, the thing was ludicrous.  Ludicrous in the extreme.  Exceptionally good companies went down the drain, like Thames Television, outbid by Carlton, determined to get it.  The breakfast thing was set up…

I:    Chaos, I think.

R:    What?

I:    Chaos.

R:    Absolute chaos as a result of that.  Now, there were two companies…three companies remained of the majors.  Central, Granada…four companies remained, I mean, only one [s.l. winner 0:19:30].  As usual three companies were kicked out.  Thames, totally unjustly.  I speak as a Director of Thames Television so, I suppose, slightly…but they were outbid.  Thames felt they could not bid more without ruining the company, so decided on a figure… and I was in at the board meeting…they decided on a figure.  This is the figure we could bid without ruining…and that was the only figure that was possible.  And we were outbid by Carlton, and that was the end of the matter.  No question of programme quality came in…exceptional circumstances, which should have been brought in, and Carlton should have been thrown out, and Thames should have given the franchise on exceptional circumstances.  The ITC, George Russell et al. were terrified of Michael Green suing them…Carlton…and so Carlton got the franchise, Thames were kicked out.

    Granada kept their franchise at a reasonable price.  So did LWT.  And Central got it at this knock down price of £2,000 with no opposition.  Why on earth, if you’re gonna have an auction, why not put a reserve price on the franchise.  With a reserve price neither Central nor Scotland would have got away with £2,000.  I mean, there’s a total imbalance at ITV at the moment with a company like Central being the most profitable.  Why?  I mean, not that Central don’t do wonderful…programmes absolutely went to the wall.  And you only have to look at the ITV schedule now, I mean, it is a straightforward commercial schedule.  There are still some quite decent things in it.  World in Action is still there at 8:30.  The successor to This Week has not yet been found.  Any programme that’s called The Big Story and runs 24 minutes 30, everybody who knows anything about public affairs television knows that a programme called The Big Story is not gonna work.  And from Brian Wenham in, ‘The Guardian’ this morning, to describe the man who leads The Big Story as a young James Mossman, I mean, demeans anything that Brian Wenham says, quite frankly.  James Mossman was a giant.  This man, quite a pleasant young reporter, newsreader from ITN, is a pygmy really.  For Brian Wenham to say, I mean, well…

    So there we are in ITV.  But the enemy, I suppose, is Sky Television, without a doubt.  Here’s Mr Rupert Murdoch, having been given, despite the fact that he owns three national daily papers and one Sunday paper…three national dailies?  ‘The Times’, ‘The Sun’, and ‘Today,’ and ‘The News of the World’.  Yes, four national newspapers.  Has been given the chance to own a television…to own more than 50% of a satellite station.  No other newspaper group in this country is permitted to hold more than 20% of a terrestrial channel.  The rules for Mr Murdoch have changed.  That is the first thing.  Again, entirely due to Mrs Thatcher.

    The second thing, of course, that Murdoch has succeeded in doing is…

[Recording repeats - 0:22:53 - 0:44:47]

[End of transcription - 0:44:47]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 6

I    =    Interviewer
R    =    Respondent
M    =    Male

s.l.    =    sounds like

I:    Paul Fox, Side 6.

R:    The Michael Grade arrival…of course, was an enormous coup to get Michael.  It was my job to tell George Thomson and the IBA that Michael was a candidate, and whether that was acceptable to the IBA.  And George Thomson was enormously excited.  And he ensured…he rang every member of the authority over that weekend.  Dicky sorted out the deal with Michael.  And the person who had to be told was Jeremy…Jeremy Isaacs and, I mean, Jeremy wasn’t gonna take kindly to Michael…being succeeded by Michael Grade.  And Dicky took it upon himself to meet Jeremy on Monday at the National somewhere or other…National [unclear 0:00:47].  And Jeremy nearly stymied this.  And Jeremy said, “Oh I don’t think I can accept…I find that very difficult…” blah, blah, blah.  

And the Channel 4 Board met that evening to confirm Michael Grade’s appointment, having had the okay from the IBA, and Jeremy was still a member of the Channel 4 Board at that time.  And Jeremy said, “No, I can’t accept that.  I really can’t.  Really I find this impossible.”  And Jeremy and I were longstanding friends.  And I said to him before the Board meeting, he told me that this is…that he was gonna go against it…I said, “It’s all very well Jeremy, of course you’re…I can understand why you’re against it, you think Michael Grade is a vulgarian and you’ve built this up and he could not possibly continue your work.”  I said, “There’s this one question I have to ask you before you say anything, who is your candidate as your successor?  Who would you name?”  He said, “I haven’t got one.”  I said, “Well come one, if you haven’t got one how can you veto Michael Grade?”  “Well I’m gonna speak against it.”  

And sure enough at the Board…and this is in the confidence of this tape…I mean, Jeremy did vote against him.  It is on record as voting…and publicly after all, came out against Michael and said, “I’ll throttle you if you…I’ll personally come round and throttle you if you destroy my great legacy.”  No doubt, Jeremy had built up Channel 4.  He had made Channel 4 what it was.  It is his creation.  He was the architect and he deserves all the credit for creating this channel from…from absolutely from nothing.  There was no need for Jeremy to leave.   That is the thing worth saying.  There was no need for Jeremy to…he had failed in his application for the Director Generalship.  He could have easily come back to Channel 4 and said, “Well I’m sorry, I tried…” the Board would have had him back with open arms and he could have continued.  Instead, he decided to go to the Royal Opera House.  

    But to go back to the BBC.  As a result of that, there suddenly was a vacancy as Managing Director Designate at the BBC.  And Mike Checkland and I met at a party for The Listener.  The Listener by that time had become the joint property of the BBC and ITV.  I’d worked on the ITV side.  I helped to bring this about with George Cooper.  And Mike Checkland had worked on the BBC side to bring this about.  And suddenly the onus…instead of the onus of The Listener, which had been…had lost money…instead of the onus just being the BBC, they were suddenly the BBC and ITV, and a little party was held to celebrate the new ownership.  And Mike took me to one side and said, “Any interest in…bit bored at Yorkshire?”  I said, “Yes.”  “Interested in coming back to the BBC?”  “Well…”  “Well how about Michael Grade’s…”  “Oh…” I said, “…well maybe, let me think about that.”  And I phoned him a couple of days later and I said, “Yes, I am interested.”  

And Michael…Mike and I met, we said…he lived in Sussex, I live in Hertfordshire, we decided we’d meet halfway.  We met at a restaurant at the bottom of Box Hill, both drove up in our own cars…bottom of Box Hill on a Sunday morning; we said we’d have a coffee.  Nobody could possibly know us there.  Out of the question.  We arrived at Box Hill on time, and walked into an enormous wedding party.  And we thought, there must be somebody here who would know. Fortunately, there wasn’t…I mean, 200 people at some wedding.  

And Mike and I had a cup of coffee and we settled the whole thing in 30 minutes.  Terms.  Title.  And, above all, the length of contract.  I mean, I had to remember that I was 62 by that time and it was beyond the BBCs retirement age.  And I was coming on a three year contract.  That’s all I wanted to do.  And basically I was there, (a) to steady the ship, there was no question…I mean, you know, been a bit rocky…have all these departures… unhappy time…and the BBC Television Service was a bit restless, and, (b) unquestionably, clearly, to find a successor as Managing Director.  Those were really the two tasks.  And to bring a bit of weight around the place.  Act as a bit of an elder statesman, I suppose.  

    Hussey phoned and said, “Excellent.  How wonderful.  You’ll have to…we’ll have to talk to the Board.”  I said, “Forget it.  I’ll come and talk to the…as far as I’m concerned…just confirm to me the appointment is confirmed.”  “Oh yes, absolutely, appointment’s confirmed.”  Well you’ll have to meet the Board.”  I said, “Okay.  Not at Broadcasting House.  I’ll come and meet the Board and just chat to them.  Really just to show that I haven’t got any horns and that I’m okay.  But we’re not discussing my appointment.”  “No.”  

And to be fair to Dukey what he arranged was tea and sandwiches in a private room at Claridges.  And I was still working for Yorkshire Television.  I’d dismissed my driver and I said, “I’ve got a little engagement at Claridges, just going to have a drink.”  And went to Claridges.  Dukey met me.  Went up to meet the Board.  I knew one or two…I knew Gerald Barnett…I knew one or two others…and had tea and cucumber sandwiches.  And the Board said, “How wonderful.  Yes.  How very nice.  Excellent.”  And I was Managing Director of BBC Television.  Went back to Yorkshire, said to my Chairman, “I’m sorry I’m leaving.”  And told the press.  

And, again, Mike and I had kept that story…I mean, we’d met...whenever it was…a date in February…we’d managed to keep it quiet…there were very good reasons why I had to keep it quiet…personal reasons…financial…connected with Yorkshire Television…and we kept it quiet for six weeks, and it never ever leaked.  And the people who knew were Checkland and I, and Hussey, that’s all.  And even that old gossip, Gerald Barnett didn’t know.  John Birt certainly didn’t know.  And nor did Bill Cotton, a long friend of mine.  And the appointment that I gave…told Yorkshire…told Derek Palmer I was leaving…sorry to go…and the announcement was made in London, at a press conference in London when it was announced.  And Bill Cotton was told that day that I would be his successor, and John Birt was told that day.  And there it was.  

And so I came back with a strictly limited time for three years.  Moved one or two people.  I certainly fired Peter Ibbotson, because I thought he was a…well, I thought he didn’t fit into that particular…he was there as the Chief Assistant to the Director of Programming.  I felt I didn’t need a Chief Assistant.  I had the Programme Controllers reporting directly to me.  I had never met Jonathan Powell before, other than at the odd television festival.  And knew Alan Yentob slightly…well, I knew him a little bit…also from [unclear 0:08:08].  I…I mean, I liked Alan immediate…I mean, I’ve always liked Alan.  I took to Jonathan Powell immediately, and I thought they were two excellent Controllers.  

What I then felt I needed was, sort of, having a Chief Assistant if anything, I wanted (a) a Director of Resources, who would be my deputy, and that was Cliff Taylor.  And here was a, (a) great friend of Mike Checkland’s, (b) a chap I, again, I didn’t know…an accountant…a terrific…one…if there was a problem in the BBC you went to Cliff in the Television Service…you went to Cliff and Cliff fixed it.  And Cliff became Director of Resources and stood in for me at…was my deputy.  I then wanted an Assistant Managing Director who kept a liaison with the programme departments, and my candidate for that was Will.
 
I:    Will Wyatt.

R:    Will Wyatt.  And I knew Will, and I thought Will had the gravitas and the stature to do that job.  And as he did it for two years, I suppose, I realised that Will was the outstanding candidate for…as my successor.  That’s what I recommended to Checkland.  That’s what I recommended to the Board.  And I’m glad to see they took my advice.  I did my three years.  I enjoyed myself hugely at the…I mean, it was wonderful to come back to the BBC.  That’s where I’d started on holiday relief 30 years earlier…40 years earlier…38 years earlier…and to come back as the Managing Director, obviously, was terrific.

    I have…I mean, just talking about the BBC, I mean, I worked to Mike Checkland as DG, directly.  I had no problems with Mike.  None whatsoever.  I, at no stage, did I discuss things with John Birt in any way…Television Service had nothing to do with him.  He was there as a Deputy Director General.  When Mike was away, of course, I talked to John and consulted John on things, of course, he was then the Acting Director General.  But I had no problems with John.  None whatsoever.  John looked after news and current affairs.  The job, obviously, was different as Managing Director from the job that Huw Wheldon had, because one no longer looked after news and current affairs.  And a large part of the programme portfolio had gone.  And I accepted that.  I didn’t find that…I mean, since I had recommended the merging of news and current affairs while I was away from the BBC, I could hardly rebel against it when I was there.  So I found no problems whatsoever.

    The programme departments worked well.  We appointed one or two people.  The three years were extremely happy.  I had no problems with the Board of Governors.  None whatsoever.  And to be fair to Hussey, he ensured that the three Managing Directors, World Service, John Tusa.  Radio, David Hatch.  And I, Television, were equal members of the Board of Governors.  We…the three Managing Directors sat in with the Board of Governors, not as supplicants, somewhere on the other side of the table, we were part of that group.  We had a Governor either side of us.  And the thing worked.  And there was no doubt, I mean, Hussey had…did change the whole concept of the Board of Governors.  And the relationship between the Board of Management and the Board of Governors improved.  I mean, at Alasdair Milne’s time the Board of Management didn’t talk to the Governors.  The rift was so deep it was…I mean, Alasdair couldn’t possibly…so that he did change.  He unquestionably changed all that.  

I suppose, his relationship with Mike Checkland was not of the best.  And it didn’t have anything to do with the business of Mike’s effectiveness as a Director General.  Mike was enormously effective as a Director General, enormously professional, and a real leader.  It was, one hates to say, it was a social thing, quite frankly.  Mike and Dukey operated at two different social levels.  John Birt, unquestionably, saw that here was his chance to succeed Mike.  

He…I mean, the issue really is this.  John Birt believed that Mike Checkland would only do one term.  That that…he’d only do one term as Director General…would not be extended.  Mike…and those who support Mike believed that Mike’s contract should have been extended.  Hussey clearly made it clear that Checkland’s contract would not be extended and that there would, at the end of his contract, thank you very much Mr Checkland, Sir Michael, we are very grateful to you for what you’ve done but we’re now appointing another.  And if Hussey had gone about it the right way and said, “Thank you Sir Michael…” got his knighthood…sure that he got it…thanked him properly…he had worked with him properly…saw him off, and Mike’s departure was celebrated in the proper way, as it should have been, because he’d made enormous contributions to the BBC, and he had then advertised the post of John Birt…advertised the post of Director General…and he would have been fine.  I mean, the way it ended…the way Mike’s reign as Director General ended was very unhappy.  

He then was, outspokenly, critical of the Chairman at some meeting somewhere, press conference somewhere, and said it was quite wrong that somebody of his age should continue as Chairman.  And the end for Mike came before his time.  He went three months ahead of his time…two months…and Birt was then…I have to say that the Board of Governors farewell dinner for Mike was so false, the whole thought of the Board of Governors celebrating Mike, that I could not persuade myself to go to it.  I know I was invited but I really felt I could not possibly listen to the phoniness of those speeches celebrating Mike when they had really got rid of him early, and appointed John without competition.  So I decided not to go.  

And I haven’t really…I mean, I’ve been back for…obviously, the Television Service’s dinner, which Will gave to Mike Checkland, certainly I went to that, and I was very happy to go to that.  And it was a wonderful occasion.  Truly wonderful occasion.  As indeed was my farewell dinner that the Television Service gave to me.  It was a terrific occasion.  Mike made the key speech, just [unclear 0:14:54] farewell dinners at the BBC, farewell occasions are important, and Mike opened his speech by saying, “Now when Paul left the BBC for the first time 17 years ago he left the day he gave in and said he was leaving and he left without a drink and left without anybody saying thank you, and I know he feels sore about this, so will all the people around this table who were here when Paul was Controller BBC1 and left us 17 years ago, would they kindly stand and drink to him and say farewell Controller BBC1.”  And a fair number of people stood up.

I:    And they did.  Quite a few, yeah.

R:    So Mike…”That’s that.  Now we’ll sit down and now we’ll talk about him as Managing Director.”  So I left at the age of 65 after 40 years in television.  And it was a true climax to an enjoyable career.  Hugely enjoyable career.  And I left very happily.  I left Mike Checkland there.  I left Hussey there.  John Birt was still the Deputy Director General.  Will…my recommendation as a Managing Director had been accepted, and I thought the BBC was in a good shape.  Little did I know what a shambles would result.

I:    We haven’t mentioned the Royal Television Society.  You were deeply involved in that for a long long time weren’t you, of course?

R:    Well Huw was…I mean, Huw was the President, Huw Wheldon was the President of the Royal Television Society.  And Huw remained the President after he left the BBC.  And Huw and I we’d always been good friends, we’d made it up very quickly soon after my departure as Controller BBC1.  About six weeks after he phoned me up at home and said, “Look there old boy there’s a celebration for Panorama, 30 years of Panorama, we’re giving…I’m giving a big party of the 6th floor of the Television Centre, why don’t you come along and join the party.  It’s a good way for you to come back to the BBC on [unclear 0:16:55]”  

I came back and Huw and I made it up and we, of course, by then we were fellow members of the Garrick.  He had proposed me for the Garrick.  Robin Day had seconded me, and I was a member of the Garrick.  I saw a great deal of Huw, both while he was Managing Director and after he left.  And I was enormously fond of Huw and admired him greatly.  And, I suppose, I was one of the last people to see him just before he died in that wonderful house in Richmond, when he was very very ill.  And I spoke at his memorial service in Westminster Abbey.  It was a most terrific…I mean, Huw died much too young…I mean, unbelievable memorial service in Westminster Abbey.  And there were no speakers from the BBC.  I spoke.  And the chap from LSE spoke.  Lord Ralf Dahrendorf.  The two speakers were Ralf Dahrendorf and I.  

At the Royal Television Society, Huw had given up his role as the President and said to me, “Look, wink and a nod, they’ll ask you and I hope you’ll accept.”  And Tony Pilgrim and somebody else, Stuart…a guy from Sony came along and said, “Would you like to become President of the Royal Television Society?”  And I said, “Yes, please I’d like to very much.”  And that was in my days at Yorkshire, of course.  And it was a highly prestigious job to be President of the Royal Television Society.  I loved it.  I think I was there for too long.  The President’s term of office is not defined.  Huw had been the outstanding President of all time and it was difficult to follow Huw.  But I did it.  I suppose, I ensured that the Royal Television Society became the leading television society in the country, I mean, it was far more important in television terms than BAFTA, which after all, also embraced film.  I’m not decrying BAFTA.  I think BAFTA do a fine job.  But after all it’s film and television.  The Royal Television Society was the only society that looked after television only.  

And early on…our patron is the Queen…and early on to celebrate 50 years of the Royal Television Society…
 
I:    Yeah, 1927 I think.

R:    Yes, early on.  Yes.  ’77.  The Queen kindly agreed to come and see us, and we had a party at Banqueting House and I took the Queen round to meet a large number of people at the Royal Television Society, and it was very exciting.  

The Conventions at Cambridge every other year are the most important events in television…far more important than the Edinburgh Television Festival because they…I mean, Edinburgh Television Festival is…well, for everybody in television, and without being too snooty, the Royal Television Society Convention at Cambridge are for longer serving professionals.  And it became a heavyweight professional operation.  We always ensured that the Home Secretary of the day was there to open the conference and give the first speech.  And in my time they were always there.  And they were terrific Conventions.  I’m glad to see that the RTS is flourishing.  That they’re now monthly dinners…indeed at BAFTA there’s a much greater [s.l. rapproachement 0:20:45] with BAFTA…that the awards work better.  We now do the…the RTS were the first to recognise achievements in television journalism.  Then moved on to programme awards and moved on to designer awards.  

The…Tony Pilgrim did a splendid job as the Secretary, but the Society needed to move into a new era.  Mike Checkland and I, and others, arranged that Michael Bunce should become the Executive Director of the Society, which indeed he has done.  The Society has moved into new premises in [s.l. Gravesend Road 0:21:26] and it is flourishing extremely well.  Bill Cotton succeeded me as a President of the RTS.  And I remember, with great pleasure and enormous pride, the fact that I was there six or seven years.  And it is, unquestionably, the leading professional organisation in this country.

I:    You want to say about what you’re doing now?

R:    I’ve retired.

I:    Well, I mean, outside of television.

R:    Well out…I mean…
 
I:    Sport.

R:    …I did retire.

I:    Racing.

R:    When I retired, Thames Television asked me to join their Board.  And John Brabourne and Richard Dunn kindly asked me to do that.  I joined the Board.  Sadly we lost the franchise.  But I still, as this moment, a Director of Thames Television, which is now a subsidiary of Pearson’s Television…of Pearson’s Group and, in fact, I’m going to a first Board meeting under the Pearson ownership later this week.  I write a column…a weekly column on sport in television for ‘The Daily Telegraph’, having been asked to do that a couple of years ago, by Max Hastings.  

And having been a keen racegoer for 30 years, I now have a job in racing as the Chairman of the Racecourses Association, which is the trade association for the 59 racecourses in this country.  I have an office at Ascot on the racecourse.  Out of my window I look at the three furlong marker.  You could not believe that anything as nice as that should happen to anybody in retirement.  I adore that job.  And as a result of that, I’ve become a Director of the British Horseracing Board, which is now the body that runs racing in this country instead of the Jockey Club.  I sit there as a Director under the Chairmanship of Lord Hartington.  And really, am trying to do something for racing, and for the racegoer, above all.  I’ve been brought up on looking after the audience.  It’s all with the viewer, has always been my main concern, quite frankly, throughout my time in television.  The viewer, the audience, and it is in racing it is the racegoer.  

I’m also on a Board called Satellite Information Systems Board, which is the satellite television system that brings racing into the betting shops.  I’m going to a Board meeting there this afternoon.  And I’m about to join the Levy Board as a Director.  So retirement…yeah, I am on the eve of becoming 68.  Retirement is pretty busy.  

    And thank you very much indeed for asking me to record this thing.

I:    No, thank you.  Marvellous.  Thank you for coming.

R:    Really, I’ve enjoyed it enormously.

M:    Thanks.

I:    Terrific.

M:    Thank you.

R:    Very very much indeed.

[End of transcription - 0:24:14]

Date:              7th August 2020

Transcribed by:      Joanne Turner

Voice file name:      Paul Fox Side 1

Duration:          0:43:41 mins

Transcript type:      Intelligent verbatim with slang.

Typist comments regarding dictation:      Fair dictation.  

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 1

I    =    Interviewer  -  Norman Swallow
R    =    Paul Fox
M    =    Alan Lawson

s.l.    =    sounds like

I:    The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project.  Sir Paul Fox.  One time Managing Director, BBC Television, Yorkshire Television.  Interviewing Norman Swallow.  Recorded on the 24th of March 1993.  Side 1.

First and foremost, where were you born?

R:    In Bournemouth, in 1925, long time ago.

I:    Schooling?

R:    Bournemouth Grammar School.  And then I mucked around a bit, and then I went into the Army when I was about 18.  And I had three years in the Army as a Soldier in the Parachute Regiment, and the Parachute Regiment did me a power of good.  I grew up, unquestioningly, I’m grateful to the Army for what the Army did for me.  I saw a bit of action, not as much as some others did, and when I saw enough I came out, I was wounded…

I:    Weren’t you [unclear 0:01:11]?

R:    No.  No, no.  

I:    It was just a rumour.

R:    No.  No, I jumped across the Rhine when the War was nearly over.  And I was wounded and I came out early.  I was fortunate that I came out of the Army early because that way I was able to get a job, I mean, I had no money and no background, nothing.  And I wrote to every single newspaper in the country and abroad…

I:    Can I stop you a second?  Why newspapers?  

R:    Well I…yes, why?  Because I went…in my closing days in the Army, I went to an American university at Biarritz, an American university, that the Americans had established for members of their forces, that gave some guest scholarships to British servicemen, and I was lucky enough to go there, and I did a six month course of journalism there.  I was invited to go to the University of Missouri, School of Journalism there, I decided against it.  And decided to seek…thought that journalism would be my career.  I had never done any journalism before.  There were no journalistic people in my family.  I just wanted to do journalism.

I:    [Unclear 0:02:26] when you were at a school before…

R:    No.  My father was a Doctor, and the feeling always was that I would go into medicine, and I had absolutely no wish to go into medicine, no inclination.  And in any case, neither the money there nor anything else, so I had to work.  And off I went, and wrote to every single newspaper, well not every…I wrote to about a 100 newspapers in this country and some abroad, and there were only two favourable replies.  This was 1940…

I:    6?

R:    …6.  I was 21.  And the two favourable replies were one from Auckland, ‘The Star Newspaper’ in Auckland, New Zealand.  And the other one was from ‘The Kentish Times’.  And I was tempted by Auckland, New Zealand, I truly was.  God knows what would have happened if I’d plumped for New Zealand.  Fortunately, I had met Betty soon after that and then soon after…so I took The Kentish Times job and became a trainee journalist at The Kentish Times in Erith, and I ran the local office...well very soon ran the local office down there.  But I did all sorts of stuff, flower shows, drama reviews, concerts, everything that a local journalist does.

I:    Except sport, maybe?

R:    Except sport.  Absolutely right, except sport.  What I did not learn was shorthand.  I did court reporting and I wrote with longhand, and the Editor said, “Look old boy, you really have got to learn shorthand.”  And I tried and I was absolutely hopeless.  And so after two years there, I didn’t really like living out in Erith, and I wanted to come back to London, because of Betty, and because I wanted to be in London.  

A job came up at Pathé News, and I went to Pathé in Wardour Street as a Newsreel Commentary Writer.  I wasn’t the only one.  But I learned more at Pathé, I suppose, than I did at any other place, other than in television, because what I learned was the discipline of writing to film, two words a foot, and I learnt it in a very hard school, taught by two Fleet Street newspaper men, one called David [s.l. Cole 0:04:42], the other one called Clement Cave, and this was Howard Thomas’ Pathé, of course.  Howard was the Editor in Chief, although I saw very little of him, I was too far down the table really, and Howard really was in charge of Pathé Pictorial, and Pathé News.  The Editor of Pathé News was this man, Clem Cave, whom I admired and respected enormously, as indeed I did David Cole.

Newly married when I arrived, God knows what I was paid, but not a great deal of money.  But the newsreels were, you know, those were the days, not quite the glory days of the newsreels, the glory days of the newsreels were before the War, but they weren’t bad after the War, they weren’t bad.  Pathé did all sorts of things…and that’s when I first got my affection for writing about sport, because I knew how to write.  I’d learned how to write to football matches.  I learned how to write to races.  Bob Danvers-Walker was the voice.  I wrote for Bob.  Bob was not a very pleasant chap, deeply unpleasant in fact, but in the end Bob just read what was put in front of him.  There were other people there, a man called Jack Rogerson who…God knows whatever happened to him?

I:    He was the sound recordist.

R:    Well no, he was a bit more…he became an Editor.  He was certainly a Producer.  He used to like putting his pencil in his mouth constantly.  Wasn’t very good.  I mean, I wrote quickly.  I’m not saying it was great wonderful literary stuff, but I was able to do it quickly.  Noel Wiggins was the Film Editor.  And a man called Norman Roper was the other Editor.  Norman Roper’s still around somewhere, I think he went…he stayed in film.  Norman is a lovely man.  And Ted Bilsdon.  And, I suppose, I stayed at Pathé…Tommy Cummins… when Clement Cave left to go back to the Express, and David Cole went back to Fleet Street, the man who came in was Tommy Cummins from the Editor in Chief of Pathé.  And Tommy was past his prime by that time, by the time he arrived at Pathé.  He was pretty idle.  He had a sick wife.  He lived too far out in the country.  But when Tommy started telling the stories of the old newsreel days it was great fun.  

And so, I suppose, I stayed at Pathé 2 years, 2 ? years, perhaps a bit longer, in Wardour Street.  Enjoyed it.  Got to know the cameramen.  Got to know the film editors.  And really liked the news aspects of the business.  Film industry wasn’t of great interest to me.  Pathé wasn’t a bad place.  Howard Thomas was clearly very ambitious.  He was gonna take the place…the outfit further.  But one could see, even though there were two newsreels a week, and on occasions they did a special newsreel, I mean, on an occasion like the Grand National, the Cup Final and things, longer than the days before television, they did special editions, rushed the prints into the cinemas, and you worked through the night, it was quite fun that that.  Quite fun.  But it clearly wasn’t to be my long term future.  

And then I saw an ad for holiday relief work at the BBC, at the BBC Television newsreel.  And that really was the next thing I did.  I applied to do some holiday relief writing at the BBC.  And much to my surprise I was taken on and I came up to AP, I mean, we were honestly too poor to take a holiday, children had arrived, one…Jonathan had arrived, certainly, by that time, yes.  So there we lived in [s.l. Brunswick 0:08:08] Park, not really terribly well off, with one child, and I was earning what, well Pathé…no, this was Jonathan, the older one, just earning a reasonable amount from Pathé but not much, and then the holiday relief work came, and I did two weeks at the BBC, contracted by Jack Mewett, paid 4d?d, but it was a wonderful experience, of course.  

And this was in the days of the newsreel when the BBC only had one station, of course, one transmitter, Crystal Palace.  Ted Halliday was [unclear 0:08:45].  Roy Cole, actually, was the scriptwriter at that time, and Roy was on holiday, and I took Roy’s place.  Dick Cawston was there by that time already.  Chris [s.l. Corke 0:08:57], Dennis Edwards, all those people were there.  Philip Dorté was the boss of the film department.  You, Alan, were there at that time, and one or two cameramen.  But not the really…the top of Fleet Street yet.  

And I’m not sure whether I did this twice?  I think I did the holiday relief work twice.  Because at the end of the fortnight, I certainly enjoyed it, and at the end of the fortnight they said, “Will you come back again?”  I said, “Yes, whenever you ask me.”  And somehow I managed to get some other holiday, some leave from Pathé, and came back for a second time.  And at the end of the second time somebody, could have been that awful chap Harold Cox, who really was the worst manager in the history of television newsreel, of television, Harold Cox may well have said to me…I think it was Philip Dorté actually…or Jack Mewett said, “Look, there’s a permanent job…” or, “…there’s a temporary job here if you’d like to come, we’ll give you a six month contract.”

I:    That would have been Philip.

R:    That was Philip I think, yes.  And so there it was, I gave…threw up the newsreel, Tommy Cummins and Norman Roper, and all those people, Gracie Fields, and went on a six month contract to the BBC.  And I loved it.  I truly loved it.  I mean, this was in the very early…still only one transmitter, still only Crystal Palace, ‘cause I remember writing the newsreel when the Sutton Coldfield transmitter opened and we did a special film arranged for the Midlands, to greet the Midlands as Sutton Coldfield opened.  Now this was a small world, the newsreel world, Dick Cawston, unquestionably, was the most important influence there.

I:    What was his official title at that time?

R:    BBC Television newsreel.  What was my official title?

I:    No, Dick’s…Dick Cawston?

R:    Super…no…

I:    Anyway…

R:    …I honestly can’t remember what Dick’s title was.  But Dick was the most powerful influence.  (A) because force of personality.  (B) because he’d been there a long time.  And (C) he understood the thing.  He knew what was wanted from the newsreel.  

I:    Had Monty arrived then?

R:    Monty was there…but Monty was in his closing days.

I:    Yeah.

R:    Monty was there but, I mean, it was coming to the end, I mean, Monty was old, as you know, and Dick, I mean, Dick was thrusting, firing, still full of bad temper, I mean, throwing typewriters out of the window and all that sort of stuff, and shouting at people.  But he was a terrific influence.  Philip Dorté, of course, was there as well did understand it.  Did understand what the newsreels were about.  Jack Mewett was a bit of a pain, I mean, he was an administrator and nothing else.  But the newsreel was valued.  And when I arrived, I suppose there were two editions of the newsreel a week, soon after that we went to three editions a week, and then, certainly, before the end came it went to five editions a week.  

Now in…Ted Halliday was, again, a very important part of that.  He had, I mean, he was nothing but a voice, but he was a reassuring voice, a comfortable voice, and he was an excellent reader, of course.  He was a portrait painter, Ted, close to the Royal Family, very close to the Queen, I mean, all the jokes we made about Ted, if you mentioned the Queen he would stand up and always mention Her Majesty and all that, I mean, there was a little bit of that.  But it was…he was excellent, Ted, and, I mean, compared to Bob Danvers-Walker who was the other voice I knew, I mean, Ted was way ahead of that because he knew how to read it, he knew where to make the pauses, and he was exceptionally good, very…a very nice man.  Philip was good value, but Philip, well you see already even at that time Philip thought he was involved in the politics of the BBC.  I mean, this was in the days of McGivern, Norman Collins, the television at Alexandra Palace was derided.

I:    Early 50s, yeah?

R:    Early 50s.  1950 I arrived at the BBC.  1950.  Television was derided in those days.  Sir William Haley was still the Director-General and thought nothing of television, it was something up the road at Alexandra Palace, I mean, it was remote…and it was remote, I mean, the journey up to Alexandra Palace was hazardous, I mean, truly difficult.  I didn’t have a car in those days so I used to come by train and up the hill in that awful single decker bus…

I:    Wood Green Station.

R:    Wood Green Station.  Until Dick Cawston…Dick had a car, and Dick was then kind enough to give me a lift fairly regularly really.  We met at Swiss Cottage and Dick would pick me up.  I’m still ashamed how often I kept him waiting.  Anyway, Dick was terrific, I mean, super man.  Dick was the most powerful influence, but he was not the boss of the newsreel.  The newsreel man…I think he was a Newsreel Producer that was his…the Newsreel Manager was this awful chap Harold Cox.  How he got into the place.  How he ever kept a job down I do not know.  He knew nothing about the newsreels.  He sat in the morning in the theatre and looked at the rushes…didn’t understand what the rushes were.  

And the people who made the newsreel were, in order of priority, Dick Cawston, undoubtedly, and then Dennis Edwards.  Dennis was a marvellous Film Editor, chap out of the RAF, he knew what he was doing.  He got on with it.  He was quick, lightening quick, and a most wonderful companion, most terrific colleague.  He was very even temperament.  Lived down in Muswell Hill, always near to the place.  Chris Corke was there as the other Film Editor, and Vernon Phipps was the chap in the Dubbing Theatre.  I remember them all with warmth, with affection.  I learnt an enormous amount from them, and with them, and the newsreel must not be underrated.  

So let’s… leaving my part out of the newsreel at that time had some of the scars of the cinema newsreels, you know, silly stories about fashion shows, and silly stories about the first signs of spring, and the first signs of winter, all those boring traditional newsreel stories, but slowly and slowly it came along, and more important stories.  Because more important stories came along the news division at Broadcasting House, under that dreadful man Tahu Hole, the New Zealander, finally realised that there was something up there that had something to do with news.  And whether it was Tahu Hole or whether it was Jacob by then already, may well have been Jacob may have arrived, said there must be some liaison between news at Broadcasting House, the Tahu Hole whole version of news and the newsreel at Alexandra Palace.  We didn’t pretend to be the days news, we were, and…but the newsreel.  And Tahu sent along a man called Michael [s.l. Bulkwell 0:15:52] who was a wonderful man, I mean, truly sweet, very keen on horse racing, and racing still took place at Alexandra Palace in those days, and Michael was…always watched the horses, knew about them.  With Michael…there was a very quick liaison established between Michael and Dick, and I suppose myself really.  And the newsreel did become more and more important, dealing with more stories of the day, and dealing with issues.  

And I suppose the breakthrough really came with the Korean War.  When the Korean War started, 51/52, whenever it did, we decided to send a cameraman out to Korea to cover the War for the newsreel, and the man who went out was Cyril Page.  And Cyril was a brave and remarkable cameraman.  And Cyril…the story that I remember, I mean, after all the Americans were very soon on the retreat, MacArthur had to leave, if you remember, Seoul was burning, and Cyril got a most wonderful picture story of the refugees leaving Seoul, and this was six years after the War for goodness sake, the refugees leaving Seoul over the frozen Imjin river, and the animals on the ice, and the people putting their little rags down so that the animals could walk on the house, and Cyril’s pictures were marvellous.  Now how did you write the commentary to that?

I:    So there wasn’t any sound?

R:    No sound at all, it was silent, he was absolutely on his own, Cyril on his own with a heavy Newman Sinclair, carrying it around.  He was absolutely on his own.  And you had to go on his dope sheets and the cuttings, newspaper cuttings, and I wrote the commentaries to that.  And the great thing, I mean, I suppose the thing I learnt quickly was to write as…not to over write, to write as little…I mean, pictures were Cyril’s…of that thing, they were terrific.  And Cyril, I suppose, was out there for 18 months, possibly even two years, without a break, each week sending the pictures of the Korean War back.  And the newsreel, it mattered, and the stories were seven/eight/nine minutes within the newsreel.  And here for the first time the Korean War was being reported on television.  Now, of course it wasn’t with a reporter on the spot and all that, but the pictures were there, and the pictures were impressive.  

And the next chap…when Cyril came home he had to be relieved, Ronnie Noble went out.  And Ronnie, of course, was a different cameraman from Cyril.  Ronnie was a journalist cameraman really.  And Ronnie was there when the Glosters were massacred by the Chinese, and Gloster Hill and, you know, Colonel Carne won the VC, and lots of Glosters were captured by the Chinese, and Ronnie was there for that and sent that story back.  Now, of course, the stuff had to come back…had to go from Korea to Japan, and from Japan back to England, then it would go in the labs, had to be developed, it was on 35mm, course it was four/five days late.  But nevertheless, wasn’t as late as some of the Falklands film was afterwards, I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, you know, for different reasons.  But the thing was there, it was uncensored, and it was on the screens at length.  

Ronnie then had the great nous to link up with Rene Cutforth.  Rene was there as the BBC’s radio reporter and they were briefed to get together.  Now here were two massive personalities, Ronnie Noble and Rene Cutforth, and of course at first they thought, who the hell are you and who the hell are you?  I’m not gonna work with you…hear the stories from Ronnie.  But soon they knew that they could work together.  And this truly was the first war correspondent report with sound from Korea, filmed by Ronnie, without a sound…he didn’t have a soundman with him.

I:    Lesley Mann?

R:    Lesley Mann, you’re absolutely right, quite right, with Lesley Mann.

I:    But it wasn’t…was it [unclear 0:20:00]?

R:    Well he did a little bit of stuff into camera, and Rene, but mostly was a commentary and then laid over it.  Now this was a, you know, this was a true war report and it…I mean, not…again, not weekly, not even…I mean, certainly not daily, nor even weekly, but at that time it was stories like that that helped Philip Dorté to persuade Cecil McGivern that the newsreels should become five days a week, and as indeed it did.  Now there were other stories.  That’s the Korean War, and Ronnie then went on to Malaya, the uprising in Malaya, he filmed that for the newsreel.  He went to Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising, and I can see some of Ronnie’s films still very clearly in those days.  

Now, just to underline the awfulness of that chap Harold Cox.  Harold, at no stage, did he ever send a cable or any message to Ronnie saying, well done, good story, do this.  So I took it upon myself to send him the cables…”Terrific, wonderful story, how about doing this and this that and the other.  We used 15 minutes…” I mean, the chap was absolutely out on his own 1,000s of miles away, never had any idea whether the film arrived, let alone it being used.  So I always gave him the most detail.  Then one day I got caught on that, that cable, and I was summoned for an interview by H. Cox, went into my annual…he thought it was absolutely outrageous that I did that, contravening BBC discipline, all sorts of rubbish went on, and I think I was taken up to Philip Dorté actually, and reprimanded, but I went on doing it.  And Ronnie…and that’s how my friendship with Ronnie really grew, and we became friends as a result of communicating across 12,000 miles.  

    Now that was one aspect of the newsreel.  The other aspect, not to be forgotten, American politics suddenly became interesting.  Here was Harry Truman, the President who came into office as a result of President Roosevelt dying, and who then won the election in ‘51, whenever he won the election, to everybody’s surprise.  And we did the campaign, we actually…the conventions and the campaign was on television all written back in London, scribbled away with Ted Halliday’s voice, but wonderful coverage from NBC who were then the BBC’s great partners, and for many years were.  And there was a man in London called Red…

I:    Harrison…no, [unclear 0:22:33].

R:    No, not Red Harrison.  Red, something or other…who used to come up to the screenings.  We got the footage from NBC it was used almost as NBC…so the newsreel on certain nights would consist of, say, 12 minutes from Korea and 9 minutes from the American convention.  Now this was most unlike any other cinema newsreel that you’ve ever seen.

I:    You had your commentary over the American…?

R:    No, we wrote it ourselves.

I:    Yes…

R:    Yes.

I:    Not NBC?

R:    No, [unclear 0:23:00].  No, I wasn’t the only writer, there were about, as time went on, more writers came into the place.  One was called Les Ketley and the other one was called Sylvia Clayton.  Those were the three writers in the place.  And others came in occasionally, I mean, Stephen Hurst arrived, fresh from being a detective at Marks & Spencer, or whatever he was.  Stephen Hurst arrived and wrote a bit, not very successfully.  And a friend…a cousin of mine, a cousin of Betty’s called Jack Gee, G-E-E, arrived, he wrote a little bit and went on to become a writer…the writer correspondent in China, was nearly arrested.  Stephen…well we all know what Stephen went on to become.  All sorts of people arrived there and did a little bit of work, but in the end the writing team was Ketley, Sylvia Clayton, and myself.  Harry [s.l. Govern 0:23:51] came along and arrived as a, sort of, Assistant Producer, I mean, Dick strengthened the team, and these were Dick’s people, totally loyal to Dick and totally disloyal to Harold Cox, all of them…supported Philip and Philip Dorté was fine.  

But to give you an indication of what the place was like at that time also, I mean, how unprepared Alexandra Palace was.  The night King George V died, or the morning King George V died, I mean, the announcement was delayed until the morning, if you remember he died at Sandringham…

I:    6th…

R:    King George…sorry the night King George VI died, I mean, the…just to take it in sequence.  The story was this.  Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip went off to Kenya, for a trip to Kenya, and Alan Prentice was the cameraman at London airport to see them off, I mean, the Queen, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth went off to see them off, and Alan had the big Tom lens on the King, I mean, there were stories that the King wasn’t well, and you looked at those pictures and you could see at once that the King was dying, I mean, he looked unbelievably thin, and he stood there with his hat off in the bitterly cold wind at London airport.  And that story we, kind of…I mean, let’s be clear we ran royal stories, and we ran royal stories at length.  For example, when King George VI and the Queen went off to South Africa, George Rottner was the cameraman who went out with them and filmed it at great length, and there were long stories on that.  And they were marvellous stories.  Wonderful sunshine and here…anyway, come back to the King, 48 hours later the King was dead.  

Now, the announcement came from Broadcast House.  The story is, they had to wait until John Snagge had found his black tie in order to announce it on the radio.  I don’t think it’s totally a false story, I’m sure it’s true.  Anyway, the story came from there.  Pat Smithers phoned me up and said, the King had died, what will television do?  And we had a meeting.  What did television do?  There was no obituary available on the King.  Nothing in the most…nothing.  So television did the obvious thing, television closed down.  Cecil McGivern and possibly Norman Collins may still have been there, I’m not sure.  Anyway, somebody decided that television should close down out of respect for the King’s death, and we closed down.  

It was very fortunate that then we started work on the obituary of the King.  And we worked through the night, I mean, it was Dick at his best, Ted Halliday, all sorts of people.  It was the first time I met Cecil McGivern because as we were dubbing it during the night in the Dubbing Theatre, Cecil came…Vernon Phipps as a Dubbing Mixer.  Ted inside.  Me writing it.  And Dick producing it.  And Eddie Edwards, Dennis Edwards, cutting it like mad.  We got a very very good obituary together.  It wasn’t marvellous but it was a pretty good obituary, because we had those wonderful pictures that Alan Prentice had taken of the King at Heathrow.  We had the terrific pictures from South Africa.  And there was a lot of royal coverage and I’m not ashamed of it.  The royal coverage was very good and it did a…had a considerable part in the newsreel.  

Anyway, television…BBC Television reopened the following day, and the first film that went out, first programme that went out, was our obituary on King George VI.  I have no idea how long it was.  I would have thought it was about 15 to 20 minutes.  And from there, of course, then all the scenes of mourning, the proclamation of the new Queen, all that was on film.  The funeral of the King, of course, was done by OBs, Peter Dimmock did that.  But this was in the days before telerecording.  Telerecording was not available in those days.  Telerecording with Jimmy Redman didn’t really come till quite a bit later.  So that night…we had film cameras along the route as well, and then filmed…put a compilation together of the Kings funeral.  I mean, you remember the shots at Paddington as the…I mean, we haven’t had a royal funeral of that scale, obviously, for 4 or whatever it is, 40 years.  Longer.  And then the funeral procession arriving at Windsor.  And all that was on newsreel from that night.  So where are we?  Tiny pause?

I:    Yes.

[Interview paused - 0:28:27]

[Interview resumed - 0:28:28]

I:    Are we running?

R:    Running?

I:    Yes.

R:    Right, so the newsreel, it…in my view it prospered.  It prospered in its limited way, with five editions at week.  Other commentators came along.  The lovely Michael…chap in the wheelchair…

I:    Oh yes, Swan.

R:    Michael Swan.  Michael Swann was a commentator.  Alexander Moyes came along.  Frank Philips.  Alvar Liddell.  I mean, we took the great voices from radio along and they were only too happy to work on the newsreels, but they were voices.  When it came to sport, I mean, the first tour…the Wally Hammond Cricket Tour of Australia came back on film and, of course, it was deep winter here, and I used to write it and Brian Johnston came along to do the commentary.  And Brian did some of it off the cuff.  But Brian, of course, being Brian provided the sound effects as well, because he bought a bat along and a ball, and each time a bat and ball was struck Brian did all the work, I mean, Brian was, I mean, wonderful as only…

I:    He did that in the Dubbing Theatre?

R:    …as only Brian…in the Dubbing Theatre…as only Brian could be.  So sport was coming along slowly.  One mustn’t forget though that outside broadcasts, I mean, Dimmock and Lobby and Alan Chivers were doing a great deal of live sport work but, of course, there were no recordings were available.  Recordings, to my knowledge, did not become available till I went to Lime Grove, and that must be about ’53, soon after Sport Style.  We’ll come back to that in a minute.

I:    Lobby is, we should say for those who listen and don’t know, is Seymour…

R:    S. J…Joly de…

I:    …de Lotbiniere.

R:    Seymour de Lotbiniere, yes.  Now, leaving OBs to one side, I mean, the newsreel was moving along but there was no long term future in it.  It was quite clear it wasn’t.  The most difficult stories to do always were internal BBC stories.  And I remember there was one…the order came down to do a story on some birthday of the Colonial Service, or the Colonial Service, Bush House, and I was sent along and said, “Go and see the man at Bush House who runs the place.”  And that was my first meeting with Hugh Greene, who was then the boss of the Colonial Service.  And inside BBC stories, stories about the BBC, were fearfully difficult.  Just as they were the stories about the BBC transmitter network spreading…when it spread to Moscow, when it…Moscow…when it went to Holme Moss, to Manchester, and when it went to Scotland.  All those stories had to be done, and they had to be done on BBC lines, and the commentaries had to be checked with BBC engineers, and they were the most awful stories, I mean, boring and…proper news…proper stories, and political stories came out, and reporters were being used, and people asked questions, and interviews were taking place.  Slowly.  But it was most unlike the cinema newsreel.  I have no doubt about that.  But it was not the news.  Now, eventually then the politics, BBC politics intervened, and the fight really was between Philip Dorté, on behalf of the television service, fighting to keep the newsreel, and…

I:    Tahu Hole?

R:    …Tahu Hole at Broadcasting House saying, if this is gonna be news he, Tahu Hole, had to control it.  Jacob was the Director General, and the decision came down in favour of Tahu Hole.  Norman Collins had gone by that time, or maybe that was one of things that may have prompted…no, Norman Collins had gone by that time.  Norman Collins had fallen out earlier.  McGivern was the boss of the television service.  Philip…McGivern lost the battle to keep the newsreel within the television service.  Tahu Hole and his marauders came in and, frankly, suddenly, there was no job for Dick Cawston.  There was no job for me.  There was no job for Harry Govern. There was no job for Dennis Edwards, or Chris Corke, or any…I mean, the newsreel really was decimated.  Harold Cox was kept on somewhere or other.  Dick, I mean, the…Tahu Hole came in…he sat in on the thing and looked round and had various meetings and followed the newsreel for a while, and then issued his edict saying that this must disappear, the only people who could run the news were his people, and there began the disastrous experiment of BBC news in vision…

I:    Yeah, talking heads.

R:    …talking heads, or rolling captions. I mean, it was the biggest disaster of all time.  It…Jacob has always been sorry that he’s done this…that he did this.  It lasted for a year and then McGivern sent in two young bright men from Lime Grove to report on the news, and their names were Michael Peacock and Donald Baverstock, and as a result of that, the news changed and became an updated thing, and Michael Peacock ran things.  Now, I’m not sure of the dates in all this but that is the correct chronology, and Tahu’s forces were set back.  Nevertheless, the news from…the news division, the news directorate still ran the news from Alexandra Palace, but we became more of a television operation.  People like Pat Smithers, Walter McGuire, and of course Michael Peacock himself came in, and the product improved enormously.  The news improved.

    Dick went on to Panorama.  Dick, of course, then Dick Cawston went on to Panorama.  He became ill first, and Dick was intended to be the first Editor of Panorama.  Unfortunately he fell ill, he had TB, and Michael Peacock was appointed in his place.  And when Dick was fit enough to resume, I think he came as a Producer on Panorama for a time, but not for long.  So that is that story.  

    I, in the closing days of the newsreel, had proposed a new sports magazine to Peter Dimmock, who was then partly based at Alexandra Palace, at least I met him, and said, what was needed was a weekly sports magazine, a sports news magazine, and I had the brilliant idea that it should be introduced by him, and no one else…

I:    What was his job at the time?

R:    Peter was the Assistant Head of Outside Broadcast with Lobby...

I:    As Head.

R:    …Seymour de Lotbiniere as the Head of Outside…Peter was the Assistant Head.  And Peter had energy, drive, enthusiasm, and of course, tremendous credibility and status in the place because he’d produced…he persuaded Churchill and the government, that the coronation should be televised from Westminster Abbey, and Peter produced it himself.  And without Peter…I mean, Peter is the most important factor in television becoming wildly popular.  So I proposed this thing to Peter, this weekly sports magazine.  Peter sold it to McGivern.  McGivern had accepted it.  It became a fortnightly sports magazine, and it came absolutely at the right moment for me professionally because, quite frankly, I was out of a job.  Tahu certainly didn’t want me.  Nor did I want to stay at Alexandra Palace.  I went to Lime Grove and started the Sportsview unit.  Asked Ronnie Noble to come and join me.  Asked Dennis Edwards to come and join me.  So, in a way I had newsreel friends and colleagues with me.  Dick was then on…Dick was ill at that time, but more and more, some of the people who had been in the newsreel unit at Alexandra Palace were coming to Lime Grove.  And Sportsview began.

I:    You were a sports enthusiasts then, you were?

R:    I became a sports enthusiast.  I…to be fair, I was keen on sport and, certainly, I knew how to write sports stories.  Even in my Pathé newsreel days I wrote the sports stories reasonably well, and I certainly wrote them well at Alexandra Palace.  And this was a, I mean, a sports magazine had been established beforehand, run by Barclay Smith, and it was so dull, what happened was that opening title was Barclay skating the opening title, or somebody skating the opening title, I forget what it was called, Swann’s…I mean, it was boring beyond belief.  What I brought to it, and what Dimmock brought to it, and Ronnie and others brought to it was that it was a news magazine, even though it was only fortnightly at first, half an hour on a Wednesday night, 8:30 to 9:00, introduced by Peter Dimmock, “Good evening welcome to Sportsview.”  And we had a hell of a lot of things.  

Peter brought, from the United States, a teleprompter; first time the teleprompter had ever been used in any BBC television programme.  And it was a very old fashioned teleprompter, certainly wasn’t automatic, but the script was on there and somebody had to run the handle, and the handle of the teleprompter moved the teleprompter along.  And among the people who ran the teleprompter, one of them certainly, was Robin Scott, later to become Controller of BBC2, Controller of the Live Programming.  Robin ran the teleprompter on an attachment to OBs.  The teleprompter was…I mean, Peter was able to look at the camera and brilliantly read all these cues, the cues worked, Dennis Monger was the Producer up in the gallery.  The programme was live.  It was very slick, it moved.

Now what made the programme, on the third edition, we got the tip off from Norris McWhirter that Roger Bannister would run…would attempt the four minute mile at Oxford that day.  That was on a Wednesday evening.  We sent Alan Prentice who…we had got him across from television news, I’d got a few mates along…across.

I:    Very good team.

R:    And Alan Prentice and Fred Clarke as his sound recorders, went to Iffley Road, stood in the centre of the track, and got the only film record of the first four-minute mile.  Bannister, Chataway, Brasher, running it and…

I:    It’s been shown a million times since then.

R:    Been shown…yes, if I’d got the royalties on that I would be very rich.  That film…now, contrary to common belief, that film was not shown on the night of the mile, of the four-minute mile.  It was not.  The race wasn’t run till 5 o’clock/6 o’clock.  We were on the air with Sportsview at 8:30.  The film was shown the following night.  But on that night we had a driver up at Oxford, at Iffley Road, and the driver’s name was Bunny Stoneham, never to be forgotten.  

Bunny Stoneham was a friend of Alan Prentice who was a very, very fast driver and he persuaded Roger Bannister to step into the car and to be driven to Lime Grove studios for the show.  Roger was still in his tracksuit at that time, and felt he couldn’t possibly appear in that way on television, and was…persuaded Bunny to drive him to his home in Harrow where he changed into a suit and a proper tie and all that, and arrived in the studio.  Now, of course, to have live in the studio the first man to run the four-minute mile, for a ten-minute interview, on the night he’d done it was terrific.  Sportsview was made from that moment on.  I mean, that was it.

I:    Yeah, terrific.

R:    And very soon afterwards McGivern was good enough to say, well fortnightly programme, you can go weekly.  And Sportsview then attempted all sorts of things, I mean, live OBs, we did things that had never been done before.  We were in the weighing room with Lester Piggott at Newmarket.  We had the Don Cockell fight against Rocky Marciano, somehow.  We had got the film of the Grand National when Dick Francis lost the Grand National.  We got all sorts of things, scoops undoubtedly, people to be interviewed, Gordon Perry, all the big names…Chris Chataway, all the big names for those days were available on Sportsview.  And it became what was, to coin a phrase, an action packed half hour weekly magazine full of sport, lively, good audience figures, the budget went up.  And one of the great things one learnt at that time was, you started off with a fortnightly programme with £150 budget and you knew that six weeks later you’d be running a weekly programme with a £500 budget, with film cameras available, working at Lime Grove, at a time when television was, you know, becoming accepted and was booming.  And the people, the company at Lime Grove was terrific, I mean, everybody was available at Lime Grove in those days.

I:    Terrific.

R:    And we had a terrific programme, made in studio two.

I:    You mention Lime Grove and just for the record we should say, of course, Alexandra Palace has now finished.

R:    No.  The news was still up there.

I:    Only the news, I beg your pardon.

R:    The news stayed up there, and the news stayed up there, first under…the first person who was put in…

I:    Briefly.

R:    …no, the nightly news.

I:    Yeah, not…it…stayed…not for long.

R:    Well it stayed for about three or four years.  Oh yes, absolutely.  Quite a while before they came…or at least three or four years, possibly even longer.  Possibly even longer.  Stuart Hood was up there first.  Then Michael Peacock.  Then Walter McGuire, all those sort of people.  And slowly, the news got better at Alexandra Palace, or the news programmes got better, I mean, it couldn’t have got any worse as it was.  Sportsview boomed, there was no doubt about it.  And there was, I suppose, in the terms of television history, there were two important things, one was…I mean, here was this magazine programme, news magazine programme, running along quite well, I mean, I think perhaps we were too pleased with ourselves, but it wasn’t doing badly.  It was something that had never been seen before, and one major thing came along and that was the 1956 Olympic Games.  The Olympic Games…the 1948 Olympic Games had been seen in London, live, black and white, covered by BBC outside broadcast…

I:    And they were…

R:    …but in the London…

I:    …they were from…

R:    …area only.

I:    …yeah, they were from here, the Olympics, 48, here.

R:    They were the ones in London, yeah, the 48 games were in London.

I:    Yes, correct.

M:    Can I just stop you and turn over.

I:    Great.

[End of transcription - 0:43:41]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 2

I    =    Interviewer.
R    =    Respondent.
M    =    Male.

s.l.    =    sounds like.

I:    Paul Fox, Side 2.

R:    So, we come to the Olympic Games.  The 1948 Olympic Games took place in London.  They were televised, just about, in the London area only, of course, televised by the BBC in black and white.  The 1952 Olympic Games took place in Helsinki; we did not have the rights.  Ronnie Noble was sent across to Helsinki by Dick Cawston as a Producer of the newsreel, and Ronnie proceeded to pinch the Olympic Games in a good old fashioned newsreel way, I wrote the commentaries, and we saw a little bit of the 1952 Olympic Games.  At least we saw McDonald Bailey racing.  

And so we came…by 1956 the Sportsview unit, as Peter Dimmock always called it, was established.  And the 1956 Olympic Games, we were gonna get coverage from Australia.  Television in Australia had just begun, ABC television had just begun, and I was sent out…or I went out to Australia to get coverage from the Australian people.  Now you have to remember the time, this was the autumn of 1956.  Soviet tanks were in Budapest.  The uprising had taken place in Budapest and the emphasis, the news emphasis, was entirely on what happened in Hungary.  At the same time the Suez adventure was beginning.  Eden had got us into all the problems with the Suez.  And as I left Lime Grove, on my way to fly to New York, en route to Australia, that night Eden was making his last broadcast out of Studio P before…or his last warning to Nasser before we sent the troops into Suez.  I mean, it was an appalling time to leave, quite frankly, and I shall always regret actually because one missed a large lump of social history in not being in this country during the time of Suez.  

Anyway, flew out to New York the old-fashioned way, still in a sleeper, got into my berth on the…sleeping berth, got up in the morning, looked down below and there was Ian Jacob the Director-General below, in the berth below me.  Never met me before in my life…in his life.  I introduced myself and he was on the way to Australia as well.  Stopped in New York.  Went on to…took three or four days to get to Sydney.  By the time I had got to Sydney the European Broadcasting Union, then it’s…then in it’s embryo, and the Americans, had decided to boycott the Olympic Games.  And the reason for the boycott was this, the Olympic Committee, then run by Avery Brundage, the American, had insisted that the television networks, then in fledgling television network, paid for news coverage.  And somebody had the courage, either in the EBU or Jacob, or somebody in America had said, “We will not pay for news.  News must be free.”  And when the IOC said, “Sorry you’ll have to pay if you want any news coverage,” we said, “Okay, we’ll boycott the Olympic Games.”  

And the…as I arrived in Sydney, Bob Stead, who was the BBCs representative in Sydney said, well you might as well go home we’re…the broadcasters are boycotting the games and in any case there’ll be…the War is on, the troops are on and they’ve gone into Egypt, but the Americans have already asked that the troops come home.  The Dutch are boycotting the Olympic Games because of the Hungarian uprising.  The Hungarians were only there in small numbers.  I mean, the thing was a bit of a shambles.  But I thought, what the hell, I’ve come all this way.  I went to Melbourne and for the first time, the only time in my life, in 40 years in television, I worked for radio for Charles Max-Muller.

    But, back to the boycott, because the boycott is the important thing.  The Games were boycotted.  No coverage of the Olympic Games was seen…of the 1956 Olympic Games…was seen in the United Kingdom, in Europe, or in the United States.  The Australians, of course, they weren’t involved in the boycott, and ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, did televise the Games and showed them.  But nothing whatsoever was shown in the United Kingdom, or anywhere else.  And as a result of that boycott, the International Olympic Committee relented and agreed that news access would be free, and as a result of that, the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome were televised for the first time.

    But the News Access Agreement that was established at that time…the News Access Agreement remains in force to this day.  And about two or three years ago, and I’m talking…well three years ago…1990, the News Access Agreement was enforced again in this country, and by agreement between the BBC, ITV, and Sky, news access became possible to each others exclusive sporting events.  And as a result of that, BBC News can now show the cricket in India, which is exclusive to Sky.  Sky can show excerpts from the Grand National, exclusive to the BBC.  And both Sky and the BBC can show the football League Cup Final, exclusive to ITV.  A News Access Agreement drawn up on the eve of…between the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games still was in effect…was still showing how effective it can be in 1990, in the 1990s.  And that was the important thing about the Olympic Games.  That was the important thing about Melbourne.  

I mean, we missed a great deal in Melbourne.  This country won seven gold medals in Melbourne, and they were never seen until the film of the Olympic Games became available.  But what it then led to was the Olympic Games being televised live in 1960.  And I was there for that in Rome.  Commentators were David Coleman.  We had Richard Dimbleby there for the opening ceremony.  David did most of the athletics.  Sport had become a very big operation by that time.  Sportsview was a regular programme.  Grandstand had arrived.  Sports Special, the forerunner to Match of the Day, had arrived on Saturday night with football.  

In 1960 the last remaining bastion that had held out against television gave in, and that was the Grand National, we televised the Grand National live for the first time.  We did the Olympic Games, and I thought it was time to move on.  I had done seven years in sport from ‘53 to ’60.  Sport had become a very big operation and the Lime Grove base, that’s where it was run from, always…I mean, I’m only talking about the studio based programmes…programmes all run from the studio, either by Dimmock or by Coleman, or by Ken Wilson, and others.  And we ran programmes Wednesday…one on Wednesday and two on Saturday.  

Don’t underrate the importance of Grandstand.  Grandstand was, for the first time, live OBs were linked via the studio.  It was a big operation.  And the strength of the BBC, and the strength of its contracts, sporting contracts, suddenly were shown on a Saturday afternoon, and you’d get three or four live sports linked.  But not done in a boring way with, you know, from beginning to end, but the best bits were shown in Grandstand.  We were able to come back via the studio.  And Grandstand when it started, 1 o’clock, finished at 5 o’clock with the football results, live on the teleprinter, was a cracking programme, and a form of sports journalism that hadn’t been practiced before.  So that was that.  End of sport story.

I:    You mentioned Ronnie Noble earlier; he’s still very much involved with all this isn’t he, at this time?

R:    Ronnie Noble was solid in that.  Ronnie was co-Editor with me on Sportsview.  He was certainly involved on Saturday night.  I mean, the Saturday night…I mean, this was the days before videotape, telerecording had just started, but it was the days before videotape and football…I mean, this was before Match of the Day…football began on a Saturday night, a programme called Sports Special introduced by…with Bryan Cowgill as a Director upstairs.  And the very first programme, scheduled to run 45 minutes, ran two hours.  Full of interviews.  Full of film.  And the film in those days…Ronnie was in charge of the film operation, and Alan Prentice and other cameramen went out to film the football matches from…with a…those awful cameras, what were they called Alan, those big…?

M:    You mean, don’t mean the Newman’s, you mean the Mitchell’s.

R:    The Mitchell, the big Mitchell cameras with 1,000ft magazines.

M:    35, yeah.

R:    All on 35mm, and the key thing was, not to miss any goals while they were changing magazines, only one camera went out.

I:    I know, yes, every ten minutes.

R:    That’s it, every ten minutes.  Now the 1,000ft roll…only those rolls were developed in the labs that had goals on them.  I mean, the kick-off, the second half kick-off was developed, but then after that only the rolls that actually had goals on, so it was quite a big operation.  Now there were occasions, obviously, when goals were missed.  Alan Prentice was the cameraman who hardly ever did miss a goal, but he did occasionally miss goals.  They didn’t film it all, they filmed most of it.  

And the stuff came back to [s.l. Kays Labs 0:10:03] in Archway by…occasionally by helicopter, the first time the helicopter was used, mostly by motorcycle.  And Ronnie and a man called Ronnie Spillane ran that film operation, and somehow, I mean, the matches ended at 20 to 5, the stuff had to be got back to the labs at Finsbury Park, and from Finsbury Park by motorcyclists brought, again, in ten minute chunks to Lime Grove for editing.  And there were many a night when the programme started on the air and the last roll of film wasn’t there, I mean, out of the question, couldn’t possibly have been there.  

Now that was commentary on the spot.  We didn’t have to worry about the commentary.  Commentators were there.  Wolstenholme was a commentator.  David Coleman, I suppose, was a commentator, and others.  And we used to show two matches.  And there were appalling nights when we missed goals.  And there was one famous story, a match between Newcastle and Sunderland, I mean, the rivalry between those two clubs was always…always been acute, and the film was fogged and somebody let the…the film was fogged.  Newcastle…Sunderland won 3-2, terrific match, we had one goal out of the five.  We showed the one goal and Wolstenholme who was linking it all to Coleman said, “Awfully sorry, we couldn’t show you all the rest, there was fog on the film.”  And the cartoon in the ‘Newcastle Journal’ the following day said…showed the film crew at St. James’ Park and somebody saying, “Bring on the fog, bring on the fog,” because it was a beautifully sunny day.  Never to be forgotten.

    The other time, of course, telerecording was just beginning then and Jimmy Redmond later Sir James Redmond, one of the BBCs great Engineering Directors, was in charge of the telerecording equipment at Alexandra Palace, and the equipment…I mean, this was…outside broadcast cameras went to the match and it was telerecorded back at Lime Grove.  And the cameras were used…Scotland was always inventive in that, and BBC Scotland sent the cameras to Rangers/Celtic, another match [unclear 0:12:20] blood feud [s.l. after all 0:12:21].  The cameras were there.  It was to be recorded, telerecorded in London, and we would use ten minutes, that was our ration.  Sure enough all went well.  Match…Celtic won, as would be.  Always remember it.  Went for the telerecording, went to get the thing and Jimmy Redmond came to me ashen faced and said, “I’m afraid there’s nothing on the film.”  I said, “Why not?”  “Somebody forgot to take the lens cap off.”  And it was…I mean, Jimmy Redmond…

I:    Not really.

R:    …will remember it to this day.  He said, he had never been dressed down in his life as much as he was by me that day, I mean, he was bawled out and never forgotten.  And the Scots, I mean, they…BBC Scotland went mad, they had advertised the thing, Scotland would never forgiven us.  And of course, the people who supported Celtic believed firmly that it was done deliberately because we didn’t want the public to see that Celtic had won the match, rather than Rangers.  But it was, the lens cap was left on throughout.  There was nothing whatsoever on the way.  Those were some of the incidents.

    Grandstand itself, well it’s still running now, I mean, this is…Grandstand began about 1958, and here we are 35 years later and it’s still going strong, and almost unchanged really, I mean, it’s a programme…a chap sits in the studio, links various outside broadcasts…

I:    Same format, yeah.

R:    …gives the football results…

I:    Get the results, yes.

R:    …unchanged, [s.l. get it going 0:13:55].  Sports Special has become Match of the Day.  Cowgill brought that about, outside broadcast cameras, go to the football matches, once videotape was available that was the only way to do football, and it’s still going today after all those years.  Sportsview has become Sports Night.  But the three programmes that were all founded in the late ‘50s are still running today in some form or other.  

So after seven years I thought it was time to leave sport and go somewhere else.  I applied for the job of Editor, BBC Television News, I thought that might…would be quite nice to go back to Alexandra Palace, to run the news.  It’s the only time I ever attended a BBC appointments board.  Michael Peacock was the other candidate.  Michael Peacock at that time was running Panorama.  Michael Peacock got the job, and I got his job as Editor of Panorama.  

    And I came into Panorama from sport, I suppose, some of the people within Panorama must have thought, who’s this unsophisticated chap from sport, who hadn’t been to university, coming up to run Panorama, the weekly prestige programme?  Fortunately, I mean, (a) Michael Peacock and I had always got on, and Mike arranged a very very nice handover for me and showed me was it was about.  The other great advantage I had, I knew Richard Dimbleby.  And I knew Richard because he’d done some work at Alexandra Palace for a while, for one season, I suppose, we ran a weekly compendium of the weeks newsreels, on a Sunday evening.  And the best stories of the week’s newsreels.  And Richard came in on a Friday evening to link that…when we filmed the links in the Dubbing Theatre at Alexandra Palace, and then the film was put together, various news stories, and Richard linked them, and I used to write those links for Richard, and Richard and I got on.

    Just one story about Richard Dimbleby, and that concerned the boat race.  I mean, the boat race was done live in those days, but telerecording had started…must have started somewhere or other.  Anyway, the week’s newsreel programme on Sunday night was going to include the boat race, rode on a Saturday, which we dropped in on Sunday morning.  Richard had to do the links on a Friday evening.  So we did the obvious links, Cambridge had won, Oxford had won.  Richard wasn’t totally satisfied with that, and Richard said, “Well say if it’s a dead heat.”  And I said, “Don’t worry Richard, I mean, it hasn’t happened since 1877.”  “Yeah, but say there’s something…something…I mean, it may not be Oxford winning or Cambridge winning.”  I said, “Well what do you want to say?”  And he said, “Well there’s a result that nobody expected.”  And that was the link that was used because that was the year when Oxford sank…stroke by Chris Davidge...and Richard always, I mean, triumphant on Saturday afternoon…phoned me on Saturday evening, phoned me up and said, “There I told you.”  And so Richard and I had a fellow feeling, we did get on.  And if you got on with Richard you were successful in Panorama.

    But of course I inherited…I mean, I was…Michael Peacock had established a very good reporters team, I mean, it was a marvellous team.  And the reporters at that time, when I arrived, were Ludo Kennedy, who was there at that time.  Jim Mossman.  John Morgan had just come across from Tonight.

I:    Kee?

R:    Robert Kee.

I:    That’s the lot isn’t it?

R:    No, there were five reporters.

M:    Another one.

I:    Kennedy, Kee…

R:    Maybe it’s here.

I:    …Mossman, yes.

R:    No, that’s right, Robin Day, Ludo…and Robin Day

I:    Robin Day.

M:    Robin Day.

R:    So…how can one forget.  So the reporters that I inherited from Michael Peacock, and who were established then, I mean, first Richard Dimbleby who of course had started Panorama, the proper Panorama, there was a Panorama beforehand, but the Panorama that Grace Goldie got on the air with Michael Peacock as Editor, the proper Panorama was the first person who said good evening and said good evening for a long time, fortunately, was Richard Dimbleby.  By the time I came the reporters were, Robin Day and Ludo Kennedy, having recently joined from ITV, those two.  Jim Mossman the ex-Reuter correspondent in Africa.  Robert Kee, ex-Picture Post.  And John Morgan, just transferred from Tonight, he had started on Tonight.  Now with a reporting team like that it was absolutely sensational, I mean, it truly was sensational.

    The other Producers at that time were David Wheeler.  Don Haworth.  David J. Webster, the David J. Webster organisation, as a PA.  And then rebel guests and others came along.  But the key to the thing, unquestionably, was Dimbleby and this terrific team of reporters.  I mean, Peacock had established that those reporters…I mean, the Hungarian uprising and Suez had been the things that made Panorama, just as Bannisters four-minute mile made Sportsview, the Hungarian uprising and Suez made Panorama.  And Panorama in those days at 8 o’clock on a Monday, had audiences of 8, 9 and 10 million, and it was the most important event on television at the time.  Now I take no credit for it whatsoever, it was founded beforehand, but in the two years that I was in charge, (a) I enjoyed it enormously, (b)…

I:    Only two?  Three?

R:    Yes, may have been three.  Anyway…I think it was only two.  I think it was always thought that was the limit because you really had to work seven days a week.  It became…there was a…I mean, it was a magazine programme in those days and I firmly believed in it being a magazine programme, and there were three or four items.  But, of course, all hell was breaking loose all over the world.  I mean, there was Africa constantly troubled and we were able…I mean, Robin Day in those days was still travelling as a Foreign Correspondent doing extremely well in South Africa.  The whole of Rhodesia was up in flames.  Kenya was still in trouble in those days.  So there was Africa, and one was able to report freely and easily from Africa, long before the days of difficulties, cameras not coming in.  America was wide open to us.  And then, of course, the Vietnam War started.  So, you know, the assassinations in the United States, all those sort of stories.  But, I mean, one was…plus the Macmillan era at home, I mean, one didn’t forget stuff at home, political development at home.  

And an invitation to be interviewed on Panorama was a royal command, I mean, there was no question about it, and everybody came.  And either Dimbleby did the interview, or Robin, or Robert Kee, or Ludo, I mean, they were all exceptionally…they were ambidextrous reporters.  They could work in the studio.  They could be interviewers.  They could be outstanding reporters out in the field.  And it was a privilege…it was a privilege to work with them at that time, and Lime Grove was a buzzing place.  Grace Goldie was officially in charge of Panorama, but when there were difficulties you could also go to Leonard Miall who was a Head of the Department, and Leonard understood this game backwards.  And I have to say there were no problems with Broadcasting House, other than once or twice.  There was the interview with Georges Bidault who was then a rebel.

I:    He was expelled from France because…

R:    That’s right he was…

I:    …he had a row with a girl about…over Algeria, wasn’t it?

R:    That’s right.  And came to England and we interviewed him, and the French Ambassador kicked up a fuss.  And by that time Hugh Greene was Director-General, and actually I think Hugh Greene caved in, and the Bidault interview was not used…was used…?

I:    It was used, yes, I think…yes.

R:    Was used.

I:    It was postponed a week by Hugh Greene because the girl was in England on the Monday when it would have gone out.

R:    That was it.  That was one thing.  Again, you see, in the end, you get events that marks ones own role in the thing.  Very early on in my time as Editor, President Kennedy came to London on a private visit.  I mean, Kennedy had such close links with Macmillan, and of course you also saw Macmillan.  But it was not a presidential state visit.  And on his first night…he arrived on Monday…and on his first night he went to stay with his, then, brother in law, Prince Radziwill, somewhere in the West End of London, married then to one of his sisters.  And I send Ludo Kennedy to say, go on Ludo…and the live camera in those days, to go and interview President Kennedy.  I mean, the Embassy said, “Out of the question the President will not give any interviews.”  

Ludo, for all sorts of reasons, the name, of course, he’d also established himself with President Kennedy at the Democratic convention in San Francisco, when Ludo stood up at a Panorama film and a press conference took place, and President…not then…Senator Kennedy as he then was, asked for questions, and Ludo stood up and said, “Kennedy, BBC Panorama,” and John Kennedy said, “Oh that’s a very useful name to have.”  And from that moment on he knew Ludo.  

Anyway, Ludo turned up and doorstepped him…doorsteped the house.  Stood outside the house, rang the bell, and Radziwill opened, and Ludo knew Radziwill, they’d played backgammon together and said, “Hello Ludo what are you doing here?”  “Well I want to interview President Kennedy.”  “Well come in he’s inside.”  And Ludo was taken inside, introduced to President Kennedy, and President Kennedy could not possibly have known that Ludo was coming; it was out of the question.  And Radziwill said, “Mr President, this is Ludo Kennedy,” and Kennedy said to him, the President said to him, “Oh yes, I’ve just read that marvellous book you did on the Notting Hill Gate murders, what an excellent book, blah, blah…what can I do.”  He said, “Well it’s Panorama, I’m a reporter for Panorama, we’d like to do an interview.”  He said, “Certainly.”  And out he came into the…in front of the door and did a live interview into Panorama, I mean, never to be forgotten. I thought it was unbelievable that the President of the United States can stand on the street in London…now it wasn’t a very deep interview, it wasn’t very…not many searching questions.  But here was this new, young, President, live in the street in London reporting…being interviewed for Panorama, it was one of the great coups.  

    The other one was, there was a famous…there was a railway strike, threatened.  Ernest Marples was the Minister of Transport in the Macmillan government, and Marples was a great publicity seeker, always full of the headline.  The annual conference of the National Union of Railwaymen was taking place down in Brighton, and the man…secretary, was a man called Sidney Greene, a man with a hangdog face, and who always…was only there to give bad news, never a smile on his face or anything.  

And we somehow…what we managed to do, we had a live camera in Brighton with Sidney Greene.  Ernest Marples was in the studio being interviewed by Richard.  And the way it began…the way the item began, I mean, Panorama was live in those days, of course, naturally…the way it began was, Richard interviewed Marples in the studio and said, “Now what about this strike, blah, blah, blah?”  And Marples made all sorts of reassuring noises, I mean, he was a publicity conscious Minister of the first order.  And then there was Sidney Greene on at the same time.  And Richard went down to Sidney Greene and asked him a few…”Well the Minister has to give us some better assurances.”  And Richard, being the born journalist that he was, turned to Marples and said, “Well can you give him any reassurances?”  

And here, actually, live on the air, on the eve of a railway strike, the Minister of Transport and the General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen were negotiating in front of you.  And because the programme was live we were able to extend the item, run it on, keep going, and it was, I mean, it was a sensational piece of television.  No one… I mean, it has seen many times since then but that was the first time it was ever done.  Richard at his best.

    I mean, Richard did other things, you see, his presence was so enormous.  There was the time when he interviewed Prince Philip live in the studio.  A little bit creepy, I suppose, but it…you know, a little bit too subservient but [unclear 0:27:26].  The time he interviewed…the time…the first time he interviewed King Hussein, and King Hussein arrived, never to be forgotten, called Richard, Sir, throughout the programme.  And a real relationship was established with Hussein, I mean, Richard naturally called him Your Majesty, Richard was formal in those sort of ways, but Hussein called him, Sir.  

And a year later there was some particular trouble in the Middle East, you know, one of those crisis…may well have been on the eve of the Six-Day War, and we…no, it wasn’t it was earlier…whenever it was.  And I, as the Editor, phoned Hussein and got through to him and said, “Do you remember Sir that you were interviewed by Richard Dimbleby?”  And then he called me, Sir, for a while and said, “Could you come on tonight to be interviewed by Dimbleby again?”  “Oh most certainly, most certainly.”  And sure enough, there was Richard Dimbleby, that night, live in the programme, I mean, it was the most…some major crisis was developing on that day…interviewing Hussein.  

Richard was brilliant at those things.  And what one didn’t know at the time was how ill he was.  The cancer had already started and yet, despite all of that, he threw himself into the work.  He was available Saturday and Sunday.  He came in on Sunday.  He did like to write his own links, but in the end he would also agree, well this needs altering a bit.  Richard always, allegedly, refused to use the teleprompter, in fact he had a teleprompter, and if he didn’t have a teleprompter he had bits of paper stuck all over the studio.  

But the great thing with Richard was, he was able to move around the studio.  He was not stuck in his desk.  He could move.  He could walk.  He had a presence in the studio.  He had a wonderful Floor Manager in Joan Marsden.  He wanted his own people around him.  I mean, he knew…there were a few people he trusted, and provided those people were around him, and Joan Marsden as a Floor Manager was one of those, he always asked for her.  And Richard was the…I mean, the importance of Richard Dimbleby as ensuring the good name of the BBC cannot be exaggerated, and the trust he engendered in people.

    I mean, moving on, I suppose I’d left Panorama by then, the Cuban Missile Crisis, I suppose was the nearest time that we came to war after the end of World War II.  There was nothing closer than…there were…worse occasions were to come but, certainly, the Cuban Missile Crisis in ’62 was the nearest thing we came.  And I think, whatever it was, whatever job I had, we did a…I asked Richard to do a special programme on that night of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  And it was announced, it was trailed in the papers, this was an item, I mean, the Soviet ships were heading towards Cuba.  The missiles were in Cuba.  President Kennedy had not, at that time, achieved any contact with Khrushchev.  It really looked as though war could break out within 48 hours.  And the phone rang, on the night of that special programme, on the eve of it, half an hour beforehand, and somehow a viewer had got through to me, and the viewer said, “Are you involved in this programme with Richard?”  I said, “Yes.”  “Well could you give Richard Dimbleby a message from me?  What I want to hear from him tonight is an assurance that my daughter can go to school tomorrow, and go safely to school.”  

And that was Richard’s fantastic skill.  And no one in BBC history, before or afterwards, carried that authority, or that assurance.  And I know he was mocked.  I know he was derided by people who thought he was too courteous to the Royal Family, he had manners, that’s what Richard had, old-fashioned manners, and old-fashioned standards.  And he was immensely responsible for the success of BBC factual programmes at that time, because he was trusted.  He was trusted by the audience, and he was trusted by the colleagues he worked with, and that was it.  So he was the key person.  And the affection in which he was held really became apparent during his illness and when he died.  And it truly was a tragedy, a tragedy, he died much too young.  

He died unhonoured.  He had no recognition from the government.  He was never in an Honours list.  He had an OBE for his work during the War.  The work he did, if it didn’t deserve a Knighthood, it deserved a life peerage, even…perhaps life peerages weren’t invented at that time…but Richard deserved some proper recognition.  And I suppose one thing I did, I did establish after his death the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, and that ran for a while.  Richard was…well I…only repeating myself…the key figure in Panorama.  And while one or two of our slick reporters, particularly on Tonight, may have laughed a little bit at him, they had enormous respect for him.  

The rivalry between Panorama and Tonight is not to be exaggerated.  Here was Tonight invented by Donald Baverstock, run by Alasdair Milne, and without Alasdair Milne the programme would never have got on the screen, because Donald would still be talking now.  The…it was a very inventive programme, I mean, no question.  Five nights a week.  It was a programme that broke the Toddlers’ Truce.  It was Grace’s idea.  It was Donald who got it on the screen, and with Cliff Michelmore it was inventive, it was clever, it was sharp, it was witty, it had every…it did all those things.  

What it did not have was anything to do with the news, because Donald Baverstock derided the news, and so did Alasdair Milne, they didn’t want the news.  News was anathema to them and so was Panorama.  And even though we ran the same department at Lime Grove, and even though we ate in the same canteen, we worked more or less in the same corridors, shared…drank in the same club, Donald Baverstock had given instructions to Tonight that they should not speak to the people from Panorama.  I mean, it was the most childish thing you could imagine.  I’d known Cliff for donkey’s years, and of course I’m gonna talk to Cliff…to Richard…Cliff wanted to speak to Richard.  Derek Hart was an old friend of mine.  I knew Kenneth Allsop.  I mean, it was ludicrous.  Alan Whicker I’d known long before he ever came to television.  Of course we were gonna talk to those people.  But there it was that Donald had instructed them not to speak, and there were times when they wouldn’t.

The other thing, not only were they not on speaking terms, but more seriously, Panorama…Tonight, being on the air two hours before Panorama, took great delight in pinching stories from Panorama on Monday nights.  If they could interview a Minister half an hour ahead, an hour ahead of Panorama, they did.  There was never any exchange of information.  We were deadly rivals on a Monday night, one night in the week.  And we had to keep secrets from each other, even though we worked in the same department.  And there was nothing Grace could do to bring about peace, or Leonard Miall, they stood back and let us fight it out, quite frankly.  

And it wasn’t…I mean, it was quite fun at times…irritated other times, but it did work, because Panorama was perhaps too much so in my time, too much of a news programme.  Donald Edwards who was then the Editor of News and Current Affairs called it a news bulletin deluxe, a weekly news bulletin deluxe.  ‘The Economist’ said it was difficult to do a news…it was done on the worst day of the week, Monday, we always had to work over the weekend, and as ‘The Economist’ said one year, “To do Panorama on a Monday was to do it before the news of the week was a gleam in Khrushchev’s eye.”  And there was something to it, I mean, news happened more later in the week, I mean, parliamentary news was never available on a Monday, and we really had to work quite hard over the weekend to get it in.  But it worked.  It was successful, I think.  It had big audiences.

I:    And it made news, of course.

R:    Oh, and of course it made news.

I:    I mean, you’ve mentioned one or two items, but several, of course.

R:    Oh, it made news.  It made news because the people who were the reporters and the producers were journalists, solid hard-working journalists, and with decent film.  You were there Norman, fortunately, forgotten when you came, were you…did you…

I:    I came at the end of ’61 till spring ’63.

R:    Well there was then the argument who should…when I left, who should succeed me, and no doubt you should have become the successor, instead, David Wheeler became the successor.

I:    Well I defected with Dennis Mitchell.

R:    Indeed.

M:    So when did you actually leave Panorama then?

R:    I left in ’63.

I:    ’63, yeah.

R:    I did two years.

I:    And it was David Wheeler then, yes.

R:    And David Wheeler became the Editor of Panorama.  Panorama went on…I was…the Talks Department then became the Talks and Current Affairs Department, divided into three departments, Tonight productions…I mean, this was the time…by that…this was the time when Donald Baverstock went up the road to Television Centre to become the Assistant to Stuart Hood, terrible appointment, both…both Stuart Hood’s and Donald Baverstock’s…

I:    [Over speaking] As Assistant Controller 1.

R:    …as Assistant…no, as Assistant Controller, it was before BBC2 had arrived.

I:    Oh yes, sorry, yes.

R:    Basically to give Stuart some help…Stuart Hood some help, because he knew nothing about television.  Donald, of course, being Donald, always ran past Stuart to Kenneth Adam, he ignored Stuart.  It was a bad time.  Anyway, the Talks Department at that time was divided into three, Head of Tonight Production, Alasdair Milne, dealt with Tonight, and all the programmes that sprang from Tonight, including of course, That Was The Week, that was, absolutely, Alasdair’s doing, with Donald’s help.  And then there was the Music and Arts Department run by Huw Wheldon.  And then there was Public Affairs programmes run by me.  

And the Public Affairs programmes included Panorama, Gallery, and special programmes.  And in those days special programmes were, on the night of the Orpington by-election, when Eric Lubbock won and Peter Goldman was defeated, we ran a special programme.  On other special nights, on assassination night, we ran…because Tonight was unable to deal with news in any proper way, special programmes had to be done, and they came out of the public affairs stable, basically staffed by Panorama and Gallery, John Grist was there, and David Wheeler, and other people.  It wasn’t very satisfactory, but there were some special programmes on [unclear 0:38:41], notably on the night of the Cuban Missile Crisis and, of course, the best known one was on the night President Kennedy was assassinated.

    Let me just talk about that briefly.  Kennedy…President Kennedy was assassinated on a Friday, November the 13th.  It…no, not November the…

I:    October?

R:    …November the 20…well, whenever it was.  It was November…

I:    Oh, sorry.

R:    …but it was certainly a Friday.  It was the night of the Academy, Television Academy Awards, and the whole of television, BBC and ITV, had gone to the Dorchester Hotel for that night’s presentations.  I had remained behind at Lime Grove, basically, I can’t remember for what…any special reason, to see Tonight go out on the air, possibly, and it was during Tonight that the news came that the President had been shot, Cliff gave it, and…Cliff Michelmore gave it, and then the service was instructed…Tonight was instructed to close down and continue with normal programmes.  And the news of the assassination, that the President was dead, was given by news department, and presentation made the fatal mistake of going on with a half hour programme from…with Harry Worth, I mean, it was a disastrous decision.  But it was taken by presentation.  I have to say it was taken by Rex Moorfoot.  

    So, there we were at Lime Grove, John Grist and I…and as was the case in the BBC in those days, in the Talks Department, as the news of the death of the President spread people came into Lime Grove to see what they could do, what work they could do, how they could help, because they knew that a special programme would be made that night.  And among the people who came in was Tony Smith, Anthony Smith, now a Master of Magdalen College, former Head of…Director of the British Film Institute, where we’re sitting, a chap who…key figure in the cultural life of this country really.  And Tony arrived and others, and the girls arrived, I mean, girls like Jan [s.l. Fairo 0:40:58] and Jennifer Jeremy, all sorts of people arrived because they…without being summoned in any way, without being called in…and suddenly we had a team in.  And I decided, really off my own back as Head of Public Affairs, that we would do a proper programme later that night to mourn the President.  And that programme would have to contain the Prime Minister who was Alec Home, at that time.  The leader of the opposition who was Harold Wilson at that time.  And the leader of the Liberal Party was Jo Grimond.  

Now on the Friday evening, in this country to try and find the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, and Jo Grimond, was a major task.  I have to say that I phoned No.10, Harold Evans was there…not the Harold Evans of ‘Sunday Times’…but Harold Evans was then Alec Home’s Press Secretary, as he had been Harold Macmillan’s.  I spoke to him.  He had the news of the assassination, obviously, I said, “We need the Prime Minister to arrive, to come back to Lime Grove to take part in a programme.”  He said, “Well I’m afraid the Prime Minister is on his way to spend the weekend with the Duke of Norfolk.”  I said, “Does he know that the President has been assassinated?”  “No, I’m afraid he doesn’t.”  “He doesn’t?”  “No, he does not.  He left before it happened.  He’s on his way.  We will tell him when he arrives and turn him back.”  

I thought, well this really wasn’t very satisfactory quite frankly.  God knows what would have happened if a bomb had gone off, I mean, how the Prime Minister was gonna make a decision when he was out of contact with No.10, I mean, I thought it was unbelievable.  What I did, I rang the AA and got an AA patrolman to stop the Prime Minister’s car before it got to Arundel, and the Prime Minister was told by this AA man to ring No.10…(a) was told to ring No.10, (b) that the President was assassinated, was dead, and (c) that the BBC needed him that night.  And to do justice to Alec Home, he didn’t go to Arundel, he turned the car round and drove straight back to London.  

Now there are two versions what happened next.  Leonard Miall’s version is that Alec was dressed in a dinner jacket and felt he couldn’t go on the air in a dinner jacket, and therefore went back to No.10 to change into a suit, and put a black tie on.  I believe that he was…because he was on his way to the Duke of Norfolk, he was wearing country clothes and felt he couldn’t go on, and also went back to No.10 to change clothes.  And by that time we had to decide that Lime Grove would too late for him, for that programme…he went to Broadcasting House.  

Prime Minister arrived…here’s the Prime Minister having changed, black tie on, arrived at Broadcasting House, studio was downstairs, he went in the lift and the lift got stuck.  And here we were quarter of hour to 10 minutes before going on the air with a…going on the air with a programme to mourn the passing of the President of the United States, with the Prime Minister stuck in the lift at Lime Grove.  Fortunately we managed to…somehow…Leonard Miall was there, and got him out, and into the studio.  

    Harold Wilson was at a Labour Party meeting in North Wales, and Tony Smith got hold of him, and Tony persuaded Wilson to drive to Manchester, which was the nearest studio that was available at that particular time.  And from North Wales, somehow, H. Wilson got to Manchester, we managed to get the Manchester studio opened up and Wilson was in Manchester.

    Jo Grimond was at the Oxford Union, and the Oxford Union, stuffy as ever said, “Oh no, you can’t possibly get a message into him.”  I said, “Look, this is important, the President of the United States has been assassinated.  We need Jo Grimond, we need him on the air.”  And fortunately, two rather bright undergraduates said, they’ll drive Jo Grimond, got him out of the Oxford Union and drove him down and got him into the studios at Lime Grove.  

    So there we had…the cast was complete…the Prime Minister at Broadcasting House.  H. Wilson at Manchester.  Jo Grimond in London.  Dimbleby did…did Dimbleby do the Prime Minister, or was it Ian Trethowan?  Either Dimbleby or Ian Trethowan…no, Dimbleby did the Premier, I think…Richard may have been so ill already…no, Richard was so ill, Richard couldn’t…Trethowan had to do the…Ian Trethowan did the programme…and there we were, and various other people…and the other chap who spoke was Alun Chalfont, Alun Gwynne Jones, as he was then, who had been a regular commentator.  It was…I mean, there was no doubt about it, I mean, it was a remarkable programme.  

Earlier…

[End of transcription - 0:45:35]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 3

I    =    Interviewer
R    =    Respondent
M    =    Male

s.l.    =    sounds like.

I:    Paul Fox, Side 3.

R:    The night of the assassination of President Kennedy.  I have to say that our programme was late.  It was, I suppose, 11 o’clock, before we could get all those people together.  Earlier in the evening Rediffusion had done a programme on ITV, and the Producer of that was Milton Shulman, and Milton had got together George Brown, that Canadian actor Ellie…whatever it was.  He’d got a cast of people together who really were nothing to…and that was the night…I mean, here was a programme to mark the death of President Kennedy and George Brown was drunk out of his mind, on the air, and Milton put him on.  

And, I mean, I’ve always blamed Milton that it was absolutely wrong to go on with a drunken George Brown.  And George was uncontrollable, I mean, totally…spoke about my friend Jack and how well he knew LBJ, and this that and the other, and there was, as I say, a couple of actors on.  Milton would tell this story quite well.  Milton is terribly proud that he got that particular programme on the air, and got it on early.  I suppose there’s something to it.  But it was the most appalling programme and did Rediffusion an enormous amount of harm in getting a programme like that on.  And it did George Brown’s career an enormous amount of harm.

    We…I know we were later, quite a bit later, but at least we had a programme that had authority, standing, and had a proper sense of mourning, quite honestly.  By the time we were…before we went on the air the people had come back, the BBC Chiefs had come back from the Dorchester, Kenneth Adam was drunk.  Grace Goldie was drunk.

I:    Really?

R:    It was a pretty depressing sight, quite frankly, to see those BBC people there.  They came back thinking that they were gonna take charge of what was going on.  Fortunately, by the time they came back, it was 9:30, the thing was well in hand.  What Grace then got down to with Donald was, for the following night, the That Was The Week programme to mourn President Kennedy.

    Now that programme’s always been thought of as a most remarkable programme, because it had Dame Sybil Thorndike, Bernard Levin, and Millie Martin, singing a song.  No opening titles.  It was a tribute to Kennedy and, no doubt, Sybil Thorndike’s thing that…reading that poem to Jackie was quite [unclear 0:02:53] so was Bernard Levin’s thing.  But (a) it was done 24 hours after it had happened, and it had its moments but not nearly as bad as they should have been.  

    When we came back after having done our programme that Friday night, Richard was there so maybe Richard must have done it…perhaps Richard had come in…because then the question came up, what will we do about the funeral?  And Richard, even though he was ill by that time, went over and did the commentary on Kennedy’s funeral.  And, of course, it was one of those occasions when every single world leader was present at the funeral.  And I can always still see that shot of de Gaulle walking down behind Kennedy’s coffin, marching down, whichever street it was in Washington, where they went, and the sight of Jacqueline Kennedy with her two children, and LBJ full of mourning.  It was a sight to behold.

    Right, where do we go from here?

I:    Well you’re still Head of Public Affairs.

R:    Head of…yes, so then Grace retired, I suppose.  Leonard had been moved…Hugh Greene had fired Leonard Miall, for reasons still beyond me.  Eric Maschwitz then persuaded Kenneth Adam to intervene on Leonard’s behalf, and Hugh Greene relented, and Leonard came back to do a job for BBC2 at Television Centre.  Grace became in charge of the department, the Talks Department, and the Talks Department was pretty distinguished, I mean, you went to a Talks Department meeting, not only were you there Norman but there were people like David Attenborough and Huw Wheldon, and it was a most distinguished assembly of people, and I always felt really a bit inadequate to be at those fancy meetings in S35 in Sangers [unclear 0:04:52] just get the department and Grace went on, on a monologue.  Alasdair Milne of course, I mean, you know there were some great people.  

    So I became…then when Grace retired I became Head of Current Affairs Group, and I suppose I did that for a couple of years.  What…Panorama was, by that time, in the hands of Jeremy Isaacs, a mistake…

I:    Only for one year.

R:    …which I had made…a mistake I had made.

I:    One year wasn’t it?

R:    Yes, Jeremy was not a success at Panorama.  The reason that Jeremy was not a success was that he wanted…from making it, (a) he didn’t like Dimbleby and didn’t get on with Dimbleby, and said…I mean, and Richard was…and Richard got to hear this, and Richard was so skilled…when I introduced…I had a lunch to introduce Jeremy to Richard, and Richard said, “Ah you’re the man who wants to get rid of me.”  And of course Jeremy was taken aback and quickly fell under Richard’s charm.  Nevertheless, he wanted to get away from the magazine programme and make it a single subject programme.  

    And the very first programme that Jeremy did, as Editor, had Jim Mossman in South America, where the poverty of South America and the role of the Catholic Church.  It was a wonderful film, I mean, most marvellous film, but it wasn’t worth 50 minutes, quite frankly.  And it missed Richard.  Now Jeremy realised the mistake very quickly and by the second programme Richard was there.  But Richard’s role became…was reduced and, of course, by that time he was pretty ill.  And Richard…I mean, Jeremy, of course, then, became an admirer of Dimbleby as anybody who ever worked with him became.  

    But Jeremy’s stay at the BBC was not a successful one.  He was there a year, perhaps a little bit longer.  And then Cyril Bennett persuaded him to come back to Rediffusion.  I’ve always felt guilty because it was I who persuaded Jeremy to come to the BBC over a lunch at the Gay Hussar, I remember.  Jeremy has forgiven me, and he always felt that the year at the BBC didn’t do him any harm.  He went back to Rediffusion.  He became the Head of Features and, of course, eventually the Director of Programmes and so on, and on to Channel 4, etc.  But no doubt the year at the BBC was not a happy one, for him or for the BBC.

    Political programmes grew, I suppose, Gallery became an important programme.  Panorama went on.  During my time as Head of Current Affairs, Tonight came to an end, I brought it to an end, I certainly recommended that it should come to an end.  I thought it had lost its nerve, quite frankly.  It had lost its skills.  It didn’t work at 6 o’clock any longer.  What was needed was a sharper programme at the other end of the evening, and so began 24 Hours, at first three nights a week, under the editorship of Derrick Amoore.  And Derrick…with Tony Whitby…and Derrick, having lost Tonight, threw himself wholeheartedly into 24 Hours.  He was very, very good about it, even though he loved Tonight and was one of Donald Baverstock’s disciples, he then did do very well with 24 Hours.  

And 24 Hours, introduced by Cliff, with Kenneth Allsop, and other reporters, was a much sharper programme, reflected the news of the day much much more, and dealt with the issues of the day much more, and there were some very good people in it.  Tony Smith still worked in it.  Tony became the Editor.  Tony Whitby became the Editor.  Tony Smith became the Editor.  And in the end 24 Hours went on.  And, of course, at the other end of the evening Nationwide began.  But Nationwide began…by that time I’d gone to become Controller at BBC1.  

So I spent six years altogether in Talks and Current Affairs, or whatever you wanted to call it at Lime Grove.  Two years as the Editor of Panorama.  Two years as the Editor of Public Affairs.  And two years as Head of Current Affairs Group.  And then the call came from Huw Wheldon to become Controller of BBC1 and that was that.

I:    Do you…sorry, to go back, did you…I mentioned in my note to you Paul, were you there during the Yesterday’s Men crisis?

R:    As Controller of BBC1 I was, yes.

I:    Ah sorry, yes.  Well we’ll mention that later.

R:    Now the Yesterday…well, the Yesterday’s Men crisis is interesting.  I did that election, the election when Wilson lost.  I was a Producer of that election with Dick Francis as a Director.  And there was no doubt the relationship between Harold Wilson and the BBC had soured, and it had soured to some extent, I suppose, I mean, he certainly pointed the finger in my direction saying that I had soured it.  

Now what one had to remember about the whole Wilson premiership is this.  Before Wilson became Prime Minister he had appeared regularly on BBC television.  He was there in and out, and he was an exceptionally good operator on the television screen.  Always available.  He got to know the people involved, and we were on Christian name terms.  It was Harold, very close to John Grist, etc., and he was there at Lime Grove.  He would stay to drink afterwards and tell all sorts of stories, and we really got along.  

He got to know Hugh Greene fairly well, who was then the Director-General.  Hugh entertained him in his house in Holland Park.  And when the election was called, the ’64 election, when the ’64 election was called the BBC schedule on that Thursday night included Steptoe, Steptoe & Son.  Steptoe at that time was the most popular comedy programme on British television.  The audiences were 12, 14, 15 million people.  Marcia Falkender…Marcia Williams, as she then was, was working for Wilson at that time and she knew about things, she had a feel for things.  And Marcia realised that if Steptoe went out on Thursday night at 8:30, half an hour before the polls closed, that Labour would lose a lot of voters on that night.  And she said to H. Wilson, who then…”Get Steptoe off the screen on that night.”  And Wilson, being close to Hugh Greene, persuaded Hugh Greene to take it off on polling night.  

    Now, did Greene make a mistake?  I honestly don’t think so.  I think it was in the public interest that a programme…that people went out to vote, and that people were not kept at home because there was a popular television programme on the air.  And Greene did the decent thing, not because of Wilson, he did it, quite honestly I think it was the correct thing to do.  And Steptoe came off and as we all know Labour won, a very, very narrow win on that night, four seats wasn’t it?  Whatever it was.  And no doubt, no doubt, the fact that Steptoe was not on the air that night…not a new edition of Steptoe was not on the air that night may…was…had an effect on the outcome of the election.  Wilson was pleased.  He continued to be friends with the BBC.  But of course the relationship changed.  Once the man goes into No.10 Downing Street it’s a different thing.  

    Wilson then tried to persuade Hugh Greene to allow him to speak to the nation, say, “What I want to do Hugh…” was fireside chats, regular fireside chats, the way President Roosevelt used to do on radio.  And Greene said, “Well of course by all means, if you want to take up…have a fireside chat, that is your right, you call a prime ministerial broadcast, I just have to tell you one thing that we…the BBC will invite Alec Douglas-Home and Jo Grimond to give similar broadcasts on the following days.”  “Oh really, why is that?”  “Well that is a thing called balance Prime Minister.”  Said Hugh Greene to Wilson.  And from that moment onwards the relationship soured.  Wilson thought Greene was difficult.  Wilson thought that Lime Grove was difficult, and that the people at Lime Grove, notably…he got on with Grace but, notably, Paul Fox and, notably, John Grist, were difficult people who didn’t like him.

    Ted Heath began to emerge as a more popular figure on television.  And there were two major rows between Wilson and the BBC, and one was at a Party Conference in Brighton, when John Grist was summoned by Wilson, who was then Prime Minister, and given an almighty dressing down in front of everybody, in front of the press, in front of colleagues.  And John behaved most honourably and kept quite, and took the dressing down like a gentleman.  Wilson was wrong…I’ve forgotten what the hell it was about, I mean, the issue really doesn’t matter.  It was a public dressing down, which was then reported in the papers, and Wilson was playing to the gallery as he always did.  So the relationships were bad.

    He was then out of office, Heath came in, and by the time we came to Yesterday’s Men…by the time we came to that election…let’s talk about the election first…I had taken it upon myself as a Producer of the election to try and get an interview with Wilson, live from the train on Friday morning.  The train that was bringing him from Liverpool to what one assumed would be Downing Street.  And we had rigged the cameras and the…all the equipment to do a live interview from the train, which was quite an innovation.  John Morgan was the interviewer.  And we thought, well, John Morgan is a friend of Wilson’s he’ll persuade him.  

Now, to be fair, I had not asked Wilson’s permission or…(a) for the interview or approval for the interview, I had not issued any invitations, nor had I asked permission, not that I thought it was needed, to do the live thing from the train.  Wilson took it amiss, I mean, he thought he was…he was outraged that I had assumed, without asking him…or Marcia may have been outraged…that I had gone ahead in this thing without ever speaking to them about it.  And he flatly refused to talk to the BBC.  Flatly refused to speak to his friend John Morgan.  What was worse, he gave an interview to ITN.  ITN did not have the facilities on the train.  ITN threw the tape out at Crewe Station and got the interview on the air before we did.  

    But we had one little thing left in reserve.  Desmond Wilcox had just arrived at the BBC from Rediffusion, and I’d asked Des to go to Euston Station to meet Wilson off the train and do the interview.  And Wilson, looking at Wilcox, thought here’s another man from ITV and gave the interview to Wilcox, never realising that Wilcox was then working for the BBC.  And Des had done…did the interview and we managed to get it.  But Wilson, he never forgave me.  He never forgave the BBC.

    And then years later, when he was out of office, came the story of Yesterday’s Men.  I went and had…I suppose, I was Controller of…I may have been still…whatever it was…I had lunch with David Dimbleby at Chez Ciccio’s in Kensington [unclear 0:17:00] [s.l. still remember the thing], and David sold me on the idea, when Wilson’s out of office we’ll do a programme on the end of the Labour government.  We will interview Wilson.  We will interview Tony Crosland, Jim Callaghan, Richard Crossman, Roy Jenkins, all the people who had been in power, and we’ll do a programme on them.  I thought excellent idea.  Smashing.  

Foolishly, I did not ask David what the title of that programme was going to be.  David went on, did the programme.  I was at Television Centre as Controller.  John Grist was the Head of the Current Affairs Group.  Tony Smith was the Editor of 24 Hours.  David was working…David Dimbleby was working on this programme…he was a freelance…was working on the programme to Tony Smith and to John Grist.  The programme happened.  Everybody was interviewed.  First of all there was the enormous row when David did the interview with H. Wilson and asked him about the price…how much money he got for his memoirs.  And Wilson said, “Outrageous, stop the recording at once.”  And then the recording started again and David asked exactly the same question, “What was price of the memoirs?”  Or, “How much money did you get from your memoirs?”  And Wilson said, “Have you ask Ted Heath where he got the money for his yacht from?”  It was one of those child-like rows.  But of course it became known, inevitably, it got in the prints, and Wilson was very difficult.

    All the other, all the others, agreed to be interviewed by David.  Jim Callaghan who was Foreign Secretary.  Roy Jenkins was Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Dick Crossman, Tony Crosland, all those people.  The programme was put together and, eventually, was produced by that woman called Angela…

I:    Pope?

R:    What?  Pope.  Angela Pope.  And eventually it became clear when Radio Times billings came along that the programme was to be called Yesterday’s Men.  To be fair, I was Controller of BBC1 and I didn’t think…I didn’t think it was a particularly witty title but I didn’t think anything dreadful about it, as a title.  But then the row broke.  The programme was in the Radio Times, Yesterday’s Men, Producer, Angela Pope, blah, blah, blah.  Charles Curran was by that time Director-General of the BBC, and Charles Curran gave a dinner party at the Television Centre, and this was in the summer of whatever year it was…July…June…he gave a dinner party for Fred Friendly and others.  And in the middle of this dinner party the phone went, Huw Wheldon, “Could you come to the phone…” have you heard this story?  Has this been told?  

Huw Wheldon…Huw went to the telephone, “Who’s on the phone?”  “This is Lord Goodman.”  “Oh yes, hello.”  “I am speaking on behalf of Harold Wilson, I am representing…I am his Solicitor and I’m complaining about this particular programme, and if nothing is done about this we will issue an injunction first thing in the morning to forbid the programme going out.”  This was on the eve of transmission.  “Thank you very much.”  Lord Goodman put the telephone down and went off.  

Half an hour later the phone rang again, Charles Curran, can you come to the…”Who’s on the phone?”  “Lord Goodman.”  “Lord Goodman.”  “Yes, I’ve just spoken to Mr Wheldon and I’m afraid I didn’t get a very satisfactory reply I am speaking on behalf of Harold Wilson, Tony Crosland, Roy Jenkins, Jim Callaghan, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, and we will issue an injunction tomorrow morning, we think this programme’s absolutely outrageous…” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, “…and unless something is done about it tonight…”  “Well I’m at a dinner party…”  “Well we’ll have to talk about it…”  

Charles Curran went back, talked about it to Huw and between them they decided, well this dinner party’s got to end, and the Americans thought it was absolutely unbelievable that there would be such outrage caused by one programme, and that this Solicitor would be phoning up.  Anyway the Americans were sent packing, and a number of us got together and said, “Well the thing to do is we’ll have to go and see Lord Goodman.”  This was midnight by then on the Wednesday night.  And off we trooped…”Lord Goodman lives in Portland Place?”  “Yes, he lives in Portland…”  

By that time, of course, all the secretaries and everybody had gone home and there was this team of BBC Executives, led by Charles Curran and Huw Wheldon, going along Portland Place, “Where does he live?”  “Oh, I don’t know, he lives somewhere in Portland Place.”  “The number?”  “No, I have no idea of the number.”  There were these senior executives striking matches and lighting cigarette lighters, walking along Portland Place seeing where Lord Goodman lived.  Eventually, 12:30, 12:45, found Lord Goodman, had a most amiable conversation with Arnold, and he said, “No, no, maybe not, maybe we won’t issue an injunction but…” blah, blah, blah…”…we’ll see what happens…what you do tomorrow.”  

By that time, of course, Charles Hill was the Chairman of the BBC, at that time.  There was a meeting of the Board of Governors due to take place on that Thursday, and Charles Hill demanded to see the programme so that he should see it and be able to talk to the Governors.  That’s the first time in the history of the BBC that the Chairman had demanded to see a programme in advance of transmission.  It was outrageous.  But he was the Chairman and Charles Curran could not persuade him to do otherwise.  Charles had seen it by that time.  Huw had seen it.  Both thought it was okay for transmission.  Neither of them liked the title.  Hill saw it and thought, well it was okay, didn’t like the title, but he could convince the Governors that it would go out, and go out it did.  

And just before the real furore broke one story worth telling.  Jim Callaghan, who had been Foreign Secretary in that government appeared on 24 Hours on Friday night and at no stage did Jim complain about the programme, either in the chat beforehand or in the drinks afterwards, or during the programme.  It was Wilson who…I mean, Tony Crosland made a fuss because his house in Ladbroke Grove was shown without permission but, I mean, that was just Tony being mischievous.  Roy didn’t make a fuss.  Jim Callaghan didn’t make a fuss.  The only person who made the fuss was Wilson.  And I suppose when you look back on it, the title Yesterday’s Men was pejorative.

    Two postscripts to this story.  One was, when they…on the Wednesday night, on the eve of the thing…when the trouble was…when it was clear there was gonna be trouble, Angela Pope the Producer had taken the programme home with her, or allegedly home with her, took it with her, certainly didn’t take it…and when people asked, “Well where’s the master of this thing?”  “Well Angela’s taken it with her.”  “Well could somebody ring Angela please?”  Well Angela wasn’t sleeping at home that night, but she’d got it under her pillow somewhere or other, wherever she was sleeping that night and that’s where the cassette was.  That’s one postscript.

The other postscript, more amusing actually than that, was this Thursday was Huw Wheldon’s day in the BBC box at Royal Ascot.  And Huw said, “Well…” to me, he said, “Look it’s out of the question old boy I can’t possibly go to Ascot, you’ll have to take my place, you be the host in the box and you enjoy yourself, because I’ll have to go the Governors meeting and make sure that this programme goes out.”  I said, “Okay, fine, terrific, wonderful, had a lovely day.”  “Oh…” he said, “…just one tiny spot of bother, Lord Goodman is among your guests.”  

And so we went…Betty and I went to Ascot and all sorts of people were there, we arrived, good time, entertained our guests.  By 1 o’clock time lunch no sign of Lord Goodman, of course, naturally, none whatsoever.  People kept putting their heads round the door saying, “Has Lord Goodman arrived?”  “No, awfully sorry.”  We started eating, kept a place for him.  Sure enough at 1:45 Lord Goodman bowled up, “Ah very nice to see you…” blah, blah, blah, all wonderful, lovely.  Ate his food.  People arrived, kept whispering in his ear.  Goodman had a terrific helping of salmon.  Ate the strawberries.  Had a bet on the Gold Cup.  Chatted about Southern Rhodesia, he’d just come back as Wilson’s envoy.  The row with the BBC from the previous night was never mentioned.  Not at any stage was it mentioned.  It could never have happened.  He stayed for the Gold Cup.  Naturally, he’d backed the winner.  He collected his winnings.  Had another portion of strawberries and buggered off.  

And the programme went out that night and that was the end of Good…he never…you would never believe that he and the BBC were gonna meet in court.  Out of the question.  It was hilarious.  

So Yesterday’s Men…if…truly after all these years, looking back on it, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the programme.  If the programme had been called, Last Thoughts of the Labour Administration, or, H. Wilson Looks Back on Ten Years…or however many years…in Downing Street, it would have been fine.  It was the title, which was unquestionably pejorative and the title should have been spotted.  It cost John Grist his job as Head of Current Affairs, there’s no question about that.  That was the consequence.  And John Grist was moved, either to Washington, either to New York, or…no, he was moved, became Controller Midlands, he was moved out in the regions.  And that was that Yesterday’s Men story.

I:    Fascinating.

R:    Go on, anything else?

I:    Well, you’re now Controller 1, you’ve just…

R:    I’m now Controller BBC1, what did I do as Controller BBC1?

I:    Yeah.

R:    I enjoyed myself hugely.

I:    Important years, they were.

R:    Undoubtedly.  Well, they were important years.  They were years like…the years [unclear 0:27:08]…the years had certainly included the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, I suppose, that was the most important thing.  We certainly…the most thing that happened because we reported on it well.  Lots of…other assassin…the assassination of Martin Luther King.  The assassination of Bobby Kennedy.  And, I mean, the most important, the Russians in Czechoslovakia.  

    And thanks to the bravery of the Czech’s we were able to get television coverage out of Czechoslovakia, live on the air, and were able to plan the BBC1 schedule so that it reflected the news of the…special programmes were a great thing in those days.  I had a marvellous…two wonderful colleagues in planning.  First of all, Colin Shaw and later on Tony Preston and, indeed, Peter Rowley who’d been a distinguished BBC Correspondent in Algeria and in France, so those were the three people in planning who helped enormously readjusting the schedule and making sure that we could get the stuff on the air when it was wanted, when it reflected the news.

    And BBC1 was a lively channel in those days.  Did I do anything…what do I look back on with satisfaction?  I suppose, one of them was, unquestionably, I managed to get the news back to 9 o’clock.  The news in those days was either at 8:50 or 9:10, and the reason for that was because BBC programmes, as indeed American programmes, were…had a running time of 50 minutes.  And therefore, it was very difficult to get to an hour, to get to the…on the hour for a change of programmes.  And to get the news to 9 o’clock did require a certain number of adjustments, and playing around with the schedule.  I enjoyed playing around with the schedule.  Once the news was established back at 9 o’clock, where it should have been, the 9 o’clock news, from that on the news run in those days by Desmond Taylor, lovely chap, wonderful news programmes in those days, wonderfully professionally, the 9 o’clock news became established.  That, I think, gave me [unclear 0:29:16].

    In the…my views, really, on the Heads of Departments were there…that the Heads of Departments were there to offer programmes.  If the programmes worked they were on the air.  It was up to them to get on with making the programmes.  What I had available were the two most important things any person could have, I had air time and budgets, I had control over those two things.  And in that way, one was able to control the schedule.  I was lucky I had David Attenborough next to me as Controller of BBC2, at first, and then later on Robin Scott came along, and BBC1 and BBC2 were going concerns in those times.

    Huw Wheldon was the boss, first as Controller of Programmes.  Kenneth Adam was still there.  But Kenneth Adam by that time was pretty much the worse for wear, even in the mornings.  And when Kenneth retired, Huw became the Managing Director…or the Director first and then the Managing Director.  David then became…David Attenborough then became the…

I:    Director of Programmes.

R:    …Director of Programmes, really a job that wasn’t very satisfactory.  And Robin came…Robin Scott came next door, and BBC1…I…two things I believed in, unquestionably, I did believe in the ratings, and felt the ratings were important, that we mustn’t fall behind.  I did believe in a schedule, landmarks, I’d built the schedule around landmarks.  The schedule didn’t change too often.  But the content of the programmes was up to the Heads of Departments.  And I had terrific group…Heads of Departments.  In drama was Sydney Newman first, followed then by Shaun Sutton.  In light entertainment I had Tom Sloan first, followed then by Bill Cotton.  And two terrific Heads of…one of comedy, one of light entertainment, Duncan Wood at first, wonderful, and then Michael Mills, enormous successes.  And it was up to the Heads of Departments to get the programmes on the air.

    And over at Kensington House there was Bryan Cowgill in charge of sport.  And you, Norman, in music and arts.  Steven Hurst was there.  Aubrey Singer in charge of science and features.  And it was…I mean, again, I was very fortunate with the reporters in Panorama, I was exceptionally lucky with the Heads of Departments.  And the Heads of Departments were allowed to choose the programmes they wanted to offer.  And once the offers meetings had been concluded and I said…I only had…I had…only had three words to say, really, at those meetings, yes, no, or, maybe.  I either said, yes, to an offer, or no, or maybe.  And it worked.  And it worked, I believe, very well.

    Planning Department were terrific because they helped to get the schedule going, they found the resources.  And I liked it…I mean, I know I had a wonderful time in those six years.  I’d like to think that BBC1 looked good.  That BBC1 was popular.  And that BBC1 had some distinguished programmes.  I have to say I didn’t read the scripts in advance.  I didn’t feel that this was my job, that’s what the Heads of Departments were there for.  Nor…I did discuss casting occasionally, but in the end those decisions were left to the people who were running the departments.  It was their job to get on with it.  And they did get a great deal of freedom.

I:    I remember showing you one programme in advance, which was Ken Russell’s film on Richard Strauss, do you remember?

R:    Indeed I do.

I:    Dance of the Seven Veils.

R:    Indeed.

I:    But you let it go.

R:    Well I [unclear 0:32:57].

I:    And David was with you too, David Attenborough.

R:    Yes.  Well because I didn’t feel sufficiently confidently in being able to make a judgement on that particular…on that bit…but there was also Tony Palmer’s film on Vietnam, if you remember?

I:    No, All My Loving.

R:    All My…

I:    Yeah, pop music.

R:    Pop music…sorry, pop music.  But it included…

I:    It had a sequence about a burning monk.

R:    …it included that sequence…no, it also included that sequence…

I:    Oh yes, sorry, yes.

R:    …of the Police Chief in Saigon putting the pistol to the guy…to a prisoner’s head and killing him.

I:    That’s right.

R:    Now I had enormous doubts about letting that go.

I:    And Tony showed it to the background of The Beatles, on the soundtrack.

R:    Yes.  In the end, because it was Tony and because I thought he was pretty serious about this, I let it go.  I don’t…I have no regrets about that.

I:    It’s been repeated two or three times.

R:    Well I have no regrets.  I mean, I’m…the relationship with the news was excellent.  The news got airtime.  The relationship with sport was good.  Special programmes went on the air.  While I believed in the sanctity of the schedule, when the events dictated, the schedule was thrown overboard and special programmes went out.  There were lots of trailers; presentations did a super job in those days.  I mean, obviously, with a value of hindsight I look back on it as good days.  

Monty Python started in that time.  It may not have started at the best time.  They were the people I did meet because they were very unhappy about the slot I allocated them.  It was experimental comedy at that time.  They came on, on a Tuesday evening at a time when it was only visible in London.  And Michael Mills, who was the Head of the Department, and John Cleese and the others, were furious that it was done at that time.  And eventually, once the programme had been established, it was promoted to better times.  It never ran on BBC2.  It only ran on BBC1.  And I still speak to John Cleese now…I must go.  I’m perfectly happy to come for another session…

       [Interview paused - 0:35:04]

[Interview resumed - 0:35:05]

M:    Right, we’re running now.

I:    Yes, let’s continue.  Monty Python Act 2.

R:    Well the Monty Python…the placing of Monty Python in the BBC schedules was a course of heated debate.  I mean, the real problem, as I said, was, that it was not seen outside London, and that they were irritated by this.  But this was, to some extent, I mean, let’s be clear, the first series was avant-garde comedy.  One was…one thought this was something for London only.  I know John Cleese and the others were deeply irritated by this, but the second series, and the third series, and the fourth series, and however many series there were after that, were certainly placed in a prominent position.  And I have to say that whenever I see John Cleese now, and I do bump into him occasionally, or any of the others, I mean, Michael Palin I see at football and at other places, I mean, they could not be more pleasant, all the…such arguments as there were, were professional arguments, all forgotten.  I admire them enormously.  And, of course, they’ve achieved…they’ve made wonderful achievements.  If you look at John Cleese as a major movie star.  Michael Palin as a major contributor to BBC television programmes, the travel programme.  And the others have all done really tremendously well.  Monty Python was a joy.  Michael Mills who brought it to the BBC was a most inventive Head of Comedy, and he died much too young.

I:    True.  Okay then, we…probably reached the end of your BBC career part one, Paul.  So we’re in the early ‘70s aren’t we?  Is it ’70…?

R:    3, something like that?

I:    ’73, yes.

R:    Yes, I suppose…

I:    And then…

R:    So I’d been Controller at BBC1 for seven years, and I’d always been one of those people who had moved on to other jobs.  And the set up at the BBC at that time was that Huw Wheldon was the Managing Director.  David Attenborough was the Director of Programmes.  I was in charge of 1.  Robin Scott was in charge of BBC2.  It was a splendid arrangement, worked wonderfully well.  And then David suddenly…David Attenborough suddenly decided that he’d rather go back and put his shorts on again.  And the reason for that, quite straightforwardly was, that I had a gap in my Christmas schedule one year, I suppose it was ’71, maybe it had been ’72, and there was an hour’s gap and the programme that was needed, unquestionably, was a nature documentary, a documentary about…natural history documentary.  And I knew the chap who could do it better than anybody else, and that was David.  And David then in his exotic role as, whatever he was called, Director of Programmes, by and large in charge of the lavatories and the computer project, in a boring job, jumped at the chance to go off.  He wasn’t sure whether he could still do it.  But anyway, there he was.  Off he went.  Did a most wonderful programme, which got an audience of 11 or 12 million on Christmas.  And David suddenly thought, by golly, I can go back to the old stuff and to hell with this bureaucracy.

I:    Yeah, what was the programme?

R:    I’ve honestly forgotten the name of the programme.  It was a programme that was placed on Boxing Day, or may have been the 27th of December.  It was the most marvellous programme.  I don’t know, he’d gone to Borneo or somewhere, one of those places that David used to travel to.  And he was, having been a bureaucrat, a BBC bureaucrat, for 8/9/10 years, and having done a wonderful job, having turned down the chance to become Director-General as, indeed, David…David was offered that by Lord Hill, absolutely turned it down flat, and went back and said, “I’m leaving my desk.  I’m going.”  Huw Wheldon couldn’t hold him.  He’d done a…David had done a sensational job for the BBC.  He had rescued BBC2, unquestionably.  He made friends around the place with everybody, and it was a pleasure to see him, wherever David walked.  And the combination of Huw and David was incredibly strong.  I mean, here were these…egging each other on, as far as the stories were concerned.  It was a wonderful time to be on the 6th floor of the Television Centre.  

    David went, a large plank had left…had dropped out of the…Huw was clearly coming closer to retirement.  He’d been made Deputy Director-General.  His chance of becoming Director-General had gone, and I was getting bored.  And the opportunity did come.  Huw did say to me, in passing, how would you like to become Director of Programmes, take David’s job?  And I thought that seeing how disenchanted David had become with this job, I thought that this was something that I didn’t really fancy, and I said so to Huw, “No, I’m not interested.”  And he brought Alasdair Milne back from Controller of Scotland into the job as Director of Programmes.

    Now Alasdair and I had known each other in Lime Grove.  We were colleagues.  We were friends, but we were cool friends, let’s put it clearly.  I admired Alasdair enormously.  Here was this young man who’d come, more or less, straight from Oxford after having done his National Service, into the BBC.  Without him Tonight would never have happened, would never have got on the air.  Donald Baverstock may have had the idea but Alasdair actually ensured that the programme got on the screen.  And then he left the BBC in rather sad circumstances, because Donald left, he felt he ought to go.  And Huw Wheldon brought in him back, and brought him back, first, as Controller of Scotland, and then brought him back into the centre of things at Director of Programmes.

    And, quite frankly, having been Alasdair’s equal, so to speak, in the old Talks Department under Grace Goldie, I didn’t really fancy Alasdair suddenly becoming my boss.  I’d got on with David because we were equal.  And Alasdair then started sitting in on office meetings and things that, in the past, really had been left to the Controller of BBC1, and I got…I mean, I don’t think I got tetchy but I was just slightly irritated.  And suddenly Alan Whicker phoned up.  And Alan said…Alan, who had left the BBC, was working for Yorkshire Television.  But Alan and I had always been friends.  He was still living in Regent’s Park in those days, in London.  And Alan said, “Why don’t you come over to lunch on Sunday, I want you to meet somebody.”  And over lunch on Sunday, at Alan’s home, I met Ward Thomas, then the Managing Director of Yorkshire Television.  

And Ward and I we’d met each other briefly, we knew each other vaguely, and we chatted.  And Ward said, “How would you like to come to Yorkshire Television as Director of Programmes?”  I said, “You’ve got a Director of Programmes…” Donald Baverstock was the Director of Programmes.  He said, “Well Donald is coming to the end of his time and Donald will have to go and you take his place.”  That was an extraordinary circumstance, because 7/8 years earlier, I had been in a consortium with Tim [s.l. Heward 0:42:22] and others, to apply for the Yorkshire franchise.  I mean, it was a combination of that marvellous…it was Tim Heward, David Coleman, James MacTaggart, Alan…whatever his name was…the variety chap…and I.  Tim as the Director of Programmes.  I as the Deputy Director…so we tried for Yorkshire Television ages before…when Yorkshire first started.

I:    Yeah, well this will be 1967, before they began, or the year before…

R:    Correct.

I:    …what it is ’67, I think.

R:    Before I became Controller BBC1…and when I lost that I became Controller BBC1...and we lost that franchise.  Ward Thomas and his group headed by Sir Richard Graham and the Yorkshire Post, won the contract, and here seven years later was Ward offering me the job to go to Yorkshire Television.  Well it took a little bit of negotiating.  But the terms…quite frankly, the financial terms were so good, and so much better than the BBC, plus the possibility of actually getting some shares in a public company, that I was deeply attracted.  I was bored at the BBC and I didn’t really…I wasn’t really looking forward to working with Alasdair, so the negotiations with Ward were kept wonderfully secret.  Nothing leaked out.  Nothing at all.  

I went into Huw on a Monday or a Tuesday said, “I’m sorry I’m gonna go.”  And Huw was deeply upset, I mean, truly was.  And it was still in those days…he said, “Well if you’re going you’ve got to within 24 hours or less, clear your desk.”  I was a little hurt, I mean, I’d done, whatever it was, 23 years service in the BBC, I’d given it a fair whack of my time.  And Huw said, “Off you go.”

M:    Sorry, stop there.

[End of transcription - 0:44:29]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 4

I    =    Interviewer
R    =    Respondent
M    =    Male

s.l.    =    sounds like.

I:    Paul Fox, Side 4.

R:    So, Hugh said, “Clear your desk, off you go.”  And, I have to say, that I left the BBC after 22 years service without a drink, without anybody…I mean, my secretary and I had a drink.  She was upset, Anne Fox, and I left and that was it.  Now fortunately arrangements were in hand that Betty and I would go on holiday, 24 hours later, to Portugal.  And there I was, having left the BBC, cleared my desk, gone home, following day, or 48 hours later we went off to the Algarve, had a few messages down in the Algarve from people.  And two weeks later, after the Algarve holiday, I turned up at Yorkshire Television in Leeds.

    Donald having gone…I mean, the truth of the…the fact of the matter was that Donald had been fired by Ward and I had taken his place.  Arrived at Yorkshire, in fairly strange surroundings, I didn’t know many people at all.  But found that there was a great deal of work to be done.  We decided not to move house, not to move homes, up to Yorkshire.  Yorkshire Television offered me a house up at Menston on the way to Ilkley, and I stayed there.  And the decision about moving really was made, really, by what Lord Thomas said to me, “You’ve gotta make up your mind where you want to spend your weekends.”  And quite honestly, Betty and I had decided that we wanted to continue to spend our weekends at home in London, and there we stayed.

    And I did, during the next 15 years, I suppose, in Yorkshire Television.  I spent more time than I would have thought on the M1 and on the train between London and Leeds than I spent in the office, because I did find that the bulk of the work, all the lobbying, all the negotiations, all the meetings, all those things took place in London.  And I wanted to ensure that Yorkshire Television, fairly new major television company, ITV company, had to have a place in the sun.  Had to be there at the top table with the big boys.  And I suppose one helped to bring that about.

    So, on to Yorkshire.  My first meeting in ITV was…I mean, ITV was totally dominated by meetings.  You were there at meetings all the time.  The Controllers met.  The Managing Directors met with the Controllers.  You met with the IBA.  You met for this.  You met for that.  The meetings were constant.  And one met a large number of new people as a result of that.  I mean, David Plowright, John Birt, Michael Grade, Brian Tesler, Cyril Bennett, all people I’d known vaguely before, I met, and we became colleagues, we became friends, and these friendships to some have lasted to this day.

    My very first meeting in ITV was at the old ATV House.  It was a meeting of the five major Managing Directors and the five Programme Controllers.

I:    That in Cumberland Place was it?

R:    In Cumberland Place.  Cumberland Place at old Lew’s place.  And I arrived at…in time and, I suppose, I was the first one there.  And Lew was there, and Lew said, “Good morning Paul, how lovely to see you, have a cigar.”  And opened the cigar box and, “Have a cigar now and put two in your pocket for later on.”  And I suddenly realised what the difference was between meetings in the BBC and meetings in ITV.

    Meetings in the BBC always began with the immortal phrase, “Have you had coffee yet?”  Meetings at ITV clearly begun, “Please have a cigar, and take one for later.”  And Lew, of course, I mean, those were the days when Lew was around.  When Howard Thomas was still around.  When Sidney Bernstein and Cecil, indeed, were at Granada.  And Denis Forman, of course.  And who else?  And London Weekend Television was then run by John Freeman.  I mean, it was, let’s be clear about it, the people, the calibre of the people who would sit round the table in ITV outshone the talent of the people who were in the BBC.

I:    And they knew a lot about programmes.

R:    And they knew a hell of a lot about programmes.

I:    And which were good and which were not.

R:    Absolutely.

I:    And how to make good ones.

R:    Absolutely.  Because they were all programme makers.  They were all programme makers.  The people who were the bosses in ITV were programme makers.  Let me just, it’s just worth going through it again.  ATV, Lew Grade, I mean, the master showman of all time, in the days when he was still, I mean, I suppose I joined when he was still…I suppose, he’d just been made Sir Lew Grade.  Lew Grade assisted by Bill Ward, the pioneer of television.  

    At Granada, Sidney Bernstein was in full flow, assisted by his brother Cecil.  Assisted by Denis Forman.  Assisted by David Plowright.  I mean, all of them knew what programme making was about.  

    At LWT, John Freeman, I mean, here, you know, the man who had been a master diplomat, Ambassador in Washington…and High Commissioner in New Delhi.  The man who made face to face, had as his Programme Controller, Cyril Bennett.  The lovely, wonderful Cyril, who had been all over in commercial television, knew what it was about.

    That’s three companies.  And then there was Thames.  Thames?  Yes.  And then there was Thames headed by Howard Thomas, with Brian Tesler as Director.  George Cooper the man…no, with…Howard Thomas as the Managing Director and Brian Tesler as his Programme Controller.

    And then there was Yorkshire, I mean, Brian being in television…I knew Brian when he was in the BBC, one of the outstanding intellects of our time, and also a wonderful producer of entertainment.  And Brian ran Thames brilliantly.

    And then there was this new company, Yorkshire Television, headed by Ward Thomas, who had been trained at Granada by Sidney in the Sales Department.  Had then gone on to become Managing Director at Yorkshire Television.  Was a bit feared around the place because Ward could be cool and tough.  But Ward ensured that Yorkshire Television had its place at the top table, and insisted that Yorkshire was one of the big five.  And I helped him do that.  And I have to say, I had one hell of a good time in ITV in those days.  The company was terrific.  Of course there were hard negotiations, and when the five companies dominate…the five majors dominated the network, the network worked extremely well.

    There were enough people around that table to ensure that there were good place for public affairs programmes.  David Plowright ensured that.  I ensured that.  Cyril Bennett ensured that.  Bill and Brian, you look at the group of five Programme Controllers, Bill Ward, Cyril Bennett, David Plowright, Brian Tesler, and I.  It was a fantastic collection with old Frank Copplestone as the Chairman, and later on Berkeley Smith as the Chairman.  

I mean, here were people who understood television.  Who cared for television.  Who were interested in ratings.  Of course, we were interested in ratings.  No question.  But we are also interested in good programmes.  And while each of the majors had to have its share of programmes, and we negotiated hard for that, we also knew (a) that the schedule mattered more than anything, (b) that the audience mattered, most of all, and thirdly, that there had to be compromises.  And the compromises came about because we understood each other, and we were…may have been rivals but we were also mates.  And it worked extremely well.

    So that was that run of Yorkshire Television.  I really, truly enjoyed it.  Yorkshire was…I mean, Yorkshire programmes…there were two people at Yorkshire who had helped to make good programmes…three.  One was Peter Wills who had ensured that there was a wonderful drama tradition at Yorkshire.  He’d come from Rediffusion.  Here was this old war hero, former Hollywood actor who was a showman in the extreme really, limping away on one leg.  Moaning like mad.  But doing wonderful drama.

    Secondly, Tony Essex had gone there from the BBC to start the drama tradition…to start the documentary tradition, and there was a strong documentary tradition at Yorkshire, quite apart from Alan Whicker.  The Whicker programmes, Whickers World was at its best, it got ratings and they were good programmes.  There was another documentary tradition.  And when Tony died he was succeeded by a man called John Fairley, who is now the Managing Director at Yorkshire Television, and John, who had been brought in by Donald Baverstock, from radio, he’d never done…been in television before in his life, ensured that there was a strong tradition of documentary programmes.  Strong local programmes.

    And the one thing that I did, I brought in Duncan Wood from the BBC, to head entertainment.  And Duncan was sensational, I mean, I’d always admired Duncan at the BBC.  Not only was he great as a boss of comedy, Duncan was also much underrated.  A wonderful manager of people and resources.  And I knew how to get Duncan across to Yorkshire Television, it wasn’t money.  What Duncan wanted was longer holidays, because to spend more time on the golf courses.  And I ensure…and to spend time in Spain.  And what I gave Duncan to get him across from the BBC, I ensured that he’d have seven weeks holiday a year, instead of the four weeks…and he came.  And Duncan and I got on wonderfully well.  And I got on with John Fairley as well, very well.  And Peter.  

And Duncan really turned…helped to turn Yorkshire around, because the entertainment side had been awful.  Absolutely appalling.  There was a fellow called John Duncan who was one of Donald Baverstock’s mates, who was running entertainment and…hell of a nice fellow but hopeless at light entertainment.  And the very first act I took at Yorkshire Television I yanked a comedy series off the air, it had been on for two episodes.  It was Jimmy Edwards.  I can’t remember the title.  But it was the most appalling show out.  And I said, “No, alright, this series will not go on the air any longer.  We’re killing it and that’s it.”  And Duncan arrived two or three weeks later, and as a result of Duncan’s arrival, we managed to get Rising Damp.  And he brought in Vernon Lawrence as his deputy, and we suddenly set off on a great run of comedy programmes.  And so Yorkshire was [s.l. established 0:11:31] and everything was going well, fine, dandy.

I:    Wasn’t Joy Whitby there too?

R:    Joy Whitby came along afterwards…

I:    Children’s programmes.

R:    …as the Head of Children’s.  Yes, indeed, yes.

I:    And Tony Preston?  Yeah?

R:    Well, let’s come to Tony.  I assumed…I mean, the person who…just to go back to the beginning of this, I mean, Ward Thomas was the Managing Director.  Sir Richard Graham, splendid Yorkshire landowner, figure in Yorkshire, was the Chairman.  But Yorkshire Television was owned by Trident Television.  And the Chairman of Trident was James Hanson, great Yorkshire figure.  And before I was…before Ward could actually settle my contract I went along to meet James Hanson.  And there was this 6 foot 5 figure I’d heard about, you know, the man had been engaged to Audrey Hepburn, it’s well known, and here was this great tycoon on the way up.  Exceptionally handsome man, and vigorous, and all that.  And I took to James, I have to say, I immediately took a…liked him.  And he said, “Well, all goes well you’ll be the Managing Director of this company within three or four years.”  And he kept his word.

    And sure enough after being there, I don’t know, perhaps five years, I became first Joint Managing Director with Ward, and kept my Controller of Programmes job, so I was Joint Managing Director and Director of Programmes.  And then Ward decided to move further up, somewhere or other, Hanson became the Chairman of the company.  Ward became the Group Chief Executive, and I was a Managing Director and Director of Programmes at Yorkshire Television.

    So the meetings in London were continuous.  Perhaps it’s…looking back on it, perhaps I should have appointed a Programme Controller, what I did instead was to bring along somebody as Deputy Managing Director.  And the man I went to was an old chum and one of my oldest mates, from the BBC, Tony Preston.  I’d first met Tony when he was my Planning Assistant when I was Controller BBC1.  He then became the Head of Planning at the BBC.  He then went to light entertainment, Bill Cotton moved him, made him Assistant Head of Variety.  He then succeeded Bryan Cowgill as the Head of OB and Sport in the BBC.  And then, once I’d been in ITV for a couple of years, I suggested to him that there was a vacancy as Controller of Programmers at…Controller at Southern Television, when Berkeley had gone, and Tony went there.  And that his first time in ITV.  He worked for John Davies, for David Wilson.  

But we were great mates.  We talked to each other once a week on the telephone.  And when the Yorkshire vacancy came up, I persuaded Tony to come up to Yorkshire to join me.  And I have to say, he was absolutely marvellous, Tony, I mean, incredibly loyal, wonderfully hardworking, and terribly good for the place because he was so good with people.  And he was always there.  He always…always in Leeds.  Whereas I spent, quite possibly, too much time in London.  But I spent time in London because I had to go to these flaming meetings, (a) with the IBA, (b) with the council, with other ITV companies, and no doubt I decided that meetings in London were Monday and Fridays, and sometimes they were Tuesday’s as well.  So quite often I’d only spend two days in Yorkshire, Wednesday and Thursday.

    Tony and I shared the house.  It saddens me to say, there’s no doubt, it…his move to Leeds ruined his marriage.  He…his wife decided not to come up to live in Leeds.  He’d got a wonderful house from the company, she should have come up, and Tony would have been the King of Yorkshire.  Sadly, she decided not to and the marriage broke up as a result of that.  

    So, Yorkshire days, just one…a couple of key things.  Franchise renewal.  Yorkshire had had one easy franchise renewal.  The next one that came along when Lord Aylestone was the Chairman of the IBA, and the dreaded Brian Young was the Chief Executive…yes.

I:    What year was that, Paul?

R:    I’m hopeless at years.  I’d been there about five years, I suppose, about ’78, a bit longer?

I:    Something like that.

R:    ’79 maybe?  Something like that.  There was a franchise renewal process and…or was there an extension?  I think there may have been an extension.  Anyway, Yorkshire got its extension.  But then the next franchise renewal was, again, with Brian Young in charge and Bridget Plowden as the Chairman.  And those…that franchise renewal process was appalling, I mean, absolutely dreadful, for a number of reasons.  This followed the strike, this franchise renewal.  And the strike in…

I:    That was ’79 wasn’t it, the strike?

R:    Yes.  The strike in ITV was a very, very unhappy time.  It was a very unhappy time for the whole of the ITV network.  It was particularly unhappy in Yorkshire Television.  And it was particularly unhappy for me.  I was…I suppose…I think I was the Chairman of the ITV Council at that time…or I had some prominent role in the thing.  And foolishly, or bravely, or foolhardy, I certainly became a key figure in the strike, no doubt.  Seen by the ACTT as this…this is the unacceptable face of ITV, no question about it.  And I was…I dug in…I dug in very hard.  I felt we were being taken to the cleaners by the unions.  And particularly, by the unions in Yorkshire Television.  We had a very, very tough job, led by a man called David Dale, who was the presentation Editor, hell of a nice fellow, unbelievably tough shop steward.  And another guy who then left to go to Thames Television, who’s no longer in television.  Anyway, it was a deeply unhappy time.

    The strike happened…I mean, it was very interesting the story of this strike.  The strike happened during the parliamentary recess.  It was in August.  So at first, quite frankly, ITV didn’t…August, dead time, okay we’re off the air, we’re off the air, the transmitters were closed down.  We had enough staff in Yorkshire Television…enough management staff in Yorkshire Television to get us back on the air; there was no question…non union people.  I mean, there was Ted Wright and other people around who could get us back on the air.  We had enough programmes lined up to get us back on the air.  What we needed were the transmitters…was the Yorkshire transmitter.  

And Ward Thomas who was as strong about keeping the unions out, I mean, whether it was a lockout or whether it was a strike, don’t let’s go into the argument, as far as we were concerned was a strike.  As far as the ACTT was concerned it was a lockout.  Ward was determined that they shouldn’t win, and that we should get on the air.  And he phoned up the IBA.  Brian Young wasn’t there at the time.  The man who was there, who’s now the Chairman of LWT, who was the Deputy Chairman…I’ll come to it in a minute…he was…what the hell is his name?  Man who’s just taken £6 million, £8 million out of LWT, in a share scheme?  Anyway, gone.  He was there.  And Ward said, “Look, could we get the transmitter out?  Could the IBA get the transmitter on the air?”  And he said, “I wish you hadn’t asked me that question, I don’t think we can.”  

And a week later Brian Young was back from holiday and we asked the question again, could we get the transmitter on the air?  And why not?  Well other unions were involved it would be dreadful.  Quite frankly…and Brian Young was undoubtedly scared to…I mean, all it needed was somebody to press a button, the Yorkshire transmitter would have been on the air.  We had a link established between Leeds and the transmitter, and we would have been on the air, and would have defied the union.  And in the end that would have broken the strike.  There’s no question, the IBA should have helped us and decided not to help us.  And the strike went on.  And in the end the strike, I suppose, lasted 6/7/8 weeks?  It was an appalling, a truly appalling…

I:    Yeah, a couple of months I think.

R:    …no revenue…certainly we weren’t paying any wages, but no revenue was coming in.  And the times were exceptionally…it became quite clear.

I:    Well I was Granada at the time.  

R:    So it was tough.

I:    I knew quite a bit about it.

R:    And what the conclusion, I think, it was started by John Freeman, I suppose, really.  John and Denis Forman, and others, decided, look…and Bill Brown at Scottish…we’ve got to settle.  And settle we did, on very unfavourable terms, I have to say.  And I remember being at Yorkshire Television when they came, to be fair to the union, I take my hat off to them now…or soon afterwards actually…they came back…and they came back…and they marched, I mean, all of them came back together, and there was no doubt, I mean, whatever it was, 3/400 people, they’d lined up outside, and they didn’t come back in dribs and drabs, they came back as a union, solidly, marching into the building.  And there we were.

    David Dale and I made peace shortly thereafter.  People who’d been out, who’d been Producers and senior figures, like, Duncan Dallas, and others, came back and life returned to normal.  It was never quite the same.  And the reason it was never quite the same was because some of those people then got themselves involved into a Consortium that bid for the Yorkshire franchise.  Bid for our jobs and for our livelihood.  One of them was Duncan Dallas, and there were others.  Another who’d come out of semi-retirement was Donald Baverstock and Austin Mitchell.  

Austin was an MP by then.  I don’t know how he could possibly have become a member of a…whether he would…he would have had to give up his seat, had that group won its franchise.  Another who was involved in it was Jonathan Aitken, who had also worked at Yorkshire Television.  And another who became involved in it was Stella Richman.  So it was quite a formidable line-up against us.  Donald Baverstock, Stella Richman, Austin Mitchell, Jonathan Aitken, and various people from the Yorkshire Television staff.

    And the story, of course…was the story…was, the Yorkshire Television staff wanted to dump their owners.  Now it wasn’t…I mean, same time we still had to make programmes with these people.  Some of them were, in opposition, having meetings…I stopped them having meetings on our premises.  But certainly, down the road, bidding for my job, for Tony Preston’s job, for our shares, for the company.  I think it was called the White Rose Consortium.  And there was no doubt one had to see them off.  But the IBA thought, oh, there’s something splendidly romantic, here’s the staff bidding for this franchise.  There were other bidders in the wing.

And the franchise…and the great coup…sorry, the one great coup that Austin Mitchell secured, they secured Harold Wilson, then retired, as Chairman of this Consortium.  And here was Sir Harold Wilson chairing the Consortium with Jonathan Aitken, who’d brought in city finance.  Austin, Donald Baverstock, and others.  And this is how the franchise process went.  There were meetings around Yorkshire taking the people’s mind, as Brian Young’s wonderful phrase was.  I went to the first meeting.  First meeting took place at Doncaster Racecourse.  Been widely advertised.  The people of Yorkshire could speak about their television company, make the criticisms.  And the people in the audience were, two old grannies holding their brown bags…two bag ladies, who’d just come out of the rain.  Three boy scouts on an initiative test, and two other worthy citizens of Doncaster.  I promise you there were more people sitting on the platform than there were in the audience.  And that was the one public meeting I went to out in…outside Leeds.

    There was then a final meeting at Leeds Town Hall, which was a deeply unpleasant meeting, when Yorkshire Television were on the platform.  The IBA were there and some IBA authority member was sitting there on the platform…in the chair…and Austin Mitchell, and others, were in the audience, and some members of Yorkshire staff were in the audience.  There were those members of Yorkshire staff who were against the company and had lined with the other Consortium, while still being employed by us, while still having their wages paid by us.  And it was a bitter scene.

    But when we went to the IBA…I mean, of course, the fascinating thing was, here was Bridget Plowden, Brian Young, Colin Shaw had joined them by that time as Deputy Director, and various other people, sitting there in that room on the 8th floor of Brompton Road, and in we trooped, Sir Richard Graham and the Chair, Ward Thomas, as whatever he was, Group Chief Executive.  I, as the Managing Director, this that and the other.  We’d taken Duncan Wood along.  We’d taken Peter Wills along, to show that we were the programme makers, that we…that this is really what it was about.  And we had a perfectly decent interview.  I think we made a good impression, because we talked about programmes, and Bridget listened to all this.  

The next Consortium in was led by H. Wilson, I mean, would you believe here was the former Prime Minister leading the bid against us.  Now Harold, you know, was a little bit gone a little bit by that time.  And suddenly there was Bridget Plowden facing the former Prime Minister.  But, I mean, Harold simply didn’t know how to answer the questions about television, I mean, really it was, quite honestly, it was a hopeless quest.  

But we didn’t win the contract as easily as all that.  We were the…I mean, other companies got their renewals.  Thames got theirs.  LWT did.  Granada did.  ATV did, with difficulty, David Windlesham had to do a fantastic job.  But we were…there were others still bidding.  And what the IBA where unhappy about was this group structure of Trident Television, which of course owned Tyne Tees and Yorkshire Television.  And what they disliked was the Trident Television Group with two programme companies.  And the decision that came down, we went…had to go and collect our envelopes on a Sunday after Christmas, I mean, it was the worse Christmas I’d ever had.  The only worse Christmas was when I was a solider in the Ardennes in 1943…in 1944.  This was, whatever it was, 30 years later.  And it was a thoroughly unpleasant Christmas.  Only the IBA could think of getting us in to get our…to make…announce their decision on the franchises, on the Sunday after Christmas, December the 27th was the date.  Why December?  The Stock Exchange was closed and was quiet.  And no, I mean, we truly, I mean, Christmas Day, Boxing Day were miserable because we simply did not know whether we’d renewed or not.  

Richard Graham and I went in to…on that Sunday…into the IBA, got our letter from Lady Plowden…got a letter…nothing verbal…got a letter…would you like to open the letter in my…no…Bridget, Brian Young sitting there in their two chairs, Richard Graham the Chairman, and I…and I as the Managing Director…opened our envelopes…renewal of Yorkshire Television…yes, you’ve been granted…on the following conditions.  And the conditions were that Yorkshire broke away from Trident Television.  That Trident Television was dissolved.  And that Tyne Tees went its way and that Yorkshire Television went its way.  And that was the only way we could [unclear 0:29:36].  We picked up our envelopes.  We murmured a few words of thanks.  Didn’t really feel like it.  Went downstairs and went across to the Basil Hotel, the outside, where Ward Thomas and James Hanson, by then Lord Hanson…no, by then Sir James Hanson…were waiting, and showed Hanson and Ward this letter, and Hanson was absolutely furious.  

He had been kept out…he’d always been…he had not been recognised by the IBA in any way, because he hadn’t been given a television contract.  The fact that he was the Group Chairman of Trident Television, a publicly quoted company, he was unrecognised.  He was absolutely frozen out by the IBA because they said, “The contract had gone to Yorkshire, gone to Tyne Tees.  This company Trident Television, we do not recognise.”  And James realised that if Yorkshire Television was to continue…and Ward realised…we all realised…we had to de-merge from Trident Television.  Trident Television had to close down.  Tyne…Trident, the group, had to close down really as a television company.  Yorkshire could go on its own way, and Tyne Tees went off on its own way.  And that’s what happened.  

Not quite.  Because there were difficulties about this de-merger, real difficulties, and we had to find new owners for Yorkshire Television.  Trident could no longer be the owner.  We had to find new owners, that became clear.  And I was sitting at home the following Sunday, the following weekend, and I got a call from a man I’d never met before called, James Lee who represented Pearson’s, the Financial Times Group.  And James said, “Look, you and I have never met and I’m interested in getting involved in Yorkshire Television, and we would like to take a shareholding.”  And the next call I got was from a man called Derek Palmer, who was then the Chairman of Bass, and he said, “Look, you and I have never met, but I’m interested in Bass getting in the leisure business and we’d like to take a stake in Yorkshire Television.”  And suddenly, truly, overnight, out of the blue, two people had phoned me who said, “Look, we are coming along to help Yorkshire Television.  We want to invest in Yorkshire Television.  We believe in it…” blah, blah, blah.  And we put this rescue operation into place.

    Bass became the shareholders with 20%.  Sir Derek…Derek Palmer, as he then was, became the Chairman.  Pearson’s came in for 20% and…with James Lee as Deputy Chairman.  The ‘Yorkshire Post’ who’d always been a supporter, stayed, and they took, whatever it was, 15%, which is all they could do.  So suddenly we had 55% of the company…Trident kept a little bit and the rest went out to the public.  And suddenly we had a company again.

One last, though.  Brian Young, in a move I will never forget, came to me, said, “Look…” I mean, this sounds like we’re boasting and egotistical but it is true, “…the reason that Yorkshire got the contract back was because you were there as Managing Director.  We wanted to get rid of the other people.  If I find you some new owners, another company, very keen on Yorkshire Television, would you stay with them?”  Now here was the Director General of the IBA trying to seduce me from my company.  I thought it was the most outrageous thing that had ever happened to me.  And I was so angry.  And I told Brian, this was dreadful behaviour and I absolutely wouldn’t hear of it.  He did the same thing to Peter Payne at Tyne Tees Television, because he and I swapped stories, because we both knew we were being seen privately by Brian Young.  Peter and I were the…I mean, he and I were…we exchanged stories.  I didn’t tell another soul, nor did Peter.  Obviously I told my wife, I thought it was outrageous.

Now there was another group waiting in the wings, unquestionably.  And it was a group that Brian Young had somehow got together, which had failed down in Southern Television, TVS had got the contract in the South, and another group had got together, and he had various people together said, “Look, they’ll get the contract, all they need is you to come in as the Managing Director, and I will give it to them rather than to Yorkshire people.”  And I thought it was monstrous.  And really, because of that, because I was so angry at that, that we…that we…we managed to get this group with Derek Palmer, Bass, Pearson’s, the ‘Yorkshire Post’, and eventually WHSmith came along.  So we had a very strong company with blue chipped shareholders, and they invested well in the company.  I was retained as Managing Director and Controller of Programmes, although within a year, I suppose, I decided that John Fairley should become Controller of Programmes.  

And five years later we floated that company on the Stock Exchange.  We were over subscribed, whatever it was, 55 times.  And it was an exceptionally good company.  Brian Young, thank God, had disappeared from the IBA.  Bridget had gone as well, to be succeeded by…John Whitney took…yes, I know…Bridget had…Bridget was succeeded by Lord Thomson, George Thomson, was a wonderful Chairman.  And Brian Young was succeeded by John Whitney.  And suddenly the whole thing at the IBA changed.  George Thomson having been a politician knew what life was about.  Was a much easier person to deal with than this appalling woman, Bridget Plowden.  And, of course, Brian Young that elitist of all time, who was totally wrong in the IBA…in the commercial field of the IBA…was actively disliked by people like John Freeman, and David Windlesham, and Denis Forman, was gone as well.  John Whitney came in.  John was not a success at the IBA, but life went on.

And then along came Mrs Thatcher and destroyed all of that with her Broadcasting Act.  There is no question of that.  She saw…I mean, one has to remember…I mean, one looks at the history…the ACTT strike…the strike at that particular time did underline that the practices…Labour practices in independent television were hopeless, were outdated, and the overtime situation was absolutely appalling.  The Yorkshire problems were greater than others.  And one of the reasons that the Yorkshire problems were greater than others, it had nothing to do with the ACTT actually, had to do with the ETU.  Yorkshire had to employ, as a result of being set up, the electricians that had been working for ABC in Manchester at Didsbury.  And when ABC became Thames Television and Howard Thomas took the best people down to London, he left the unpleasant bits of ABC Television back behind in Didsbury.  

And those people, who might have been out of work, had to be employed by Yorkshire Television, but the old Yorkshire Television.  And we inherited a group of electricians who were, quite frankly, appalling.  Truly appalling people.  They continued to live in Didsbury.  They were the most bloody minded people you could imagine.  They ran rings round us in labour terms.  They were earning unbelievable fortunes.  And we should have got rid of them.  And I’d attempted to.  I remember going to see…I mean, relationships were so awful.

The time came when I went to see Frank Chapple.  And rang Frank Chapple over a weekend because yet another programme had gone down, because of bloody mindedness by the electricians.  And rang Frank Chapple at home and said, “You and I must meet.”  And Frank said, “Okay, let’s have lunch.”  And I said, “Where do you suggest?”  And Frank, good old trade union boss, said, “How about the Ritz?”  And Frank Chapple and I had lunch at the Ritz.  And I said, “Look, this can’t go on Frank.  We cannot go on with these bloody electricians behaving in the way they are.”  I mean, there was simply no way of coping with them.  We couldn’t deal with them.  And Frank said, “Well I agree with you Paul I think they’re terrible people.  If I were you I’d sack them.”  And I said, “I agree with you Frank I’d like to sack them.”  “Okay, we’re agreed to…will you give me other electricians?”  And Frank said, “Well I can’t do that Paul.”  I said, “Well, you know, well where the bloody hell are we?  I can’t sack ‘em and I can’t…”  But of course that’s what we should have done.  

We should have sacked them.  And whether we would have found other people…you see, in the end that’s exactly what Murdoch did, in the end, Murdoch sacked the bloody printers who’d given him such a hard time and, of all unions, got the ETU in to run the place.  And we weren’t good at our labour practices, I mean, Tony Preston, Ted [s.l. Wright 0:39:25], and others…and I, we had a hard time with that.  The ACTT were…the ACTT were ready to work provided we paid them, and they were earning big money.  NATTKE were not so difficult.  The ETU was our problem.  

And all this became, of course, public property and the Conservatives around Mrs Thatcher realised that the trade union practices in ITV were appalling.  I mean, Lew Grade paid them…well in order to keep production going at Elstree, Lew paid the unions extra when ITV went into colour, something that the BBC certainly didn’t do.  And so the practices were dreadful.  Most…all companies were beset by it…by labour problems.  Yorkshire more than most.  And I suppose we should have examined our practices a bit more.  We should have dealt with them a bit differently.  Whether it would have helped or not…but there’s no doubt what Mrs Thatcher and the people around her saw, here was ITV beset by restrictive practices, and that’s how the phrase came out, you know, the last bastion of restrictive practices, and we’re gonna break that.  And she did.  And in doing so she ruined British broadcasting.  No question.

I:    No.  Well what is particularly interesting, in terms of your career and so on, is you’ve totally changed, of course, from the complete 99% programme maker into a, what, 75%, or whatever, administrator, boss, and that kind of thing.  Did you have any time for programmes?

R:    A reasonable amount, I suppose.  What I still did do Norman, and what I’m…what had never been done at Yorkshire Television, we still had regular programme meetings.  In the end, one learnt at the BBC, the only way to make better programmes was to talk about the programmes that had been on the screen, and talk in groups about programmes.  And I did institute regular programme meetings at Yorkshire Television.  And I chaired those meetings until the day I left.  Whether I was Director of Programmes, or Managing Director, I chaired them, not the Programme Controller.  And programmes were discussed and debated, and the values of programmes were assessed, and that’s how we came to a decent programme philosophy.

    John, I mean…and plus those…plus all the routine meetings, I mean, John Fairley as the Director of Programmes and I met each week and we discussed the programmes.  I mean, the output, let’s face it, Yorkshire Television contributed 15% of the ITV’s network.  It was a much smaller programme portfolio than I had at BBC1, obviously.  Did I…I had time for…I enjoyed…I continued to enjoy programmes, and continued to talk about programmes.  And, of course, I still went to Programme Controllers meetings for a while, where I then…really gave that up and became Managing Director full-time, but still talking about programmes, because by that time the other Managing Director’s at ITV had become programme people and we…sorry, the other programme people had become Managing Directors at ITV, and when we met round the table, I mean, here was David Plowright.  Here was Brian Tesler.  Here was Bill Ward, and here was I, four programme people met, and the only one…it was only later when the Accountants came in and the Sales Directors came in as Managing Directors that the discussions about programmes came to an end.  

The Managing Directors, we met for lunch once a month, and regularly talked about programmes.  And we were still involved in meetings with the IBA, the Network Programme Committee did talk about programmes.  There was a constant flow of programmes.  I was a Director of ITN at that time and so I went to ITN to talk about programmes.  But I have to say, administration, finance, those sort of things, did take up more and more of my time.  Plus preserving the name of Yorkshire Television.  Plus of course, this key thing, of launching Yorkshire Television as a publicly listed company, I had a big role in that.

I:    Yeah.  To go back historically, Paul, to the early days of Yorkshire, because I worked for…

R:    Christopher Bland was the…

I:    Ah yes, Christopher Bland, yes, sorry.

R:    …man’s name at London Weekend Television.

I:    He’s in the news this week, that’s right.

R:    Yes, indeed.  And Christopher Bland was the man who was then the…

I:    London Weekend.

R:    …Deputy Chairman of the IBA.  And we said to him, “Look how about the…you getting the Yorkshire transmitters switch on.”  He said, “I wish you hadn’t asked me that question.”

I:    Yeah.  Sorry, go back to the early days, because as you know, I worked in Granada in the ‘60s when you were, obviously, at the BBC.  And this is merely for the record…well, for students in the future, learning and reading all this and listening to all this.  Granada, of course, included Yorkshire at that time, yes?

R:    Yes.

I:    Granadaland included Yorkshire and both sides of the Pennines, and it was Monday to Friday…

R:    Correct.

I:    …not at weekends.  And ABC were…

R:    Yeah.

I:    …at the weekends.

R:    Correct.

I:    And I remember Sidney Bernstein’s famous quote, you remember, wasn’t it, “If Yorkshire break this thing up and we lose the other side of the Pennines I’ll appeal to the United Nations.”

R:    [Laughter].

I:    He said.  But, you know, in terms of…Yorkshire, therefore, began with what was half of Granadaland…

R:    Indeed.

I:    …before that…

R:    Absolutely.

I:    …historically.  And I made a note, Paul, I don’t know if this is correct, the early days, obviously, 6 million viewers, that means 6 million residents…

R:    In the Yorkshire…

I:    …in the Yorkshire area.

R:    Correct.

I:    At that time.

R:    Correct.

I:    Which doesn’t sound much now, but…

R:    No, but that was the population…it may be 7.  But the wonderful thing about them was, I mean, there were two…I mean, that was…there were advantages and disadvantages of that Yorkshire franchise.  The advantages, unquestionably, was…I mean, you know, Yorkshire is a bit special.  I’m not a Yorkshireman, but Yorkshire is a bit special.  And there was terrific pride in the company throughout Yorkshire.  The fact that it was called Yorkshire Television was an enormous asset, and the local programmes were watched very keenly.

I:    There’s a famous…is it…Calendar…a famous series.

R:    Calendar…absolutely…well that was a nightly programme.

I:    Yeah.

       [End of transcription - 0:45:55]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 5

I    =    Interviewer
R    =    Respondent
M    =    Male

s.l.    =    sounds like.

I:    Paul Fox, Side 5.

R:    So, Yorkshire Television programme, I mean, certainly Yorkshire was created out of the old Granada franchise, and broke off, and instead of…Granada were compensated by getting seven days, and Yorkshire got seven days on their own, and Yorkshire became a major company.  That was the thing.  Up till then there had been four major companies.  Now, as a result of the arrival of Yorkshire Television, there were five.  Now, of course, the other four companies resented that.  But by the time I had arrived in Yorkshire, four/five years later, the resentment of the 5th company…the 5th major…had gone, and there was certainly no resentment on Granada’s part.  I mean, Granada and Yorkshire were natural neighbours, and David Plowright and I often had meetings privately in Manchester, or in Leeds, or in London to ensure that the North would stick together against the South.  There was no doubt…Granada had this strong Northern tradition.  Sidney Bernstein had long given up being concerned about losing Yorkshire and, you know, I was enormously fond of Sidney, I had a great admiration both for him and…both for Sidney and for Cecil, and Denis Forman, of course, and liked the whole Granada setup.  And I think we were friends.  We did exchange certain bits of information.  Not too much, but certain bits.  

    Now the Yorkshire programmes, I mean, the Yorkshire people took enormous pride in their own company, the fact that it was called Yorkshire Television.  The local service was excellent.  There was a local programme called Calendar, weekly news programme, which was way ahead of the BBC, because we pumped a lot of resources into the local programme, and the local programme really did very well.  So I say, the other programmes were documentary programmes built up by Tony...created by Tony Essex, continued by John Fairley.  And along then came a young man called, John Willis, Ted Willis’ son.  And, I suppose, ten years down the road, we started a regular monthly documentary programmed called, First Tuesday.  

    Now the reason for First Tuesday was simply this.  Granada had World in Action every Monday at 8:30.  Thames had This Week every Thursday.  Here were these two companies with a major public affairs programme.  Central, even though Charles Denton was by then the Programme Controller, were interested in public affairs programme, they had people like John Pilger and they wanted to push those programmes in at peak time.  What John Fairley and I realised was, that we needed a regular monthly strike, to have a documentary programme on the air, which was there every month and could not be moved.  Could not be moved by the planners or the schedulers and had to be there.  And we came up with this idea of going on Tuesday night, the first Tuesday of the month.  

Now I have to say the title was pinched from an old NBC programme run by my old mate Reuben Frank, which was called First Tuesday, and once we’d decided that title we said, “Okay, we’ll go every first Tuesday.”  And I was still, I suppose, then on the Programme Controllers group.  And I ensured that this would be the [s.l. play 0:03:41].  And that programme was founded ten years ago in 1983 and has run every first Tuesday at 10:40, occasionally sometimes at 9 o’clock, since then.  And John Willis was the founding Editor.  And John made a fantastically good job of it.

    John was a distinguished programme maker by that time.  He’d made programmes like Johnny Go Home.  He brought out the dangers of asbestos.  He’d brought out the dangers of what happened at Sellafield with radiation.  Yorkshire documentary programmes were campaigning programmes.  Strong campaigning programmes.  But until First Tuesday arrived we did not have a regular monthly slot.  And that was the important thing.  And in the end ITV programmes had to be…if the ITV schedule had a series of, say, four programmes on the first Tuesday of the month, that series had to be interrupted to take on First Tuesday.  

And it is an indication of what’s happened to ITV that First Tuesday’s coming to an end this year, after ten years of critically acclaimed…loads of awards and big audiences, and enormous professionalism.  Many of its makers have gone on elsewhere.  John Willis is now at Channel 4 as the Director of Programmes.  The other chap who came in as a Producer is now the Director of Programmes at Yorkshire Television, and so on.  But the traditions that were created by First Tuesday, introduced first by Robert Kee…Robert Kee was the first?

I:    Well Jonathan Dimbleby later wasn’t it?

R:    Later on.  I think Robert…

I:    Not much later, yeah.

R:    …was the first one.  And then John…yes, it was maybe…and then Jonathan Dimbleby and now, of course, Olivia…whatever her name is.  It was…it has been a remarkable series and it saddens me that after…I know all programmes have got to change, but it…I mean, in the end it’s a…it’s not only a title it is a concept, there’s something that’s there every first Tuesday of the month, 12 months of the year, 12 programmes produced, with an enormously high tradition.  That was that.

    In drama terms, I arrived, Emmerdale Farm was there.  But Emmerdale Farm…

I:    ’72, I think it began?

R:    Yes, in the early days.

I:    ’72.

R:    Emmerdale Farm was an afternoon programme when I arrived and was played at lunchtime.  And it was okay.  I suppose it was on the air for 30 weeks of the year, twice weekly.  The first thing I did was to move it to teatime, sure that it went out at 5:15, twice weekly, and it did quite well.  And then the next move was to bring it to 7 o’clock into peak time.  And that was a…I mean, I’m not kidding myself, that was a major achievement.  To get Emmerdale Farm into the same slot as Coronation Street, 7:30, Emmerdale Farm at 7 o’clock, and Crossroads.  So ITV had a very strong hand.  Five editions of Crossroads.  Two editions of Coronation Street.  Two editions of Emmerdale Farm, in the evening.  

    The next thing to do with Emmerdale Farm…Emmerdale Farm was the only one of those that still took a summer holiday.  The next thing then to do…took off…took 13 weeks off…was to ensure that we could get Emmerdale Farm to 52 weeks of the year, 104 editions a year.  And that, of course, did take a fair bit of doing, in terms of production, and this that and the other.  Plus, of course, it was a programme that was set on a farm, and the problem with it always was, the harvest was being brought in, in flaming December, usually.  Instead of being fitting it…I mean, one of the great things about Coronation Street is, that Coronation Street celebrates Christmas Day in the street on Christmas Day when it goes out.  And celebrates the Coronation anniversary on the day it happened.  Emmerdale Farm was always six weeks, or eight weeks, or ten weeks behind, because of the production cycle.

    Now Tony Preston was the key figure, plus Ted Wright, in getting it right in…cranking up…gearing up the production process, so that Emmerdale Farm could become twice weekly.  Now that, for a company like Yorkshire Television, to move a twice weekly serial, which ran, I suppose, 26 weeks of the year at lunchtime, to 52 weeks of the year at 7 o’clock, was a terrific operation.  Unquestionably.  And it’s still there today.

I:    It worked.

R:    And it worked.  Other things that…I mean, where Peter Wills at first…then succeeded by David Cunliffe, there were great drama series, and some wonderful players, because we had good writers…

I:    Well, Glory Boys I remember, is that Rod Steiger…

R:    Oh yes.

I:    The Glory Boys?

R:    Yes.

I:    One off wasn’t it?

R:    Yes.  No, the best thing was that thing in Northern Ireland, Harry’s Game.

I:    Harry’s Game, yeah.  Gerald Seymour?

R:    Gerald Seymour, yes.

I:    Wrote it, I mean.

R:    I mean, because David was…had been taught by Peter Wills to go for the best writers.  And we got the writers, and Gerald Seymour’s book, Harry’s Game, was adapted into a three part television series, with wonderful performances, a terrific script, and wonderful music.  It was a hit that, you know, [unclear 0:09:13], and it, in many ways, had told more about Belfast than many a documentary, actually, what was going on in Northern Ireland.

    And then the comedy was very good because Duncan, again, went for the writers.  We had that lovely man, Eric…

I:    Chappell.

R:    …Chappell, thank you.

I:    Duty Free?

R:    Eric Chappell, who did Rising Damp, Duty Free, and Only When I Laugh.  Wonderfully cast.  Wonderful comedy series.  Still stand up today.  And comedy worked…while we were not good at variety, although we did some variety, it was comedy that worked.  So the Yorkshire programme portfolio was based on First Tuesday and Whickers World.  Emmerdale Farm and other good plays.  And a strong hand of situation comedies.  Plus strong local programmes, I mean, it was a programme portfolio that worked extremely well, that held on, and that gave Yorkshire Television a great reputation.

    Now, I…go on Norman, sorry, should answer your questions…

I:    No, not at all, I mean…

R:    …any other issues?

I:    …no, I’m…not at all…children’s programmes?  We talked about Joy Whitby.

R:    Well Joy came along…I mean, Joy Whitby, to be fair, is not the easiest person to work with.  But she did create some good children’s programmes.  And she set high standards, Joy.  I can’t remember the children’s programmes we made.

I:    The Book Tower.

R:    Indeed.  Sorry, it was the first programme…

I:    That right?

R:    Yes, absolutely.  The Book Tower was the first programme, really, about teaching children about the value of good books.  And she did that herself.  And she was…she set extraordinarily high standards.  But Joy in a control room, a production gallery, she was a pain.

I:    The…I don’t know if this is the right time to talk about this Paul, but you did…earlier on you talked about Maggie Thatcher, and so on and so forth, and the way things used to be.  The way things are now, I mean, you’re not personally involved directly with ITV scheduling, and so on, anymore.  But we keep reading about it, and as viewers, we know what the hell is going on and what isn’t.  I mean, the ITV situation today, as compared with what it was in the heyday you’re talking about, it seems to me to be…and not only me, of course…changed totally.

R:    Well it’s changed out of all…

I:    The whole problem is…I mean, the problems are awful.  If that’s not too strong a word?

R:    The problems are awful.  And it was…I mean, the architect of all that awfulness, without a doubt, is Margaret Thatcher and those people who surrounded her.  She insisted, really, that rather than the new contracts being awarded by the ITC, as it then was, as the IBA had become, to the applicants, they should be auctioned off.  I mean, that was…that is the only way to describe it.  It was like Sotheby’s.  Instead of the IBA being there, Sotheby’s could have had this…held this auction.  “What am I bid for this particular franchise?”  It was absolutely the same thing.  And it was a ludicrous way of doing it.

    Now, she’d been prompted in this by the real haters of ITV in her cabinet.  And those included, Nigel Lawson, who thought television should be treated just like oil, the North Sea oil, on tap, or we auction off the blocks, we’ll auction off the television franchises.  Nigel was enemy number one.  Well they’re all equal.  Enemy number one was Mrs Thatcher.  But Nigel Lawson was there as well.  That was [unclear 0:12:59].  The next person was David Young.  And the next person was Norman Tebbit.  Those were the three.  Norman Tebbit hated ITV almost as much as he hated the BBC.  Tebbit, young, the great entrepreneur, “This should all be opened up, these restrictions should be stopped.”  Nigel…Douglas Hurd was the Home Secretary at that time.  And quite frankly Douglas Hurd, in the end, thought, oh to hell with this, I’m not…there must be other things to do in politics than this, and I’m not gonna fight this particular thing.  And truly felt…and when Douglas’ memoirs were written you will find that he found the pressure on him as Home Secretary in charge of broadcasting so great that he said, “Well if that’s the way she wants to do it, well let her do it.”  And that was it.  And the Broadcasting Act was then written.

    The only good thing that came out of it…the only good thing was that David Mellor by that time had become the Minister of State at the Home Office, and it was David Mellor’s job to get the bill through the House of Commons…the new broadcasting bill through the House of Commons.  I mean, I suppose it’s just worth remembering that the first outfit to be attacked was the BBC, I mean, that was the first aim of Thatcher…Lawson, who’d worked in the BBC, I’d given Lawson a job when he was on his uppers and had been fired.

I:    In Panorama, wasn’t it?

R:    Gallery.

I:    Gallery, yes, I remember.

R:    Having been fired as…

I:    First time I met him.

R:    …Editor of ‘Spectator’ by Ian Gilmour, so that’s how he repaid the BBC.  Thatcher, Lawson, Tebbit, and David Young, were determined, first…well determined to sort out the broadcaster, that was the thing.  First we’ll have a go at the BBC.  Appointed the Peacock Committee to do something about the licence fee.  And by and large, the Peacock Committee were charged…why don’t we have commercials on the BBC?  That was Alan’s task, no question.  And that will solve the licence fee problem.  BBC will take commercials, that’s it.

    Now I have to say, the BBC fought a very clever campaign, but the advertisers also made…and the agencies made it clear, it was out of the question to have commercials on the BBC because that would ruin the market.  The whole business would come to an end.  And Alan Peacock, having been charged to say, look instead of the licence fee we’ll have commercials on the BBC, Alan Peacock came up and said, “Sorry, the licence fee must stay but it will be replaced eventually by some [unclear 0:15:53]…” some piece of rubbish that Alan came up with.  But it ensured that the licence fee continued.  

And the first thing that had happened to Mrs Thatcher, that her attack on the BBC in this way had failed.  So she turned to ITV and said, “Right instead of sorting out the BBC, we’ll leave the BBC for a little while.  We’ll sort them out when the charter runs out.  We’ll now sort out ITV.  And instead of the franchises being awarded we’ll have an auction.”  And I remember she came to Yorkshire Television for breakfast, she was in Leeds…and Tony had died by that time…Paul McKee was the new Managing…Deputy Managing Director.  And I gave her breakfast.  And she came, and to be fair to her, she did listen to our arguments.  All those stories, that she always destroyed any argument, that she wouldn’t listen.  She didn’t.  She did listen to the arguments.  She clearly didn’t take any notice of our arguments.  But at least she gave us the courtesy of listening to them.  

    And the Broadcasting Act was done.  I think it was abhorrent to Douglas Hurd, who was a decent Home Secretary.  Marvellous.  And a nice man.  And there was David Mellor came in to get the Broadcasting Act through parliament.  Now David takes enormous credit for changing the Act.  I think he takes, you know, being a self-centred man, I think he takes too much credit, quite frankly.  There were some changes made.  But the appalling nature of the auction remained.  Mellor eased it a little bit.  And Mellor eased a little of it because he was star struck.  He was lobbied very hard by a group that included, Simon Albury from Granada.

I:    Yeah, the campaign for quality television, that’s right.

R:    Yes.

I:    I was on…a member of that, yeah.

R:    Simon Albury, John Cleese, and other people.

I:    Rowan Atkinson.

R:    Rowan Atkinson, and people.  And David Mellor, never having sat in the same room as Rowan Atkinson and John Cleese, and other talented people, was undoubtedly overcome by these wonderful people, and did make…produced a little bit of softening in the Act.  But he’s claiming far far too much credit for changing the Broadcasting Act in favour of the ITV company, the basic thing remained, it was an auction.  And it remained an auction.  And that was an appalling thing.  And some companies bid too much, as it turned out, like Yorkshire Television.  And some companies paid far too little, like Central Television and Scottish Television.  

Central had frightened off all the opposition by a brilliantly fought propaganda campaign, black propaganda campaign, and paid £2,000 for their franchise.  And so indeed did Scottish Television, paid £2,000.  And Yorkshire Television, for a franchise worth far less than the Central one, paid £35 million, or more.  I mean, the thing was ludicrous.  Ludicrous in the extreme.  Exceptionally good companies went down the drain, like Thames Television, outbid by Carlton, determined to get it.  The breakfast thing was set up…

I:    Chaos, I think.

R:    What?

I:    Chaos.

R:    Absolute chaos as a result of that.  Now, there were two companies…three companies remained of the majors.  Central, Granada…four companies remained, I mean, only one [s.l. winner 0:19:30].  As usual three companies were kicked out.  Thames, totally unjustly.  I speak as a Director of Thames Television so, I suppose, slightly…but they were outbid.  Thames felt they could not bid more without ruining the company, so decided on a figure… and I was in at the board meeting…they decided on a figure.  This is the figure we could bid without ruining…and that was the only figure that was possible.  And we were outbid by Carlton, and that was the end of the matter.  No question of programme quality came in…exceptional circumstances, which should have been brought in, and Carlton should have been thrown out, and Thames should have given the franchise on exceptional circumstances.  The ITC, George Russell et al. were terrified of Michael Green suing them…Carlton…and so Carlton got the franchise, Thames were kicked out.

    Granada kept their franchise at a reasonable price.  So did LWT.  And Central got it at this knock down price of £2,000 with no opposition.  Why on earth, if you’re gonna have an auction, why not put a reserve price on the franchise.  With a reserve price neither Central nor Scotland would have got away with £2,000.  I mean, there’s a total imbalance at ITV at the moment with a company like Central being the most profitable.  Why?  I mean, not that Central don’t do wonderful…programmes absolutely went to the wall.  And you only have to look at the ITV schedule now, I mean, it is a straightforward commercial schedule.  There are still some quite decent things in it.  World in Action is still there at 8:30.  The successor to This Week has not yet been found.  Any programme that’s called The Big Story and runs 24 minutes 30, everybody who knows anything about public affairs television knows that a programme called The Big Story is not gonna work.  And from Brian Wenham in, ‘The Guardian’ this morning, to describe the man who leads The Big Story as a young James Mossman, I mean, demeans anything that Brian Wenham says, quite frankly.  James Mossman was a giant.  This man, quite a pleasant young reporter, newsreader from ITN, is a pygmy really.  For Brian Wenham to say, I mean, well…

    So there we are in ITV.  But the enemy, I suppose, is Sky Television, without a doubt.  Here’s Mr Rupert Murdoch, having been given, despite the fact that he owns three national daily papers and one Sunday paper…three national dailies?  ‘The Times’, ‘The Sun’, and ‘Today,’ and ‘The News of the World’.  Yes, four national newspapers.  Has been given the chance to own a television…to own more than 50% of a satellite station.  No other newspaper group in this country is permitted to hold more than 20% of a terrestrial channel.  The rules for Mr Murdoch have changed.  That is the first thing.  Again, entirely due to Mrs Thatcher.

    The second thing, of course, that Murdoch has succeeded in doing is…

[Recording repeats - 0:22:53 - 0:44:47]

[End of transcription - 0:44:47]

VOICE FILE NAME:    Paul Fox Side 6

I    =    Interviewer
R    =    Respondent
M    =    Male

s.l.    =    sounds like

I:    Paul Fox, Side 6.

R:    The Michael Grade arrival…of course, was an enormous coup to get Michael.  It was my job to tell George Thomson and the IBA that Michael was a candidate, and whether that was acceptable to the IBA.  And George Thomson was enormously excited.  And he ensured…he rang every member of the authority over that weekend.  Dicky sorted out the deal with Michael.  And the person who had to be told was Jeremy…Jeremy Isaacs and, I mean, Jeremy wasn’t gonna take kindly to Michael…being succeeded by Michael Grade.  And Dicky took it upon himself to meet Jeremy on Monday at the National somewhere or other…National [unclear 0:00:47].  And Jeremy nearly stymied this.  And Jeremy said, “Oh I don’t think I can accept…I find that very difficult…” blah, blah, blah.  

And the Channel 4 Board met that evening to confirm Michael Grade’s appointment, having had the okay from the IBA, and Jeremy was still a member of the Channel 4 Board at that time.  And Jeremy said, “No, I can’t accept that.  I really can’t.  Really I find this impossible.”  And Jeremy and I were longstanding friends.  And I said to him before the Board meeting, he told me that this is…that he was gonna go against it…I said, “It’s all very well Jeremy, of course you’re…I can understand why you’re against it, you think Michael Grade is a vulgarian and you’ve built this up and he could not possibly continue your work.”  I said, “There’s this one question I have to ask you before you say anything, who is your candidate as your successor?  Who would you name?”  He said, “I haven’t got one.”  I said, “Well come one, if you haven’t got one how can you veto Michael Grade?”  “Well I’m gonna speak against it.”  

And sure enough at the Board…and this is in the confidence of this tape…I mean, Jeremy did vote against him.  It is on record as voting…and publicly after all, came out against Michael and said, “I’ll throttle you if you…I’ll personally come round and throttle you if you destroy my great legacy.”  No doubt, Jeremy had built up Channel 4.  He had made Channel 4 what it was.  It is his creation.  He was the architect and he deserves all the credit for creating this channel from…from absolutely from nothing.  There was no need for Jeremy to leave.   That is the thing worth saying.  There was no need for Jeremy to…he had failed in his application for the Director Generalship.  He could have easily come back to Channel 4 and said, “Well I’m sorry, I tried…” the Board would have had him back with open arms and he could have continued.  Instead, he decided to go to the Royal Opera House.  

    But to go back to the BBC.  As a result of that, there suddenly was a vacancy as Managing Director Designate at the BBC.  And Mike Checkland and I met at a party for The Listener.  The Listener by that time had become the joint property of the BBC and ITV.  I’d worked on the ITV side.  I helped to bring this about with George Cooper.  And Mike Checkland had worked on the BBC side to bring this about.  And suddenly the onus…instead of the onus of The Listener, which had been…had lost money…instead of the onus just being the BBC, they were suddenly the BBC and ITV, and a little party was held to celebrate the new ownership.  And Mike took me to one side and said, “Any interest in…bit bored at Yorkshire?”  I said, “Yes.”  “Interested in coming back to the BBC?”  “Well…”  “Well how about Michael Grade’s…”  “Oh…” I said, “…well maybe, let me think about that.”  And I phoned him a couple of days later and I said, “Yes, I am interested.”  

And Michael…Mike and I met, we said…he lived in Sussex, I live in Hertfordshire, we decided we’d meet halfway.  We met at a restaurant at the bottom of Box Hill, both drove up in our own cars…bottom of Box Hill on a Sunday morning; we said we’d have a coffee.  Nobody could possibly know us there.  Out of the question.  We arrived at Box Hill on time, and walked into an enormous wedding party.  And we thought, there must be somebody here who would know. Fortunately, there wasn’t…I mean, 200 people at some wedding.  

And Mike and I had a cup of coffee and we settled the whole thing in 30 minutes.  Terms.  Title.  And, above all, the length of contract.  I mean, I had to remember that I was 62 by that time and it was beyond the BBCs retirement age.  And I was coming on a three year contract.  That’s all I wanted to do.  And basically I was there, (a) to steady the ship, there was no question…I mean, you know, been a bit rocky…have all these departures… unhappy time…and the BBC Television Service was a bit restless, and, (b) unquestionably, clearly, to find a successor as Managing Director.  Those were really the two tasks.  And to bring a bit of weight around the place.  Act as a bit of an elder statesman, I suppose.  

    Hussey phoned and said, “Excellent.  How wonderful.  You’ll have to…we’ll have to talk to the Board.”  I said, “Forget it.  I’ll come and talk to the…as far as I’m concerned…just confirm to me the appointment is confirmed.”  “Oh yes, absolutely, appointment’s confirmed.”  Well you’ll have to meet the Board.”  I said, “Okay.  Not at Broadcasting House.  I’ll come and meet the Board and just chat to them.  Really just to show that I haven’t got any horns and that I’m okay.  But we’re not discussing my appointment.”  “No.”  

And to be fair to Dukey what he arranged was tea and sandwiches in a private room at Claridges.  And I was still working for Yorkshire Television.  I’d dismissed my driver and I said, “I’ve got a little engagement at Claridges, just going to have a drink.”  And went to Claridges.  Dukey met me.  Went up to meet the Board.  I knew one or two…I knew Gerald Barnett…I knew one or two others…and had tea and cucumber sandwiches.  And the Board said, “How wonderful.  Yes.  How very nice.  Excellent.”  And I was Managing Director of BBC Television.  Went back to Yorkshire, said to my Chairman, “I’m sorry I’m leaving.”  And told the press.  

And, again, Mike and I had kept that story…I mean, we’d met...whenever it was…a date in February…we’d managed to keep it quiet…there were very good reasons why I had to keep it quiet…personal reasons…financial…connected with Yorkshire Television…and we kept it quiet for six weeks, and it never ever leaked.  And the people who knew were Checkland and I, and Hussey, that’s all.  And even that old gossip, Gerald Barnett didn’t know.  John Birt certainly didn’t know.  And nor did Bill Cotton, a long friend of mine.  And the appointment that I gave…told Yorkshire…told Derek Palmer I was leaving…sorry to go…and the announcement was made in London, at a press conference in London when it was announced.  And Bill Cotton was told that day that I would be his successor, and John Birt was told that day.  And there it was.  

And so I came back with a strictly limited time for three years.  Moved one or two people.  I certainly fired Peter Ibbotson, because I thought he was a…well, I thought he didn’t fit into that particular…he was there as the Chief Assistant to the Director of Programming.  I felt I didn’t need a Chief Assistant.  I had the Programme Controllers reporting directly to me.  I had never met Jonathan Powell before, other than at the odd television festival.  And knew Alan Yentob slightly…well, I knew him a little bit…also from [unclear 0:08:08].  I…I mean, I liked Alan immediate…I mean, I’ve always liked Alan.  I took to Jonathan Powell immediately, and I thought they were two excellent Controllers.  

What I then felt I needed was, sort of, having a Chief Assistant if anything, I wanted (a) a Director of Resources, who would be my deputy, and that was Cliff Taylor.  And here was a, (a) great friend of Mike Checkland’s, (b) a chap I, again, I didn’t know…an accountant…a terrific…one…if there was a problem in the BBC you went to Cliff in the Television Service…you went to Cliff and Cliff fixed it.  And Cliff became Director of Resources and stood in for me at…was my deputy.  I then wanted an Assistant Managing Director who kept a liaison with the programme departments, and my candidate for that was Will.
 
I:    Will Wyatt.

R:    Will Wyatt.  And I knew Will, and I thought Will had the gravitas and the stature to do that job.  And as he did it for two years, I suppose, I realised that Will was the outstanding candidate for…as my successor.  That’s what I recommended to Checkland.  That’s what I recommended to the Board.  And I’m glad to see they took my advice.  I did my three years.  I enjoyed myself hugely at the…I mean, it was wonderful to come back to the BBC.  That’s where I’d started on holiday relief 30 years earlier…40 years earlier…38 years earlier…and to come back as the Managing Director, obviously, was terrific.

    I have…I mean, just talking about the BBC, I mean, I worked to Mike Checkland as DG, directly.  I had no problems with Mike.  None whatsoever.  I, at no stage, did I discuss things with John Birt in any way…Television Service had nothing to do with him.  He was there as a Deputy Director General.  When Mike was away, of course, I talked to John and consulted John on things, of course, he was then the Acting Director General.  But I had no problems with John.  None whatsoever.  John looked after news and current affairs.  The job, obviously, was different as Managing Director from the job that Huw Wheldon had, because one no longer looked after news and current affairs.  And a large part of the programme portfolio had gone.  And I accepted that.  I didn’t find that…I mean, since I had recommended the merging of news and current affairs while I was away from the BBC, I could hardly rebel against it when I was there.  So I found no problems whatsoever.

    The programme departments worked well.  We appointed one or two people.  The three years were extremely happy.  I had no problems with the Board of Governors.  None whatsoever.  And to be fair to Hussey, he ensured that the three Managing Directors, World Service, John Tusa.  Radio, David Hatch.  And I, Television, were equal members of the Board of Governors.  We…the three Managing Directors sat in with the Board of Governors, not as supplicants, somewhere on the other side of the table, we were part of that group.  We had a Governor either side of us.  And the thing worked.  And there was no doubt, I mean, Hussey had…did change the whole concept of the Board of Governors.  And the relationship between the Board of Management and the Board of Governors improved.  I mean, at Alasdair Milne’s time the Board of Management didn’t talk to the Governors.  The rift was so deep it was…I mean, Alasdair couldn’t possibly…so that he did change.  He unquestionably changed all that.  

I suppose, his relationship with Mike Checkland was not of the best.  And it didn’t have anything to do with the business of Mike’s effectiveness as a Director General.  Mike was enormously effective as a Director General, enormously professional, and a real leader.  It was, one hates to say, it was a social thing, quite frankly.  Mike and Dukey operated at two different social levels.  John Birt, unquestionably, saw that here was his chance to succeed Mike.  

He…I mean, the issue really is this.  John Birt believed that Mike Checkland would only do one term.  That that…he’d only do one term as Director General…would not be extended.  Mike…and those who support Mike believed that Mike’s contract should have been extended.  Hussey clearly made it clear that Checkland’s contract would not be extended and that there would, at the end of his contract, thank you very much Mr Checkland, Sir Michael, we are very grateful to you for what you’ve done but we’re now appointing another.  And if Hussey had gone about it the right way and said, “Thank you Sir Michael…” got his knighthood…sure that he got it…thanked him properly…he had worked with him properly…saw him off, and Mike’s departure was celebrated in the proper way, as it should have been, because he’d made enormous contributions to the BBC, and he had then advertised the post of John Birt…advertised the post of Director General…and he would have been fine.  I mean, the way it ended…the way Mike’s reign as Director General ended was very unhappy.  

He then was, outspokenly, critical of the Chairman at some meeting somewhere, press conference somewhere, and said it was quite wrong that somebody of his age should continue as Chairman.  And the end for Mike came before his time.  He went three months ahead of his time…two months…and Birt was then…I have to say that the Board of Governors farewell dinner for Mike was so false, the whole thought of the Board of Governors celebrating Mike, that I could not persuade myself to go to it.  I know I was invited but I really felt I could not possibly listen to the phoniness of those speeches celebrating Mike when they had really got rid of him early, and appointed John without competition.  So I decided not to go.  

And I haven’t really…I mean, I’ve been back for…obviously, the Television Service’s dinner, which Will gave to Mike Checkland, certainly I went to that, and I was very happy to go to that.  And it was a wonderful occasion.  Truly wonderful occasion.  As indeed was my farewell dinner that the Television Service gave to me.  It was a terrific occasion.  Mike made the key speech, just [unclear 0:14:54] farewell dinners at the BBC, farewell occasions are important, and Mike opened his speech by saying, “Now when Paul left the BBC for the first time 17 years ago he left the day he gave in and said he was leaving and he left without a drink and left without anybody saying thank you, and I know he feels sore about this, so will all the people around this table who were here when Paul was Controller BBC1 and left us 17 years ago, would they kindly stand and drink to him and say farewell Controller BBC1.”  And a fair number of people stood up.

I:    And they did.  Quite a few, yeah.

R:    So Mike…”That’s that.  Now we’ll sit down and now we’ll talk about him as Managing Director.”  So I left at the age of 65 after 40 years in television.  And it was a true climax to an enjoyable career.  Hugely enjoyable career.  And I left very happily.  I left Mike Checkland there.  I left Hussey there.  John Birt was still the Deputy Director General.  Will…my recommendation as a Managing Director had been accepted, and I thought the BBC was in a good shape.  Little did I know what a shambles would result.

I:    We haven’t mentioned the Royal Television Society.  You were deeply involved in that for a long long time weren’t you, of course?

R:    Well Huw was…I mean, Huw was the President, Huw Wheldon was the President of the Royal Television Society.  And Huw remained the President after he left the BBC.  And Huw and I we’d always been good friends, we’d made it up very quickly soon after my departure as Controller BBC1.  About six weeks after he phoned me up at home and said, “Look there old boy there’s a celebration for Panorama, 30 years of Panorama, we’re giving…I’m giving a big party of the 6th floor of the Television Centre, why don’t you come along and join the party.  It’s a good way for you to come back to the BBC on [unclear 0:16:55]”  

I came back and Huw and I made it up and we, of course, by then we were fellow members of the Garrick.  He had proposed me for the Garrick.  Robin Day had seconded me, and I was a member of the Garrick.  I saw a great deal of Huw, both while he was Managing Director and after he left.  And I was enormously fond of Huw and admired him greatly.  And, I suppose, I was one of the last people to see him just before he died in that wonderful house in Richmond, when he was very very ill.  And I spoke at his memorial service in Westminster Abbey.  It was a most terrific…I mean, Huw died much too young…I mean, unbelievable memorial service in Westminster Abbey.  And there were no speakers from the BBC.  I spoke.  And the chap from LSE spoke.  Lord Ralf Dahrendorf.  The two speakers were Ralf Dahrendorf and I.  

At the Royal Television Society, Huw had given up his role as the President and said to me, “Look, wink and a nod, they’ll ask you and I hope you’ll accept.”  And Tony Pilgrim and somebody else, Stuart…a guy from Sony came along and said, “Would you like to become President of the Royal Television Society?”  And I said, “Yes, please I’d like to very much.”  And that was in my days at Yorkshire, of course.  And it was a highly prestigious job to be President of the Royal Television Society.  I loved it.  I think I was there for too long.  The President’s term of office is not defined.  Huw had been the outstanding President of all time and it was difficult to follow Huw.  But I did it.  I suppose, I ensured that the Royal Television Society became the leading television society in the country, I mean, it was far more important in television terms than BAFTA, which after all, also embraced film.  I’m not decrying BAFTA.  I think BAFTA do a fine job.  But after all it’s film and television.  The Royal Television Society was the only society that looked after television only.  

And early on…our patron is the Queen…and early on to celebrate 50 years of the Royal Television Society…
 
I:    Yeah, 1927 I think.

R:    Yes, early on.  Yes.  ’77.  The Queen kindly agreed to come and see us, and we had a party at Banqueting House and I took the Queen round to meet a large number of people at the Royal Television Society, and it was very exciting.  

The Conventions at Cambridge every other year are the most important events in television…far more important than the Edinburgh Television Festival because they…I mean, Edinburgh Television Festival is…well, for everybody in television, and without being too snooty, the Royal Television Society Convention at Cambridge are for longer serving professionals.  And it became a heavyweight professional operation.  We always ensured that the Home Secretary of the day was there to open the conference and give the first speech.  And in my time they were always there.  And they were terrific Conventions.  I’m glad to see that the RTS is flourishing.  That they’re now monthly dinners…indeed at BAFTA there’s a much greater [s.l. rapproachement 0:20:45] with BAFTA…that the awards work better.  We now do the…the RTS were the first to recognise achievements in television journalism.  Then moved on to programme awards and moved on to designer awards.  

The…Tony Pilgrim did a splendid job as the Secretary, but the Society needed to move into a new era.  Mike Checkland and I, and others, arranged that Michael Bunce should become the Executive Director of the Society, which indeed he has done.  The Society has moved into new premises in [s.l. Gravesend Road 0:21:26] and it is flourishing extremely well.  Bill Cotton succeeded me as a President of the RTS.  And I remember, with great pleasure and enormous pride, the fact that I was there six or seven years.  And it is, unquestionably, the leading professional organisation in this country.

I:    You want to say about what you’re doing now?

R:    I’ve retired.

I:    Well, I mean, outside of television.

R:    Well out…I mean…
 
I:    Sport.

R:    …I did retire.

I:    Racing.

R:    When I retired, Thames Television asked me to join their Board.  And John Brabourne and Richard Dunn kindly asked me to do that.  I joined the Board.  Sadly we lost the franchise.  But I still, as this moment, a Director of Thames Television, which is now a subsidiary of Pearson’s Television…of Pearson’s Group and, in fact, I’m going to a first Board meeting under the Pearson ownership later this week.  I write a column…a weekly column on sport in television for ‘The Daily Telegraph’, having been asked to do that a couple of years ago, by Max Hastings.  

And having been a keen racegoer for 30 years, I now have a job in racing as the Chairman of the Racecourses Association, which is the trade association for the 59 racecourses in this country.  I have an office at Ascot on the racecourse.  Out of my window I look at the three furlong marker.  You could not believe that anything as nice as that should happen to anybody in retirement.  I adore that job.  And as a result of that, I’ve become a Director of the British Horseracing Board, which is now the body that runs racing in this country instead of the Jockey Club.  I sit there as a Director under the Chairmanship of Lord Hartington.  And really, am trying to do something for racing, and for the racegoer, above all.  I’ve been brought up on looking after the audience.  It’s all with the viewer, has always been my main concern, quite frankly, throughout my time in television.  The viewer, the audience, and it is in racing it is the racegoer.  

I’m also on a Board called Satellite Information Systems Board, which is the satellite television system that brings racing into the betting shops.  I’m going to a Board meeting there this afternoon.  And I’m about to join the Levy Board as a Director.  So retirement…yeah, I am on the eve of becoming 68.  Retirement is pretty busy.  

    And thank you very much indeed for asking me to record this thing.

I:    No, thank you.  Marvellous.  Thank you for coming.

R:    Really, I’ve enjoyed it enormously.

M:    Thanks.

I:    Terrific.

M:    Thank you.

R:    Very very much indeed.

VOICE FILE NAME:            Sir Paul Fox

I     =     Interviewer  -  Norman Swallow

R     =     Paul Fox

M     =     Alan Lawson

s.l.     =     sounds like

I:            The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project.  Sir Paul Fox.  One time Managing Director, BBC Television, Yorkshire Television.  Interviewing Norman Swallow.  Recorded on the 24th of March 1993.  Side 1.

 

First and foremost, where were you born?

 

R:            In Bournemouth, in 1925, long time ago.

I:            Schooling?

 

R:            Bournemouth Grammar School.  And then I mucked around a bit, and then I went into the Army when I was about 18.  And I had three years in the Army as a Soldier in the Parachute Regiment, and the Parachute Regiment did me a power of good.  I grew up, unquestioningly, I’m grateful to the Army for what the Army did for me.  I saw a bit of action, not as much as some others did, and when I saw enough I came out, I was wounded…

I:            Weren’t you [unclear 0:01:11]?

 

R:            No.  No, no. 

I:            It was just a rumour.

 

R:            No.  No, I jumped across the Rhine when the War was nearly over.  And I was wounded and I came out early.  I was fortunate that I came out of the Army early because that way I was able to get a job, I mean, I had no money and no background, nothing.  And I wrote to every single newspaper in the country and abroad…

I:            Can I stop you a second?  Why newspapers? 

 

R:            Well I…yes, why?  Because I went…in my closing days in the Army, I went to an American university at Biarritz, an American university, that the Americans had established for members of their forces, that gave some guest scholarships to British servicemen, and I was lucky enough to go there, and I did a six month course of journalism there.  I was invited to go to the University of Missouri, School of Journalism there, I decided against it.  And decided to seek…thought that journalism would be my career.  I had never done any journalism before.  There were no journalistic people in my family.  I just wanted to do journalism.

I:            [Unclear 0:02:26] when you were at a school before…

 

R:            No.  My father was a Doctor, and the feeling always was that I would go into medicine, and I had absolutely no wish to go into medicine, no inclination.  And in any case, neither the money there nor anything else, so I had to work.  And off I went, and wrote to every single newspaper, well not every…I wrote to about a 100 newspapers in this country and some abroad, and there were only two favourable replies.  This was 1940…

I:            6?

 

R:            …6.  I was 21.  And the two favourable replies were one from Auckland, ‘The Star Newspaper’ in Auckland, New Zealand.  And the other one was from ‘The Kentish Times’.  And I was tempted by Auckland, New Zealand, I truly was.  God knows what would have happened if I’d plumped for New Zealand.  Fortunately, I had met Betty soon after that and then soon after…so I took The Kentish Times job and became a trainee journalist at The Kentish Times in Erith, and I ran the local office...well very soon ran the local office down there.  But I did all sorts of stuff, flower shows, drama reviews, concerts, everything that a local journalist does.

I:            Except sport, maybe?

 

R:            Except sport.  Absolutely right, except sport.  What I did not learn was shorthand.  I did court reporting and I wrote with longhand, and the Editor said, “Look old boy, you really have got to learn shorthand.”  And I tried and I was absolutely hopeless.  And so after two years there, I didn’t really like living out in Erith, and I wanted to come back to London, because of Betty, and because I wanted to be in London. 

A job came up at Pathé News, and I went to Pathé in Wardour Street as a Newsreel Commentary Writer.  I wasn’t the only one.  But I learned more at Pathé, I suppose, than I did at any other place, other than in television, because what I learned was the discipline of writing to film, two words a foot, and I learnt it in a very hard school, taught by two Fleet Street newspaper men, one called David [s.l. Cole 0:04:42], the other one called Clement Cave, and this was Howard Thomas’ Pathé, of course.  Howard was the Editor in Chief, although I saw very little of him, I was too far down the table really, and Howard really was in charge of Pathé Pictorial, and Pathé News.  The Editor of Pathé News was this man, Clem Cave, whom I admired and respected enormously, as indeed I did David Cole.

Newly married when I arrived, God knows what I was paid, but not a great deal of money.  But the newsreels were, you know, those were the days, not quite the glory days of the newsreels, the glory days of the newsreels were before the War, but they weren’t bad after the War, they weren’t bad.  Pathé did all sorts of things…and that’s when I first got my affection for writing about sport, because I knew how to write.  I’d learned how to write to football matches.  I learned how to write to races.  Bob Danvers-Walker was the voice.  I wrote for Bob.  Bob was not a very pleasant chap, deeply unpleasant in fact, but in the end Bob just read what was put in front of him.  There were other people there, a man called Jack Rogerson who…God knows whatever happened to him?

I:            He was the sound recordist.

 

R:            Well no, he was a bit more…he became an Editor.  He was certainly a Producer.  He used to like putting his pencil in his mouth constantly.  Wasn’t very good.  I mean, I wrote quickly.  I’m not saying it was great wonderful literary stuff, but I was able to do it quickly.  Noel Wiggins was the Film Editor.  And a man called Norman Roper was the other Editor.  Norman Roper’s still around somewhere, I think he went…he stayed in film.  Norman is a lovely man.  And Ted Bilsdon.  And, I suppose, I stayed at Pathé…Tommy Cummins… when Clement Cave left to go back to the Express, and David Cole went back to Fleet Street, the man who came in was Tommy Cummins from the Editor in Chief of Pathé.  And Tommy was past his prime by that time, by the time he arrived at Pathé.  He was pretty idle.  He had a sick wife.  He lived too far out in the country.  But when Tommy started telling the stories of the old newsreel days it was great fun. 

And so, I suppose, I stayed at Pathé 2 years, 2 ½ years, perhaps a bit longer, in Wardour Street.  Enjoyed it.  Got to know the cameramen.  Got to know the film editors.  And really liked the news aspects of the business.  Film industry wasn’t of great interest to me.  Pathé wasn’t a bad place.  Howard Thomas was clearly very ambitious.  He was gonna take the place…the outfit further.  But one could see, even though there were two newsreels a week, and on occasions they did a special newsreel, I mean, on an occasion like the Grand National, the Cup Final and things, longer than the days before television, they did special editions, rushed the prints into the cinemas, and you worked through the night, it was quite fun that that.  Quite fun.  But it clearly wasn’t to be my long term future. 

And then I saw an ad for holiday relief work at the BBC, at the BBC Television newsreel.  And that really was the next thing I did.  I applied to do some holiday relief writing at the BBC.  And much to my surprise I was taken on and I came up to AP, I mean, we were honestly too poor to take a holiday, children had arrived, one…Jonathan had arrived, certainly, by that time, yes.  So there we lived in [s.l. Brunswick 0:08:08] Park, not really terribly well off, with one child, and I was earning what, well Pathé…no, this was Jonathan, the older one, just earning a reasonable amount from Pathé but not much, and then the holiday relief work came, and I did two weeks at the BBC, contracted by Jack Mewett, paid 4d½d, but it was a wonderful experience, of course. 

And this was in the days of the newsreel when the BBC only had one station, of course, one transmitter, Crystal Palace.  Ted Halliday was [unclear 0:08:45].  Roy Cole, actually, was the scriptwriter at that time, and Roy was on holiday, and I took Roy’s place.  Dick Cawston was there by that time already.  Chris [s.l. Corke 0:08:57], Dennis Edwards, all those people were there.  Philip Dorté was the boss of the film department.  You, Alan, were there at that time, and one or two cameramen.  But not the really…the top of Fleet Street yet. 

And I’m not sure whether I did this twice?  I think I did the holiday relief work twice.  Because at the end of the fortnight, I certainly enjoyed it, and at the end of the fortnight they said, “Will you come back again?”  I said, “Yes, whenever you ask me.”  And somehow I managed to get some other holiday, some leave from Pathé, and came back for a second time.  And at the end of the second time somebody, could have been that awful chap Harold Cox, who really was the worst manager in the history of television newsreel, of television, Harold Cox may well have said to me…I think it was Philip Dorté actually…or Jack Mewett said, “Look, there’s a permanent job…” or, “…there’s a temporary job here if you’d like to come, we’ll give you a six month contract.”

I:            That would have been Philip.

 

R:            That was Philip I think, yes.  And so there it was, I gave…threw up the newsreel, Tommy Cummins and Norman Roper, and all those people, Gracie Fields, and went on a six month contract to the BBC.  And I loved it.  I truly loved it.  I mean, this was in the very early…still only one transmitter, still only Crystal Palace, ‘cause I remember writing the newsreel when the Sutton Coldfield transmitter opened and we did a special film arranged for the Midlands, to greet the Midlands as Sutton Coldfield opened.  Now this was a small world, the newsreel world, Dick Cawston, unquestionably, was the most important influence there.

I:            What was his official title at that time?

 

R:            BBC Television newsreel.  What was my official title?

I:            No, Dick’s…Dick Cawston?

 

R:            Super…no…

I:            Anyway…

 

R:            …I honestly can’t remember what Dick’s title was.  But Dick was the most powerful influence.  (A) because force of personality.  (B) because he’d been there a long time.  And (C) he understood the thing.  He knew what was wanted from the newsreel. 

I:            Had Monty arrived then?

 

R:            Monty was there…but Monty was in his closing days.

I:            Yeah.

 

R:            Monty was there but, I mean, it was coming to the end, I mean, Monty was old, as you know, and Dick, I mean, Dick was thrusting, firing, still full of bad temper, I mean, throwing typewriters out of the window and all that sort of stuff, and shouting at people.  But he was a terrific influence.  Philip Dorté, of course, was there as well did understand it.  Did understand what the newsreels were about.  Jack Mewett was a bit of a pain, I mean, he was an administrator and nothing else.  But the newsreel was valued.  And when I arrived, I suppose there were two editions of the newsreel a week, soon after that we went to three editions a week, and then, certainly, before the end came it went to five editions a week. 

Now in…Ted Halliday was, again, a very important part of that.  He had, I mean, he was nothing but a voice, but he was a reassuring voice, a comfortable voice, and he was an excellent reader, of course.  He was a portrait painter, Ted, close to the Royal Family, very close to the Queen, I mean, all the jokes we made about Ted, if you mentioned the Queen he would stand up and always mention Her Majesty and all that, I mean, there was a little bit of that.  But it was…he was excellent, Ted, and, I mean, compared to Bob Danvers-Walker who was the other voice I knew, I mean, Ted was way ahead of that because he knew how to read it, he knew where to make the pauses, and he was exceptionally good, very…a very nice man.  Philip was good value, but Philip, well you see already even at that time Philip thought he was involved in the politics of the BBC.  I mean, this was in the days of McGivern, Norman Collins, the television at Alexandra Palace was derided.

I:            Early 50s, yeah?

 

R:            Early 50s.  1950 I arrived at the BBC.  1950.  Television was derided in those days.  Sir William Haley was still the Director-General and thought nothing of television, it was something up the road at Alexandra Palace, I mean, it was remote…and it was remote, I mean, the journey up to Alexandra Palace was hazardous, I mean, truly difficult.  I didn’t have a car in those days so I used to come by train and up the hill in that awful single decker bus…

I:            Wood Green Station.

 

R:            Wood Green Station.  Until Dick Cawston…Dick had a car, and Dick was then kind enough to give me a lift fairly regularly really.  We met at Swiss Cottage and Dick would pick me up.  I’m still ashamed how often I kept him waiting.  Anyway, Dick was terrific, I mean, super man.  Dick was the most powerful influence, but he was not the boss of the newsreel.  The newsreel man…I think he was a Newsreel Producer that was his…the Newsreel Manager was this awful chap Harold Cox.  How he got into the place.  How he ever kept a job down I do not know.  He knew nothing about the newsreels.  He sat in the morning in the theatre and looked at the rushes…didn’t understand what the rushes were. 

And the people who made the newsreel were, in order of priority, Dick Cawston, undoubtedly, and then Dennis Edwards.  Dennis was a marvellous Film Editor, chap out of the RAF, he knew what he was doing.  He got on with it.  He was quick, lightening quick, and a most wonderful companion, most terrific colleague.  He was very even temperament.  Lived down in Muswell Hill, always near to the place.  Chris Corke was there as the other Film Editor, and Vernon Phipps was the chap in the Dubbing Theatre.  I remember them all with warmth, with affection.  I learnt an enormous amount from them, and with them, and the newsreel must not be underrated. 

So let’s… leaving my part out of the newsreel at that time had some of the scars of the cinema newsreels, you know, silly stories about fashion shows, and silly stories about the first signs of spring, and the first signs of winter, all those boring traditional newsreel stories, but slowly and slowly it came along, and more important stories.  Because more important stories came along the news division at Broadcasting House, under that dreadful man Tahu Hole, the New Zealander, finally realised that there was something up there that had something to do with news.  And whether it was Tahu Hole or whether it was Jacob by then already, may well have been Jacob may have arrived, said there must be some liaison between news at Broadcasting House, the Tahu Hole whole version of news and the newsreel at Alexandra Palace.  We didn’t pretend to be the days news, we were, and…but the newsreel.  And Tahu sent along a man called Michael [s.l. Bulkwell 0:15:52] who was a wonderful man, I mean, truly sweet, very keen on horse racing, and racing still took place at Alexandra Palace in those days, and Michael was…always watched the horses, knew about them.  With Michael…there was a very quick liaison established between Michael and Dick, and I suppose myself really.  And the newsreel did become more and more important, dealing with more stories of the day, and dealing with issues. 

And I suppose the breakthrough really came with the Korean War.  When the Korean War started, 51/52, whenever it did, we decided to send a cameraman out to Korea to cover the War for the newsreel, and the man who went out was Cyril Page.  And Cyril was a brave and remarkable cameraman.  And Cyril…the story that I remember, I mean, after all the Americans were very soon on the retreat, MacArthur had to leave, if you remember, Seoul was burning, and Cyril got a most wonderful picture story of the refugees leaving Seoul, and this was six years after the War for goodness sake, the refugees leaving Seoul over the frozen Imjin river, and the animals on the ice, and the people putting their little rags down so that the animals could walk on the house, and Cyril’s pictures were marvellous.  Now how did you write the commentary to that?

I:            So there wasn’t any sound?

 

R:            No sound at all, it was silent, he was absolutely on his own, Cyril on his own with a heavy Newman Sinclair, carrying it around.  He was absolutely on his own.  And you had to go on his dope sheets and the cuttings, newspaper cuttings, and I wrote the commentaries to that.  And the great thing, I mean, I suppose the thing I learnt quickly was to write as…not to over write, to write as little…I mean, pictures were Cyril’s…of that thing, they were terrific.  And Cyril, I suppose, was out there for 18 months, possibly even two years, without a break, each week sending the pictures of the Korean War back.  And the newsreel, it mattered, and the stories were seven/eight/nine minutes within the newsreel.  And here for the first time the Korean War was being reported on television.  Now, of course it wasn’t with a reporter on the spot and all that, but the pictures were there, and the pictures were impressive. 

And the next chap…when Cyril came home he had to be relieved, Ronnie Noble went out.  And Ronnie, of course, was a different cameraman from Cyril.  Ronnie was a journalist cameraman really.  And Ronnie was there when the Glosters were massacred by the Chinese, and Gloster Hill and, you know, Colonel Carne won the VC, and lots of Glosters were captured by the Chinese, and Ronnie was there for that and sent that story back.  Now, of course, the stuff had to come back…had to go from Korea to Japan, and from Japan back to England, then it would go in the labs, had to be developed, it was on 35mm, course it was four/five days late.  But nevertheless, wasn’t as late as some of the Falklands film was afterwards, I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, you know, for different reasons.  But the thing was there, it was uncensored, and it was on the screens at length. 

Ronnie then had the great nous to link up with Rene Cutforth.  Rene was there as the BBC’s radio reporter and they were briefed to get together.  Now here were two massive personalities, Ronnie Noble and Rene Cutforth, and of course at first they thought, who the hell are you and who the hell are you?  I’m not gonna work with you…hear the stories from Ronnie.  But soon they knew that they could work together.  And this truly was the first war correspondent report with sound from Korea, filmed by Ronnie, without a sound…he didn’t have a soundman with him.

I:            Lesley Mann?

 

R:            Lesley Mann, you’re absolutely right, quite right, with Lesley Mann.

I:            But it wasn’t…was it [unclear 0:20:00]?

 

R:            Well he did a little bit of stuff into camera, and Rene, but mostly was a commentary and then laid over it.  Now this was a, you know, this was a true war report and it…I mean, not…again, not weekly, not even…I mean, certainly not daily, nor even weekly, but at that time it was stories like that that helped Philip Dorté to persuade Cecil McGivern that the newsreels should become five days a week, and as indeed it did.  Now there were other stories.  That’s the Korean War, and Ronnie then went on to Malaya, the uprising in Malaya, he filmed that for the newsreel.  He went to Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising, and I can see some of Ronnie’s films still very clearly in those days. 

Now, just to underline the awfulness of that chap Harold Cox.  Harold, at no stage, did he ever send a cable or any message to Ronnie saying, well done, good story, do this.  So I took it upon myself to send him the cables…”Terrific, wonderful story, how about doing this and this that and the other.  We used 15 minutes…” I mean, the chap was absolutely out on his own 1,000s of miles away, never had any idea whether the film arrived, let alone it being used.  So I always gave him the most detail.  Then one day I got caught on that, that cable, and I was summoned for an interview by H. Cox, went into my annual…he thought it was absolutely outrageous that I did that, contravening BBC discipline, all sorts of rubbish went on, and I think I was taken up to Philip Dorté actually, and reprimanded, but I went on doing it.  And Ronnie…and that’s how my friendship with Ronnie really grew, and we became friends as a result of communicating across 12,000 miles. 

            Now that was one aspect of the newsreel.  The other aspect, not to be forgotten, American politics suddenly became interesting.  Here was Harry Truman, the President who came into office as a result of President Roosevelt dying, and who then won the election in ‘51, whenever he won the election, to everybody’s surprise.  And we did the campaign, we actually…the conventions and the campaign was on television all written back in London, scribbled away with Ted Halliday’s voice, but wonderful coverage from NBC who were then the BBC’s great partners, and for many years were.  And there was a man in London called Red…

I:            Harrison…no, [unclear 0:22:33].

 

R:            No, not Red Harrison.  Red, something or other…who used to come up to the screenings.  We got the footage from NBC it was used almost as NBC…so the newsreel on certain nights would consist of, say, 12 minutes from Korea and 9 minutes from the American convention.  Now this was most unlike any other cinema newsreel that you’ve ever seen.

I:            You had your commentary over the American…?

 

R:            No, we wrote it ourselves.

I:            Yes…

 

R:            Yes.

I:            Not NBC?

 

R:            No, [unclear 0:23:00].  No, I wasn’t the only writer, there were about, as time went on, more writers came into the place.  One was called Les Ketley and the other one was called Sylvia Clayton.  Those were the three writers in the place.  And others came in occasionally, I mean, Stephen Hurst arrived, fresh from being a detective at Marks & Spencer, or whatever he was.  Stephen Hurst arrived and wrote a bit, not very successfully.  And a friend…a cousin of mine, a cousin of Betty’s called Jack Gee, G-E-E, arrived, he wrote a little bit and went on to become a writer…the writer correspondent in China, was nearly arrested.  Stephen…well we all know what Stephen went on to become.  All sorts of people arrived there and did a little bit of work, but in the end the writing team was Ketley, Sylvia Clayton, and myself.  Harry [s.l. Govern 0:23:51] came along and arrived as a, sort of, Assistant Producer, I mean, Dick strengthened the team, and these were Dick’s people, totally loyal to Dick and totally disloyal to Harold Cox, all of them…supported Philip and Philip Dorté was fine. 

But to give you an indication of what the place was like at that time also, I mean, how unprepared Alexandra Palace was.  The night King George V died, or the morning King George V died, I mean, the announcement was delayed until the morning, if you remember he died at Sandringham…

I:            6th…

 

R:            King George…sorry the night King George VI died, I mean, the…just to take it in sequence.  The story was this.  Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip went off to Kenya, for a trip to Kenya, and Alan Prentice was the cameraman at London airport to see them off, I mean, the Queen, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth went off to see them off, and Alan had the big Tom lens on the King, I mean, there were stories that the King wasn’t well, and you looked at those pictures and you could see at once that the King was dying, I mean, he looked unbelievably thin, and he stood there with his hat off in the bitterly cold wind at London airport.  And that story we, kind of…I mean, let’s be clear we ran royal stories, and we ran royal stories at length.  For example, when King George VI and the Queen went off to South Africa, George Rottner was the cameraman who went out with them and filmed it at great length, and there were long stories on that.  And they were marvellous stories.  Wonderful sunshine and here…anyway, come back to the King, 48 hours later the King was dead. 

Now, the announcement came from Broadcast House.  The story is, they had to wait until John Snagge had found his black tie in order to announce it on the radio.  I don’t think it’s totally a false story, I’m sure it’s true.  Anyway, the story came from there.  Pat Smithers phoned me up and said, the King had died, what will television do?  And we had a meeting.  What did television do?  There was no obituary available on the King.  Nothing in the most…nothing.  So television did the obvious thing, television closed down.  Cecil McGivern and possibly Norman Collins may still have been there, I’m not sure.  Anyway, somebody decided that television should close down out of respect for the King’s death, and we closed down. 

It was very fortunate that then we started work on the obituary of the King.  And we worked through the night, I mean, it was Dick at his best, Ted Halliday, all sorts of people.  It was the first time I met Cecil McGivern because as we were dubbing it during the night in the Dubbing Theatre, Cecil came…Vernon Phipps as a Dubbing Mixer.  Ted inside.  Me writing it.  And Dick producing it.  And Eddie Edwards, Dennis Edwards, cutting it like mad.  We got a very very good obituary together.  It wasn’t marvellous but it was a pretty good obituary, because we had those wonderful pictures that Alan Prentice had taken of the King at Heathrow.  We had the terrific pictures from South Africa.  And there was a lot of royal coverage and I’m not ashamed of it.  The royal coverage was very good and it did a…had a considerable part in the newsreel. 

Anyway, television…BBC Television reopened the following day, and the first film that went out, first programme that went out, was our obituary on King George VI.  I have no idea how long it was.  I would have thought it was about 15 to 20 minutes.  And from there, of course, then all the scenes of mourning, the proclamation of the new Queen, all that was on film.  The funeral of the King, of course, was done by OBs, Peter Dimmock did that.  But this was in the days before telerecording.  Telerecording was not available in those days.  Telerecording with Jimmy Redman didn’t really come till quite a bit later.  So that night…we had film cameras along the route as well, and then filmed…put a compilation together of the Kings funeral.  I mean, you remember the shots at Paddington as the…I mean, we haven’t had a royal funeral of that scale, obviously, for 4 or whatever it is, 40 years.  Longer.  And then the funeral procession arriving at Windsor.  And all that was on newsreel from that night.  So where are we?  Tiny pause?

I:            Yes.

[Interview paused - 0:28:27]

[Interview resumed - 0:28:28]

 

I:            Are we running?

 

R:            Running?

I:            Yes.

 

R:            Right, so the newsreel, it…in my view it prospered.  It prospered in its limited way, with five editions at week.  Other commentators came along.  The lovely Michael…chap in the wheelchair…

I:            Oh yes, Swan.

 

R:            Michael Swan.  Michael Swann was a commentator.  Alexander Moyes came along.  Frank Philips.  Alvar Liddell.  I mean, we took the great voices from radio along and they were only too happy to work on the newsreels, but they were voices.  When it came to sport, I mean, the first tour…the Wally Hammond Cricket Tour of Australia came back on film and, of course, it was deep winter here, and I used to write it and Brian Johnston came along to do the commentary.  And Brian did some of it off the cuff.  But Brian, of course, being Brian provided the sound effects as well, because he bought a bat along and a ball, and each time a bat and ball was struck Brian did all the work, I mean, Brian was, I mean, wonderful as only…

I:            He did that in the Dubbing Theatre?

 

R:            …as only Brian…in the Dubbing Theatre…as only Brian could be.  So sport was coming along slowly.  One mustn’t forget though that outside broadcasts, I mean, Dimmock and Lobby and Alan Chivers were doing a great deal of live sport work but, of course, there were no recordings were available.  Recordings, to my knowledge, did not become available till I went to Lime Grove, and that must be about ’53, soon after Sport Style.  We’ll come back to that in a minute.

I:            Lobby is, we should say for those who listen and don’t know, is Seymour…

 

R:            S. J…Joly de…

I:            …de Lotbiniere.

 

R:            Seymour de Lotbiniere, yes.  Now, leaving OBs to one side, I mean, the newsreel was moving along but there was no long term future in it.  It was quite clear it wasn’t.  The most difficult stories to do always were internal BBC stories.  And I remember there was one…the order came down to do a story on some birthday of the Colonial Service, or the Colonial Service, Bush House, and I was sent along and said, “Go and see the man at Bush House who runs the place.”  And that was my first meeting with Hugh Greene, who was then the boss of the Colonial Service.  And inside BBC stories, stories about the BBC, were fearfully difficult.  Just as they were the stories about the BBC transmitter network spreading…when it spread to Moscow, when it…Moscow…when it went to Holme Moss, to Manchester, and when it went to Scotland.  All those stories had to be done, and they had to be done on BBC lines, and the commentaries had to be checked with BBC engineers, and they were the most awful stories, I mean, boring and…proper news…proper stories, and political stories came out, and reporters were being used, and people asked questions, and interviews were taking place.  Slowly.  But it was most unlike the cinema newsreel.  I have no doubt about that.  But it was not the news.  Now, eventually then the politics, BBC politics intervened, and the fight really was between Philip Dorté, on behalf of the television service, fighting to keep the newsreel, and…

I:            Tahu Hole?

 

R:            …Tahu Hole at Broadcasting House saying, if this is gonna be news he, Tahu Hole, had to control it.  Jacob was the Director General, and the decision came down in favour of Tahu Hole.  Norman Collins had gone by that time, or maybe that was one of things that may have prompted…no, Norman Collins had gone by that time.  Norman Collins had fallen out earlier.  McGivern was the boss of the television service.  Philip…McGivern lost the battle to keep the newsreel within the television service.  Tahu Hole and his marauders came in and, frankly, suddenly, there was no job for Dick Cawston.  There was no job for me.  There was no job for Harry Govern. There was no job for Dennis Edwards, or Chris Corke, or any…I mean, the newsreel really was decimated.  Harold Cox was kept on somewhere or other.  Dick, I mean, the…Tahu Hole came in…he sat in on the thing and looked round and had various meetings and followed the newsreel for a while, and then issued his edict saying that this must disappear, the only people who could run the news were his people, and there began the disastrous experiment of BBC news in vision…

I:            Yeah, talking heads.

 

R:            …talking heads, or rolling captions. I mean, it was the biggest disaster of all time.  It…Jacob has always been sorry that he’s done this…that he did this.  It lasted for a year and then McGivern sent in two young bright men from Lime Grove to report on the news, and their names were Michael Peacock and Donald Baverstock, and as a result of that, the news changed and became an updated thing, and Michael Peacock ran things.  Now, I’m not sure of the dates in all this but that is the correct chronology, and Tahu’s forces were set back.  Nevertheless, the news from…the news division, the news directorate still ran the news from Alexandra Palace, but we became more of a television operation.  People like Pat Smithers, Walter McGuire, and of course Michael Peacock himself came in, and the product improved enormously.  The news improved.

            Dick went on to Panorama.  Dick, of course, then Dick Cawston went on to Panorama.  He became ill first, and Dick was intended to be the first Editor of Panorama.  Unfortunately he fell ill, he had TB, and Michael Peacock was appointed in his place.  And when Dick was fit enough to resume, I think he came as a Producer on Panorama for a time, but not for long.  So that is that story. 

            I, in the closing days of the newsreel, had proposed a new sports magazine to Peter Dimmock, who was then partly based at Alexandra Palace, at least I met him, and said, what was needed was a weekly sports magazine, a sports news magazine, and I had the brilliant idea that it should be introduced by him, and no one else…

I:            What was his job at the time?

 

R:            Peter was the Assistant Head of Outside Broadcast with Lobby...

I:            As Head.

 

R:            …Seymour de Lotbiniere as the Head of Outside…Peter was the Assistant Head.  And Peter had energy, drive, enthusiasm, and of course, tremendous credibility and status in the place because he’d produced…he persuaded Churchill and the government, that the coronation should be televised from Westminster Abbey, and Peter produced it himself.  And without Peter…I mean, Peter is the most important factor in television becoming wildly popular.  So I proposed this thing to Peter, this weekly sports magazine.  Peter sold it to McGivern.  McGivern had accepted it.  It became a fortnightly sports magazine, and it came absolutely at the right moment for me professionally because, quite frankly, I was out of a job.  Tahu certainly didn’t want me.  Nor did I want to stay at Alexandra Palace.  I went to Lime Grove and started the Sportsview unit.  Asked Ronnie Noble to come and join me.  Asked Dennis Edwards to come and join me.  So, in a way I had newsreel friends and colleagues with me.  Dick was then on…Dick was ill at that time, but more and more, some of the people who had been in the newsreel unit at Alexandra Palace were coming to Lime Grove.  And Sportsview began.

I:            You were a sports enthusiasts then, you were?

 

R:            I became a sports enthusiast.  I…to be fair, I was keen on sport and, certainly, I knew how to write sports stories.  Even in my Pathé newsreel days I wrote the sports stories reasonably well, and I certainly wrote them well at Alexandra Palace.  And this was a, I mean, a sports magazine had been established beforehand, run by Barclay Smith, and it was so dull, what happened was that opening title was Barclay skating the opening title, or somebody skating the opening title, I forget what it was called, Swann’s…I mean, it was boring beyond belief.  What I brought to it, and what Dimmock brought to it, and Ronnie and others brought to it was that it was a news magazine, even though it was only fortnightly at first, half an hour on a Wednesday night, 8:30 to 9:00, introduced by Peter Dimmock, “Good evening welcome to Sportsview.”  And we had a hell of a lot of things. 

Peter brought, from the United States, a teleprompter; first time the teleprompter had ever been used in any BBC television programme.  And it was a very old fashioned teleprompter, certainly wasn’t automatic, but the script was on there and somebody had to run the handle, and the handle of the teleprompter moved the teleprompter along.  And among the people who ran the teleprompter, one of them certainly, was Robin Scott, later to become Controller of BBC2, Controller of the Live Programming.  Robin ran the teleprompter on an attachment to OBs.  The teleprompter was…I mean, Peter was able to look at the camera and brilliantly read all these cues, the cues worked, Dennis Monger was the Producer up in the gallery.  The programme was live.  It was very slick, it moved.

Now what made the programme, on the third edition, we got the tip off from Norris McWhirter that Roger Bannister would run…would attempt the four minute mile at Oxford that day.  That was on a Wednesday evening.  We sent Alan Prentice who…we had got him across from television news, I’d got a few mates along…across.

I:            Very good team.

 

R:            And Alan Prentice and Fred Clarke as his sound recorders, went to Iffley Road, stood in the centre of the track, and got the only film record of the first four-minute mile.  Bannister, Chataway, Brasher, running it and…

I:            It’s been shown a million times since then.

 

R:            Been shown…yes, if I’d got the royalties on that I would be very rich.  That film…now, contrary to common belief, that film was not shown on the night of the mile, of the four-minute mile.  It was not.  The race wasn’t run till 5 o’clock/6 o’clock.  We were on the air with Sportsview at 8:30.  The film was shown the following night.  But on that night we had a driver up at Oxford, at Iffley Road, and the driver’s name was Bunny Stoneham, never to be forgotten. 

Bunny Stoneham was a friend of Alan Prentice who was a very, very fast driver and he persuaded Roger Bannister to step into the car and to be driven to Lime Grove studios for the show.  Roger was still in his tracksuit at that time, and felt he couldn’t possibly appear in that way on television, and was…persuaded Bunny to drive him to his home in Harrow where he changed into a suit and a proper tie and all that, and arrived in the studio.  Now, of course, to have live in the studio the first man to run the four-minute mile, for a ten-minute interview, on the night he’d done it was terrific.  Sportsview was made from that moment on.  I mean, that was it.

I:            Yeah, terrific.

 

R:            And very soon afterwards McGivern was good enough to say, well fortnightly programme, you can go weekly.  And Sportsview then attempted all sorts of things, I mean, live OBs, we did things that had never been done before.  We were in the weighing room with Lester Piggott at Newmarket.  We had the Don Cockell fight against Rocky Marciano, somehow.  We had got the film of the Grand National when Dick Francis lost the Grand National.  We got all sorts of things, scoops undoubtedly, people to be interviewed, Gordon Perry, all the big names…Chris Chataway, all the big names for those days were available on Sportsview.  And it became what was, to coin a phrase, an action packed half hour weekly magazine full of sport, lively, good audience figures, the budget went up.  And one of the great things one learnt at that time was, you started off with a fortnightly programme with £150 budget and you knew that six weeks later you’d be running a weekly programme with a £500 budget, with film cameras available, working at Lime Grove, at a time when television was, you know, becoming accepted and was booming.  And the people, the company at Lime Grove was terrific, I mean, everybody was available at Lime Grove in those days.

I:            Terrific.

 

R:            And we had a terrific programme, made in studio two.

I:            You mention Lime Grove and just for the record we should say, of course, Alexandra Palace has now finished.

 

R:            No.  The news was still up there.

I:            Only the news, I beg your pardon.

 

R:            The news stayed up there, and the news stayed up there, first under…the first person who was put in…

I:            Briefly.

 

R:            …no, the nightly news.

I:            Yeah, not…it…stayed…not for long.

 

R:            Well it stayed for about three or four years.  Oh yes, absolutely.  Quite a while before they came…or at least three or four years, possibly even longer.  Possibly even longer.  Stuart Hood was up there first.  Then Michael Peacock.  Then Walter McGuire, all those sort of people.  And slowly, the news got better at Alexandra Palace, or the news programmes got better, I mean, it couldn’t have got any worse as it was.  Sportsview boomed, there was no doubt about it.  And there was, I suppose, in the terms of television history, there were two important things, one was…I mean, here was this magazine programme, news magazine programme, running along quite well, I mean, I think perhaps we were too pleased with ourselves, but it wasn’t doing badly.  It was something that had never been seen before, and one major thing came along and that was the 1956 Olympic Games.  The Olympic Games…the 1948 Olympic Games had been seen in London, live, black and white, covered by BBC outside broadcast…

I:            And they were…

 

R:            …but in the London…

I:            …they were from…

 

R:            …area only.

I:            …yeah, they were from here, the Olympics, 48, here.

 

R:            They were the ones in London, yeah, the 48 games were in London.

I:            Yes, correct.

 

M:            Can I just stop you and turn over.

 

I:            Great.

[End of transcription - 0:43:41]

 

VOICE FILE NAME:            Paul Fox Side 2

I     =     Interviewer.

R     =     Respondent.

M     =     Male.

s.l.     =     sounds like.

I:            Paul Fox, Side 2.

 

R:            So, we come to the Olympic Games.  The 1948 Olympic Games took place in London.  They were televised, just about, in the London area only, of course, televised by the BBC in black and white.  The 1952 Olympic Games took place in Helsinki; we did not have the rights.  Ronnie Noble was sent across to Helsinki by Dick Cawston as a Producer of the newsreel, and Ronnie proceeded to pinch the Olympic Games in a good old fashioned newsreel way, I wrote the commentaries, and we saw a little bit of the 1952 Olympic Games.  At least we saw McDonald Bailey racing. 

And so we came…by 1956 the Sportsview unit, as Peter Dimmock always called it, was established.  And the 1956 Olympic Games, we were gonna get coverage from Australia.  Television in Australia had just begun, ABC television had just begun, and I was sent out…or I went out to Australia to get coverage from the Australian people.  Now you have to remember the time, this was the autumn of 1956.  Soviet tanks were in Budapest.  The uprising had taken place in Budapest and the emphasis, the news emphasis, was entirely on what happened in Hungary.  At the same time the Suez adventure was beginning.  Eden had got us into all the problems with the Suez.  And as I left Lime Grove, on my way to fly to New York, en route to Australia, that night Eden was making his last broadcast out of Studio P before…or his last warning to Nasser before we sent the troops into Suez.  I mean, it was an appalling time to leave, quite frankly, and I shall always regret actually because one missed a large lump of social history in not being in this country during the time of Suez. 

Anyway, flew out to New York the old-fashioned way, still in a sleeper, got into my berth on the…sleeping berth, got up in the morning, looked down below and there was Ian Jacob the Director-General below, in the berth below me.  Never met me before in my life…in his life.  I introduced myself and he was on the way to Australia as well.  Stopped in New York.  Went on to…took three or four days to get to Sydney.  By the time I had got to Sydney the European Broadcasting Union, then it’s…then in it’s embryo, and the Americans, had decided to boycott the Olympic Games.  And the reason for the boycott was this, the Olympic Committee, then run by Avery Brundage, the American, had insisted that the television networks, then in fledgling television network, paid for news coverage.  And somebody had the courage, either in the EBU or Jacob, or somebody in America had said, “We will not pay for news.  News must be free.”  And when the IOC said, “Sorry you’ll have to pay if you want any news coverage,” we said, “Okay, we’ll boycott the Olympic Games.” 

And the…as I arrived in Sydney, Bob Stead, who was the BBCs representative in Sydney said, well you might as well go home we’re…the broadcasters are boycotting the games and in any case there’ll be…the War is on, the troops are on and they’ve gone into Egypt, but the Americans have already asked that the troops come home.  The Dutch are boycotting the Olympic Games because of the Hungarian uprising.  The Hungarians were only there in small numbers.  I mean, the thing was a bit of a shambles.  But I thought, what the hell, I’ve come all this way.  I went to Melbourne and for the first time, the only time in my life, in 40 years in television, I worked for radio for Charles Max-Muller.

            But, back to the boycott, because the boycott is the important thing.  The Games were boycotted.  No coverage of the Olympic Games was seen…of the 1956 Olympic Games…was seen in the United Kingdom, in Europe, or in the United States.  The Australians, of course, they weren’t involved in the boycott, and ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, did televise the Games and showed them.  But nothing whatsoever was shown in the United Kingdom, or anywhere else.  And as a result of that boycott, the International Olympic Committee relented and agreed that news access would be free, and as a result of that, the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome were televised for the first time.

            But the News Access Agreement that was established at that time…the News Access Agreement remains in force to this day.  And about two or three years ago, and I’m talking…well three years ago…1990, the News Access Agreement was enforced again in this country, and by agreement between the BBC, ITV, and Sky, news access became possible to each others exclusive sporting events.  And as a result of that, BBC News can now show the cricket in India, which is exclusive to Sky.  Sky can show excerpts from the Grand National, exclusive to the BBC.  And both Sky and the BBC can show the football League Cup Final, exclusive to ITV.  A News Access Agreement drawn up on the eve of…between the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games still was in effect…was still showing how effective it can be in 1990, in the 1990s.  And that was the important thing about the Olympic Games.  That was the important thing about Melbourne. 

I mean, we missed a great deal in Melbourne.  This country won seven gold medals in Melbourne, and they were never seen until the film of the Olympic Games became available.  But what it then led to was the Olympic Games being televised live in 1960.  And I was there for that in Rome.  Commentators were David Coleman.  We had Richard Dimbleby there for the opening ceremony.  David did most of the athletics.  Sport had become a very big operation by that time.  Sportsview was a regular programme.  Grandstand had arrived.  Sports Special, the forerunner to Match of the Day, had arrived on Saturday night with football. 

In 1960 the last remaining bastion that had held out against television gave in, and that was the Grand National, we televised the Grand National live for the first time.  We did the Olympic Games, and I thought it was time to move on.  I had done seven years in sport from ‘53 to ’60.  Sport had become a very big operation and the Lime Grove base, that’s where it was run from, always…I mean, I’m only talking about the studio based programmes…programmes all run from the studio, either by Dimmock or by Coleman, or by Ken Wilson, and others.  And we ran programmes Wednesday…one on Wednesday and two on Saturday. 

Don’t underrate the importance of Grandstand.  Grandstand was, for the first time, live OBs were linked via the studio.  It was a big operation.  And the strength of the BBC, and the strength of its contracts, sporting contracts, suddenly were shown on a Saturday afternoon, and you’d get three or four live sports linked.  But not done in a boring way with, you know, from beginning to end, but the best bits were shown in Grandstand.  We were able to come back via the studio.  And Grandstand when it started, 1 o’clock, finished at 5 o’clock with the football results, live on the teleprinter, was a cracking programme, and a form of sports journalism that hadn’t been practiced before.  So that was that.  End of sport story.

I:            You mentioned Ronnie Noble earlier; he’s still very much involved with all this isn’t he, at this time?

 

R:            Ronnie Noble was solid in that.  Ronnie was co-Editor with me on Sportsview.  He was certainly involved on Saturday night.  I mean, the Saturday night…I mean, this was the days before videotape, telerecording had just started, but it was the days before videotape and football…I mean, this was before Match of the Day…football began on a Saturday night, a programme called Sports Special introduced by…with Bryan Cowgill as a Director upstairs.  And the very first programme, scheduled to run 45 minutes, ran two hours.  Full of interviews.  Full of film.  And the film in those days…Ronnie was in charge of the film operation, and Alan Prentice and other cameramen went out to film the football matches from…with a…those awful cameras, what were they called Alan, those big…?

M:            You mean, don’t mean the Newman’s, you mean the Mitchell’s.

R:            The Mitchell, the big Mitchell cameras with 1,000ft magazines.

M:            35, yeah.

R:            All on 35mm, and the key thing was, not to miss any goals while they were changing magazines, only one camera went out.

I:            I know, yes, every ten minutes.

 

R:            That’s it, every ten minutes.  Now the 1,000ft roll…only those rolls were developed in the labs that had goals on them.  I mean, the kick-off, the second half kick-off was developed, but then after that only the rolls that actually had goals on, so it was quite a big operation.  Now there were occasions, obviously, when goals were missed.  Alan Prentice was the cameraman who hardly ever did miss a goal, but he did occasionally miss goals.  They didn’t film it all, they filmed most of it. 

And the stuff came back to [s.l. Kays Labs 0:10:03] in Archway by…occasionally by helicopter, the first time the helicopter was used, mostly by motorcycle.  And Ronnie and a man called Ronnie Spillane ran that film operation, and somehow, I mean, the matches ended at 20 to 5, the stuff had to be got back to the labs at Finsbury Park, and from Finsbury Park by motorcyclists brought, again, in ten minute chunks to Lime Grove for editing.  And there were many a night when the programme started on the air and the last roll of film wasn’t there, I mean, out of the question, couldn’t possibly have been there. 

Now that was commentary on the spot.  We didn’t have to worry about the commentary.  Commentators were there.  Wolstenholme was a commentator.  David Coleman, I suppose, was a commentator, and others.  And we used to show two matches.  And there were appalling nights when we missed goals.  And there was one famous story, a match between Newcastle and Sunderland, I mean, the rivalry between those two clubs was always…always been acute, and the film was fogged and somebody let the…the film was fogged.  Newcastle…Sunderland won 3-2, terrific match, we had one goal out of the five.  We showed the one goal and Wolstenholme who was linking it all to Coleman said, “Awfully sorry, we couldn’t show you all the rest, there was fog on the film.”  And the cartoon in the ‘Newcastle Journal’ the following day said…showed the film crew at St. James’ Park and somebody saying, “Bring on the fog, bring on the fog,” because it was a beautifully sunny day.  Never to be forgotten.

            The other time, of course, telerecording was just beginning then and Jimmy Redmond later Sir James Redmond, one of the BBCs great Engineering Directors, was in charge of the telerecording equipment at Alexandra Palace, and the equipment…I mean, this was…outside broadcast cameras went to the match and it was telerecorded back at Lime Grove.  And the cameras were used…Scotland was always inventive in that, and BBC Scotland sent the cameras to Rangers/Celtic, another match [unclear 0:12:20] blood feud [s.l. after all 0:12:21].  The cameras were there.  It was to be recorded, telerecorded in London, and we would use ten minutes, that was our ration.  Sure enough all went well.  Match…Celtic won, as would be.  Always remember it.  Went for the telerecording, went to get the thing and Jimmy Redmond came to me ashen faced and said, “I’m afraid there’s nothing on the film.”  I said, “Why not?”  “Somebody forgot to take the lens cap off.”  And it was…I mean, Jimmy Redmond…

I:            Not really.

 

R:            …will remember it to this day.  He said, he had never been dressed down in his life as much as he was by me that day, I mean, he was bawled out and never forgotten.  And the Scots, I mean, they…BBC Scotland went mad, they had advertised the thing, Scotland would never forgiven us.  And of course, the people who supported Celtic believed firmly that it was done deliberately because we didn’t want the public to see that Celtic had won the match, rather than Rangers.  But it was, the lens cap was left on throughout.  There was nothing whatsoever on the way.  Those were some of the incidents.

            Grandstand itself, well it’s still running now, I mean, this is…Grandstand began about 1958, and here we are 35 years later and it’s still going strong, and almost unchanged really, I mean, it’s a programme…a chap sits in the studio, links various outside broadcasts…

I:            Same format, yeah.

 

R:            …gives the football results…

I:            Get the results, yes.

 

R:            …unchanged, [s.l. get it going 0:13:55].  Sports Special has become Match of the Day.  Cowgill brought that about, outside broadcast cameras, go to the football matches, once videotape was available that was the only way to do football, and it’s still going today after all those years.  Sportsview has become Sports Night.  But the three programmes that were all founded in the late ‘50s are still running today in some form or other. 

So after seven years I thought it was time to leave sport and go somewhere else.  I applied for the job of Editor, BBC Television News, I thought that might…would be quite nice to go back to Alexandra Palace, to run the news.  It’s the only time I ever attended a BBC appointments board.  Michael Peacock was the other candidate.  Michael Peacock at that time was running Panorama.  Michael Peacock got the job, and I got his job as Editor of Panorama. 

            And I came into Panorama from sport, I suppose, some of the people within Panorama must have thought, who’s this unsophisticated chap from sport, who hadn’t been to university, coming up to run Panorama, the weekly prestige programme?  Fortunately, I mean, (a) Michael Peacock and I had always got on, and Mike arranged a very very nice handover for me and showed me was it was about.  The other great advantage I had, I knew Richard Dimbleby.  And I knew Richard because he’d done some work at Alexandra Palace for a while, for one season, I suppose, we ran a weekly compendium of the weeks newsreels, on a Sunday evening.  And the best stories of the week’s newsreels.  And Richard came in on a Friday evening to link that…when we filmed the links in the Dubbing Theatre at Alexandra Palace, and then the film was put together, various news stories, and Richard linked them, and I used to write those links for Richard, and Richard and I got on.

            Just one story about Richard Dimbleby, and that concerned the boat race.  I mean, the boat race was done live in those days, but telerecording had started…must have started somewhere or other.  Anyway, the week’s newsreel programme on Sunday night was going to include the boat race, rode on a Saturday, which we dropped in on Sunday morning.  Richard had to do the links on a Friday evening.  So we did the obvious links, Cambridge had won, Oxford had won.  Richard wasn’t totally satisfied with that, and Richard said, “Well say if it’s a dead heat.”  And I said, “Don’t worry Richard, I mean, it hasn’t happened since 1877.”  “Yeah, but say there’s something…something…I mean, it may not be Oxford winning or Cambridge winning.”  I said, “Well what do you want to say?”  And he said, “Well there’s a result that nobody expected.”  And that was the link that was used because that was the year when Oxford sank…stroke by Chris Davidge...and Richard always, I mean, triumphant on Saturday afternoon…phoned me on Saturday evening, phoned me up and said, “There I told you.”  And so Richard and I had a fellow feeling, we did get on.  And if you got on with Richard you were successful in Panorama.

            But of course I inherited…I mean, I was…Michael Peacock had established a very good reporters team, I mean, it was a marvellous team.  And the reporters at that time, when I arrived, were Ludo Kennedy, who was there at that time.  Jim Mossman.  John Morgan had just come across from Tonight.

I:            Kee?

 

R:            Robert Kee.

I:            That’s the lot isn’t it?

 

R:            No, there were five reporters.

M:            Another one.

I:            Kennedy, Kee…

 

R:            Maybe it’s here.

I:            …Mossman, yes.

 

R:            No, that’s right, Robin Day, Ludo…and Robin Day

I:            Robin Day.

M:            Robin Day.

 

R:            So…how can one forget.  So the reporters that I inherited from Michael Peacock, and who were established then, I mean, first Richard Dimbleby who of course had started Panorama, the proper Panorama, there was a Panorama beforehand, but the Panorama that Grace Goldie got on the air with Michael Peacock as Editor, the proper Panorama was the first person who said good evening and said good evening for a long time, fortunately, was Richard Dimbleby.  By the time I came the reporters were, Robin Day and Ludo Kennedy, having recently joined from ITV, those two.  Jim Mossman the ex-Reuter correspondent in Africa.  Robert Kee, ex-Picture Post.  And John Morgan, just transferred from Tonight, he had started on Tonight.  Now with a reporting team like that it was absolutely sensational, I mean, it truly was sensational.

            The other Producers at that time were David Wheeler.  Don Haworth.  David J. Webster, the David J. Webster organisation, as a PA.  And then rebel guests and others came along.  But the key to the thing, unquestionably, was Dimbleby and this terrific team of reporters.  I mean, Peacock had established that those reporters…I mean, the Hungarian uprising and Suez had been the things that made Panorama, just as Bannisters four-minute mile made Sportsview, the Hungarian uprising and Suez made Panorama.  And Panorama in those days at 8 o’clock on a Monday, had audiences of 8, 9 and 10 million, and it was the most important event on television at the time.  Now I take no credit for it whatsoever, it was founded beforehand, but in the two years that I was in charge, (a) I enjoyed it enormously, (b)…

I:            Only two?  Three?

 

R:            Yes, may have been three.  Anyway…I think it was only two.  I think it was always thought that was the limit because you really had to work seven days a week.  It became…there was a…I mean, it was a magazine programme in those days and I firmly believed in it being a magazine programme, and there were three or four items.  But, of course, all hell was breaking loose all over the world.  I mean, there was Africa constantly troubled and we were able…I mean, Robin Day in those days was still travelling as a Foreign Correspondent doing extremely well in South Africa.  The whole of Rhodesia was up in flames.  Kenya was still in trouble in those days.  So there was Africa, and one was able to report freely and easily from Africa, long before the days of difficulties, cameras not coming in.  America was wide open to us.  And then, of course, the Vietnam War started.  So, you know, the assassinations in the United States, all those sort of stories.  But, I mean, one was…plus the Macmillan era at home, I mean, one didn’t forget stuff at home, political development at home. 

And an invitation to be interviewed on Panorama was a royal command, I mean, there was no question about it, and everybody came.  And either Dimbleby did the interview, or Robin, or Robert Kee, or Ludo, I mean, they were all exceptionally…they were ambidextrous reporters.  They could work in the studio.  They could be interviewers.  They could be outstanding reporters out in the field.  And it was a privilege…it was a privilege to work with them at that time, and Lime Grove was a buzzing place.  Grace Goldie was officially in charge of Panorama, but when there were difficulties you could also go to Leonard Miall who was a Head of the Department, and Leonard understood this game backwards.  And I have to say there were no problems with Broadcasting House, other than once or twice.  There was the interview with Georges Bidault who was then a rebel.

I:            He was expelled from France because…

 

R:            That’s right he was…

I:            …he had a row with a girl about…over Algeria, wasn’t it?

 

R:            That’s right.  And came to England and we interviewed him, and the French Ambassador kicked up a fuss.  And by that time Hugh Greene was Director-General, and actually I think Hugh Greene caved in, and the Bidault interview was not used…was used…?

I:            It was used, yes, I think…yes.

 

R:            Was used.

I:            It was postponed a week by Hugh Greene because the girl was in England on the Monday when it would have gone out.

 

R:            That was it.  That was one thing.  Again, you see, in the end, you get events that marks ones own role in the thing.  Very early on in my time as Editor, President Kennedy came to London on a private visit.  I mean, Kennedy had such close links with Macmillan, and of course you also saw Macmillan.  But it was not a presidential state visit.  And on his first night…he arrived on Monday…and on his first night he went to stay with his, then, brother in law, Prince Radziwill, somewhere in the West End of London, married then to one of his sisters.  And I send Ludo Kennedy to say, go on Ludo…and the live camera in those days, to go and interview President Kennedy.  I mean, the Embassy said, “Out of the question the President will not give any interviews.” 

Ludo, for all sorts of reasons, the name, of course, he’d also established himself with President Kennedy at the Democratic convention in San Francisco, when Ludo stood up at a Panorama film and a press conference took place, and President…not then…Senator Kennedy as he then was, asked for questions, and Ludo stood up and said, “Kennedy, BBC Panorama,” and John Kennedy said, “Oh that’s a very useful name to have.”  And from that moment on he knew Ludo. 

Anyway, Ludo turned up and doorstepped him…doorsteped the house.  Stood outside the house, rang the bell, and Radziwill opened, and Ludo knew Radziwill, they’d played backgammon together and said, “Hello Ludo what are you doing here?”  “Well I want to interview President Kennedy.”  “Well come in he’s inside.”  And Ludo was taken inside, introduced to President Kennedy, and President Kennedy could not possibly have known that Ludo was coming; it was out of the question.  And Radziwill said, “Mr President, this is Ludo Kennedy,” and Kennedy said to him, the President said to him, “Oh yes, I’ve just read that marvellous book you did on the Notting Hill Gate murders, what an excellent book, blah, blah…what can I do.”  He said, “Well it’s Panorama, I’m a reporter for Panorama, we’d like to do an interview.”  He said, “Certainly.”  And out he came into the…in front of the door and did a live interview into Panorama, I mean, never to be forgotten. I thought it was unbelievable that the President of the United States can stand on the street in London…now it wasn’t a very deep interview, it wasn’t very…not many searching questions.  But here was this new, young, President, live in the street in London reporting…being interviewed for Panorama, it was one of the great coups. 

            The other one was, there was a famous…there was a railway strike, threatened.  Ernest Marples was the Minister of Transport in the Macmillan government, and Marples was a great publicity seeker, always full of the headline.  The annual conference of the National Union of Railwaymen was taking place down in Brighton, and the man…secretary, was a man called Sidney Greene, a man with a hangdog face, and who always…was only there to give bad news, never a smile on his face or anything. 

And we somehow…what we managed to do, we had a live camera in Brighton with Sidney Greene.  Ernest Marples was in the studio being interviewed by Richard.  And the way it began…the way the item began, I mean, Panorama was live in those days, of course, naturally…the way it began was, Richard interviewed Marples in the studio and said, “Now what about this strike, blah, blah, blah?”  And Marples made all sorts of reassuring noises, I mean, he was a publicity conscious Minister of the first order.  And then there was Sidney Greene on at the same time.  And Richard went down to Sidney Greene and asked him a few…”Well the Minister has to give us some better assurances.”  And Richard, being the born journalist that he was, turned to Marples and said, “Well can you give him any reassurances?” 

And here, actually, live on the air, on the eve of a railway strike, the Minister of Transport and the General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen were negotiating in front of you.  And because the programme was live we were able to extend the item, run it on, keep going, and it was, I mean, it was a sensational piece of television.  No one… I mean, it has seen many times since then but that was the first time it was ever done.  Richard at his best.

            I mean, Richard did other things, you see, his presence was so enormous.  There was the time when he interviewed Prince Philip live in the studio.  A little bit creepy, I suppose, but it…you know, a little bit too subservient but [unclear 0:27:26].  The time he interviewed…the time…the first time he interviewed King Hussein, and King Hussein arrived, never to be forgotten, called Richard, Sir, throughout the programme.  And a real relationship was established with Hussein, I mean, Richard naturally called him Your Majesty, Richard was formal in those sort of ways, but Hussein called him, Sir. 

And a year later there was some particular trouble in the Middle East, you know, one of those crisis…may well have been on the eve of the Six-Day War, and we…no, it wasn’t it was earlier…whenever it was.  And I, as the Editor, phoned Hussein and got through to him and said, “Do you remember Sir that you were interviewed by Richard Dimbleby?”  And then he called me, Sir, for a while and said, “Could you come on tonight to be interviewed by Dimbleby again?”  “Oh most certainly, most certainly.”  And sure enough, there was Richard Dimbleby, that night, live in the programme, I mean, it was the most…some major crisis was developing on that day…interviewing Hussein. 

Richard was brilliant at those things.  And what one didn’t know at the time was how ill he was.  The cancer had already started and yet, despite all of that, he threw himself into the work.  He was available Saturday and Sunday.  He came in on Sunday.  He did like to write his own links, but in the end he would also agree, well this needs altering a bit.  Richard always, allegedly, refused to use the teleprompter, in fact he had a teleprompter, and if he didn’t have a teleprompter he had bits of paper stuck all over the studio. 

But the great thing with Richard was, he was able to move around the studio.  He was not stuck in his desk.  He could move.  He could walk.  He had a presence in the studio.  He had a wonderful Floor Manager in Joan Marsden.  He wanted his own people around him.  I mean, he knew…there were a few people he trusted, and provided those people were around him, and Joan Marsden as a Floor Manager was one of those, he always asked for her.  And Richard was the…I mean, the importance of Richard Dimbleby as ensuring the good name of the BBC cannot be exaggerated, and the trust he engendered in people.

            I mean, moving on, I suppose I’d left Panorama by then, the Cuban Missile Crisis, I suppose was the nearest time that we came to war after the end of World War II.  There was nothing closer than…there were…worse occasions were to come but, certainly, the Cuban Missile Crisis in ’62 was the nearest thing we came.  And I think, whatever it was, whatever job I had, we did a…I asked Richard to do a special programme on that night of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  And it was announced, it was trailed in the papers, this was an item, I mean, the Soviet ships were heading towards Cuba.  The missiles were in Cuba.  President Kennedy had not, at that time, achieved any contact with Khrushchev.  It really looked as though war could break out within 48 hours.  And the phone rang, on the night of that special programme, on the eve of it, half an hour beforehand, and somehow a viewer had got through to me, and the viewer said, “Are you involved in this programme with Richard?”  I said, “Yes.”  “Well could you give Richard Dimbleby a message from me?  What I want to hear from him tonight is an assurance that my daughter can go to school tomorrow, and go safely to school.” 

And that was Richard’s fantastic skill.  And no one in BBC history, before or afterwards, carried that authority, or that assurance.  And I know he was mocked.  I know he was derided by people who thought he was too courteous to the Royal Family, he had manners, that’s what Richard had, old-fashioned manners, and old-fashioned standards.  And he was immensely responsible for the success of BBC factual programmes at that time, because he was trusted.  He was trusted by the audience, and he was trusted by the colleagues he worked with, and that was it.  So he was the key person.  And the affection in which he was held really became apparent during his illness and when he died.  And it truly was a tragedy, a tragedy, he died much too young. 

He died unhonoured.  He had no recognition from the government.  He was never in an Honours list.  He had an OBE for his work during the War.  The work he did, if it didn’t deserve a Knighthood, it deserved a life peerage, even…perhaps life peerages weren’t invented at that time…but Richard deserved some proper recognition.  And I suppose one thing I did, I did establish after his death the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, and that ran for a while.  Richard was…well I…only repeating myself…the key figure in Panorama.  And while one or two of our slick reporters, particularly on Tonight, may have laughed a little bit at him, they had enormous respect for him. 

The rivalry between Panorama and Tonight is not to be exaggerated.  Here was Tonight invented by Donald Baverstock, run by Alasdair Milne, and without Alasdair Milne the programme would never have got on the screen, because Donald would still be talking now.  The…it was a very inventive programme, I mean, no question.  Five nights a week.  It was a programme that broke the Toddlers’ Truce.  It was Grace’s idea.  It was Donald who got it on the screen, and with Cliff Michelmore it was inventive, it was clever, it was sharp, it was witty, it had every…it did all those things. 

What it did not have was anything to do with the news, because Donald Baverstock derided the news, and so did Alasdair Milne, they didn’t want the news.  News was anathema to them and so was Panorama.  And even though we ran the same department at Lime Grove, and even though we ate in the same canteen, we worked more or less in the same corridors, shared…drank in the same club, Donald Baverstock had given instructions to Tonight that they should not speak to the people from Panorama.  I mean, it was the most childish thing you could imagine.  I’d known Cliff for donkey’s years, and of course I’m gonna talk to Cliff…to Richard…Cliff wanted to speak to Richard.  Derek Hart was an old friend of mine.  I knew Kenneth Allsop.  I mean, it was ludicrous.  Alan Whicker I’d known long before he ever came to television.  Of course we were gonna talk to those people.  But there it was that Donald had instructed them not to speak, and there were times when they wouldn’t.

The other thing, not only were they not on speaking terms, but more seriously, Panorama…Tonight, being on the air two hours before Panorama, took great delight in pinching stories from Panorama on Monday nights.  If they could interview a Minister half an hour ahead, an hour ahead of Panorama, they did.  There was never any exchange of information.  We were deadly rivals on a Monday night, one night in the week.  And we had to keep secrets from each other, even though we worked in the same department.  And there was nothing Grace could do to bring about peace, or Leonard Miall, they stood back and let us fight it out, quite frankly. 

And it wasn’t…I mean, it was quite fun at times…irritated other times, but it did work, because Panorama was perhaps too much so in my time, too much of a news programme.  Donald Edwards who was then the Editor of News and Current Affairs called it a news bulletin deluxe, a weekly news bulletin deluxe.  ‘The Economist’ said it was difficult to do a news…it was done on the worst day of the week, Monday, we always had to work over the weekend, and as ‘The Economist’ said one year, “To do Panorama on a Monday was to do it before the news of the week was a gleam in Khrushchev’s eye.”  And there was something to it, I mean, news happened more later in the week, I mean, parliamentary news was never available on a Monday, and we really had to work quite hard over the weekend to get it in.  But it worked.  It was successful, I think.  It had big audiences.

I:            And it made news, of course.

 

R:            Oh, and of course it made news.

I:            I mean, you’ve mentioned one or two items, but several, of course.

 

R:            Oh, it made news.  It made news because the people who were the reporters and the producers were journalists, solid hard-working journalists, and with decent film.  You were there Norman, fortunately, forgotten when you came, were you…did you…

I:            I came at the end of ’61 till spring ’63.

 

R:            Well there was then the argument who should…when I left, who should succeed me, and no doubt you should have become the successor, instead, David Wheeler became the successor.

I:            Well I defected with Dennis Mitchell.

 

R:            Indeed.

M:            So when did you actually leave Panorama then?

R:            I left in ’63.

I:            ’63, yeah.

 

R:            I did two years.

I:            And it was David Wheeler then, yes.

 

R:            And David Wheeler became the Editor of Panorama.  Panorama went on…I was…the Talks Department then became the Talks and Current Affairs Department, divided into three departments, Tonight productions…I mean, this was the time…by that…this was the time when Donald Baverstock went up the road to Television Centre to become the Assistant to Stuart Hood, terrible appointment, both…both Stuart Hood’s and Donald Baverstock’s…

I:            [Over speaking] As Assistant Controller 1.

 

R:            …as Assistant…no, as Assistant Controller, it was before BBC2 had arrived.

I:            Oh yes, sorry, yes.

 

R:            Basically to give Stuart some help…Stuart Hood some help, because he knew nothing about television.  Donald, of course, being Donald, always ran past Stuart to Kenneth Adam, he ignored Stuart.  It was a bad time.  Anyway, the Talks Department at that time was divided into three, Head of Tonight Production, Alasdair Milne, dealt with Tonight, and all the programmes that sprang from Tonight, including of course, That Was The Week, that was, absolutely, Alasdair’s doing, with Donald’s help.  And then there was the Music and Arts Department run by Huw Wheldon.  And then there was Public Affairs programmes run by me. 

And the Public Affairs programmes included Panorama, Gallery, and special programmes.  And in those days special programmes were, on the night of the Orpington by-election, when Eric Lubbock won and Peter Goldman was defeated, we ran a special programme.  On other special nights, on assassination night, we ran…because Tonight was unable to deal with news in any proper way, special programmes had to be done, and they came out of the public affairs stable, basically staffed by Panorama and Gallery, John Grist was there, and David Wheeler, and other people.  It wasn’t very satisfactory, but there were some special programmes on [unclear 0:38:41], notably on the night of the Cuban Missile Crisis and, of course, the best known one was on the night President Kennedy was assassinated.

            Let me just talk about that briefly.  Kennedy…President Kennedy was assassinated on a Friday, November the 13th.  It…no, not November the…

I:            October?

 

R:            …November the 20…well, whenever it was.  It was November…

I:            Oh, sorry.

R:            …but it was certainly a Friday.  It was the night of the Academy, Television Academy Awards, and the whole of television, BBC and ITV, had gone to the Dorchester Hotel for that night’s presentations.  I had remained behind at Lime Grove, basically, I can’t remember for what…any special reason, to see Tonight go out on the air, possibly, and it was during Tonight that the news came that the President had been shot, Cliff gave it, and…Cliff Michelmore gave it, and then the service was instructed…Tonight was instructed to close down and continue with normal programmes.  And the news of the assassination, that the President was dead, was given by news department, and presentation made the fatal mistake of going on with a half hour programme from…with Harry Worth, I mean, it was a disastrous decision.  But it was taken by presentation.  I have to say it was taken by Rex Moorfoot. 

            So, there we were at Lime Grove, John Grist and I…and as was the case in the BBC in those days, in the Talks Department, as the news of the death of the President spread people came into Lime Grove to see what they could do, what work they could do, how they could help, because they knew that a special programme would be made that night.  And among the people who came in was Tony Smith, Anthony Smith, now a Master of Magdalen College, former Head of…Director of the British Film Institute, where we’re sitting, a chap who…key figure in the cultural life of this country really.  And Tony arrived and others, and the girls arrived, I mean, girls like Jan [s.l. Fairo 0:40:58] and Jennifer Jeremy, all sorts of people arrived because they…without being summoned in any way, without being called in…and suddenly we had a team in.  And I decided, really off my own back as Head of Public Affairs, that we would do a proper programme later that night to mourn the President.  And that programme would have to contain the Prime Minister who was Alec Home, at that time.  The leader of the opposition who was Harold Wilson at that time.  And the leader of the Liberal Party was Jo Grimond. 

Now on the Friday evening, in this country to try and find the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, and Jo Grimond, was a major task.  I have to say that I phoned No.10, Harold Evans was there…not the Harold Evans of ‘Sunday Times’…but Harold Evans was then Alec Home’s Press Secretary, as he had been Harold Macmillan’s.  I spoke to him.  He had the news of the assassination, obviously, I said, “We need the Prime Minister to arrive, to come back to Lime Grove to take part in a programme.”  He said, “Well I’m afraid the Prime Minister is on his way to spend the weekend with the Duke of Norfolk.”  I said, “Does he know that the President has been assassinated?”  “No, I’m afraid he doesn’t.”  “He doesn’t?”  “No, he does not.  He left before it happened.  He’s on his way.  We will tell him when he arrives and turn him back.” 

I thought, well this really wasn’t very satisfactory quite frankly.  God knows what would have happened if a bomb had gone off, I mean, how the Prime Minister was gonna make a decision when he was out of contact with No.10, I mean, I thought it was unbelievable.  What I did, I rang the AA and got an AA patrolman to stop the Prime Minister’s car before it got to Arundel, and the Prime Minister was told by this AA man to ring No.10…(a) was told to ring No.10, (b) that the President was assassinated, was dead, and (c) that the BBC needed him that night.  And to do justice to Alec Home, he didn’t go to Arundel, he turned the car round and drove straight back to London. 

Now there are two versions what happened next.  Leonard Miall’s version is that Alec was dressed in a dinner jacket and felt he couldn’t go on the air in a dinner jacket, and therefore went back to No.10 to change into a suit, and put a black tie on.  I believe that he was…because he was on his way to the Duke of Norfolk, he was wearing country clothes and felt he couldn’t go on, and also went back to No.10 to change clothes.  And by that time we had to decide that Lime Grove would too late for him, for that programme…he went to Broadcasting House. 

Prime Minister arrived…here’s the Prime Minister having changed, black tie on, arrived at Broadcasting House, studio was downstairs, he went in the lift and the lift got stuck.  And here we were quarter of hour to 10 minutes before going on the air with a…going on the air with a programme to mourn the passing of the President of the United States, with the Prime Minister stuck in the lift at Lime Grove.  Fortunately we managed to…somehow…Leonard Miall was there, and got him out, and into the studio. 

            Harold Wilson was at a Labour Party meeting in North Wales, and Tony Smith got hold of him, and Tony persuaded Wilson to drive to Manchester, which was the nearest studio that was available at that particular time.  And from North Wales, somehow, H. Wilson got to Manchester, we managed to get the Manchester studio opened up and Wilson was in Manchester.

            Jo Grimond was at the Oxford Union, and the Oxford Union, stuffy as ever said, “Oh no, you can’t possibly get a message into him.”  I said, “Look, this is important, the President of the United States has been assassinated.  We need Jo Grimond, we need him on the air.”  And fortunately, two rather bright undergraduates said, they’ll drive Jo Grimond, got him out of the Oxford Union and drove him down and got him into the studios at Lime Grove. 

            So there we had…the cast was complete…the Prime Minister at Broadcasting House.  H. Wilson at Manchester.  Jo Grimond in London.  Dimbleby did…did Dimbleby do the Prime Minister, or was it Ian Trethowan?  Either Dimbleby or Ian Trethowan…no, Dimbleby did the Premier, I think…Richard may have been so ill already…no, Richard was so ill, Richard couldn’t…Trethowan had to do the…Ian Trethowan did the programme…and there we were, and various other people…and the other chap who spoke was Alun Chalfont, Alun Gwynne Jones, as he was then, who had been a regular commentator.  It was…I mean, there was no doubt about it, I mean, it was a remarkable programme. 

Earlier…

[End of transcription - 0:45:35]

VOICE FILE NAME:            Paul Fox Side 3

I     =     Interviewer

R     =     Respondent

M     =     Male

s.l.     =     sounds like.

I:            Paul Fox, Side 3.

 

R:            The night of the assassination of President Kennedy.  I have to say that our programme was late.  It was, I suppose, 11 o’clock, before we could get all those people together.  Earlier in the evening Rediffusion had done a programme on ITV, and the Producer of that was Milton Shulman, and Milton had got together George Brown, that Canadian actor Ellie…whatever it was.  He’d got a cast of people together who really were nothing to…and that was the night…I mean, here was a programme to mark the death of President Kennedy and George Brown was drunk out of his mind, on the air, and Milton put him on. 

And, I mean, I’ve always blamed Milton that it was absolutely wrong to go on with a drunken George Brown.  And George was uncontrollable, I mean, totally…spoke about my friend Jack and how well he knew LBJ, and this that and the other, and there was, as I say, a couple of actors on.  Milton would tell this story quite well.  Milton is terribly proud that he got that particular programme on the air, and got it on early.  I suppose there’s something to it.  But it was the most appalling programme and did Rediffusion an enormous amount of harm in getting a programme like that on.  And it did George Brown’s career an enormous amount of harm.

            We…I know we were later, quite a bit later, but at least we had a programme that had authority, standing, and had a proper sense of mourning, quite honestly.  By the time we were…before we went on the air the people had come back, the BBC Chiefs had come back from the Dorchester, Kenneth Adam was drunk.  Grace Goldie was drunk.

I:            Really?

 

R:            It was a pretty depressing sight, quite frankly, to see those BBC people there.  They came back thinking that they were gonna take charge of what was going on.  Fortunately, by the time they came back, it was 9:30, the thing was well in hand.  What Grace then got down to with Donald was, for the following night, the That Was The Week programme to mourn President Kennedy.

            Now that programme’s always been thought of as a most remarkable programme, because it had Dame Sybil Thorndike, Bernard Levin, and Millie Martin, singing a song.  No opening titles.  It was a tribute to Kennedy and, no doubt, Sybil Thorndike’s thing that…reading that poem to Jackie was quite [unclear 0:02:53] so was Bernard Levin’s thing.  But (a) it was done 24 hours after it had happened, and it had its moments but not nearly as bad as they should have been. 

            When we came back after having done our programme that Friday night, Richard was there so maybe Richard must have done it…perhaps Richard had come in…because then the question came up, what will we do about the funeral?  And Richard, even though he was ill by that time, went over and did the commentary on Kennedy’s funeral.  And, of course, it was one of those occasions when every single world leader was present at the funeral.  And I can always still see that shot of de Gaulle walking down behind Kennedy’s coffin, marching down, whichever street it was in Washington, where they went, and the sight of Jacqueline Kennedy with her two children, and LBJ full of mourning.  It was a sight to behold.

            Right, where do we go from here?

I:            Well you’re still Head of Public Affairs.

 

R:            Head of…yes, so then Grace retired, I suppose.  Leonard had been moved…Hugh Greene had fired Leonard Miall, for reasons still beyond me.  Eric Maschwitz then persuaded Kenneth Adam to intervene on Leonard’s behalf, and Hugh Greene relented, and Leonard came back to do a job for BBC2 at Television Centre.  Grace became in charge of the department, the Talks Department, and the Talks Department was pretty distinguished, I mean, you went to a Talks Department meeting, not only were you there Norman but there were people like David Attenborough and Huw Wheldon, and it was a most distinguished assembly of people, and I always felt really a bit inadequate to be at those fancy meetings in S35 in Sangers [unclear 0:04:52] just get the department and Grace went on, on a monologue.  Alasdair Milne of course, I mean, you know there were some great people. 

            So I became…then when Grace retired I became Head of Current Affairs Group, and I suppose I did that for a couple of years.  What…Panorama was, by that time, in the hands of Jeremy Isaacs, a mistake…

I:            Only for one year.

 

R:            …which I had made…a mistake I had made.

I:            One year wasn’t it?

 

R:            Yes, Jeremy was not a success at Panorama.  The reason that Jeremy was not a success was that he wanted…from making it, (a) he didn’t like Dimbleby and didn’t get on with Dimbleby, and said…I mean, and Richard was…and Richard got to hear this, and Richard was so skilled…when I introduced…I had a lunch to introduce Jeremy to Richard, and Richard said, “Ah you’re the man who wants to get rid of me.”  And of course Jeremy was taken aback and quickly fell under Richard’s charm.  Nevertheless, he wanted to get away from the magazine programme and make it a single subject programme. 

            And the very first programme that Jeremy did, as Editor, had Jim Mossman in South America, where the poverty of South America and the role of the Catholic Church.  It was a wonderful film, I mean, most marvellous film, but it wasn’t worth 50 minutes, quite frankly.  And it missed Richard.  Now Jeremy realised the mistake very quickly and by the second programme Richard was there.  But Richard’s role became…was reduced and, of course, by that time he was pretty ill.  And Richard…I mean, Jeremy, of course, then, became an admirer of Dimbleby as anybody who ever worked with him became. 

            But Jeremy’s stay at the BBC was not a successful one.  He was there a year, perhaps a little bit longer.  And then Cyril Bennett persuaded him to come back to Rediffusion.  I’ve always felt guilty because it was I who persuaded Jeremy to come to the BBC over a lunch at the Gay Hussar, I remember.  Jeremy has forgiven me, and he always felt that the year at the BBC didn’t do him any harm.  He went back to Rediffusion.  He became the Head of Features and, of course, eventually the Director of Programmes and so on, and on to Channel 4, etc.  But no doubt the year at the BBC was not a happy one, for him or for the BBC.

            Political programmes grew, I suppose, Gallery became an important programme.  Panorama went on.  During my time as Head of Current Affairs, Tonight came to an end, I brought it to an end, I certainly recommended that it should come to an end.  I thought it had lost its nerve, quite frankly.  It had lost its skills.  It didn’t work at 6 o’clock any longer.  What was needed was a sharper programme at the other end of the evening, and so began 24 Hours, at first three nights a week, under the editorship of Derrick Amoore.  And Derrick…with Tony Whitby…and Derrick, having lost Tonight, threw himself wholeheartedly into 24 Hours.  He was very, very good about it, even though he loved Tonight and was one of Donald Baverstock’s disciples, he then did do very well with 24 Hours. 

And 24 Hours, introduced by Cliff, with Kenneth Allsop, and other reporters, was a much sharper programme, reflected the news of the day much much more, and dealt with the issues of the day much more, and there were some very good people in it.  Tony Smith still worked in it.  Tony became the Editor.  Tony Whitby became the Editor.  Tony Smith became the Editor.  And in the end 24 Hours went on.  And, of course, at the other end of the evening Nationwide began.  But Nationwide began…by that time I’d gone to become Controller at BBC1. 

So I spent six years altogether in Talks and Current Affairs, or whatever you wanted to call it at Lime Grove.  Two years as the Editor of Panorama.  Two years as the Editor of Public Affairs.  And two years as Head of Current Affairs Group.  And then the call came from Huw Wheldon to become Controller of BBC1 and that was that.

I:            Do you…sorry, to go back, did you…I mentioned in my note to you Paul, were you there during the Yesterday’s Men crisis?

 

R:            As Controller of BBC1 I was, yes.

I:            Ah sorry, yes.  Well we’ll mention that later.

 

R:            Now the Yesterday…well, the Yesterday’s Men crisis is interesting.  I did that election, the election when Wilson lost.  I was a Producer of that election with Dick Francis as a Director.  And there was no doubt the relationship between Harold Wilson and the BBC had soured, and it had soured to some extent, I suppose, I mean, he certainly pointed the finger in my direction saying that I had soured it. 

Now what one had to remember about the whole Wilson premiership is this.  Before Wilson became Prime Minister he had appeared regularly on BBC television.  He was there in and out, and he was an exceptionally good operator on the television screen.  Always available.  He got to know the people involved, and we were on Christian name terms.  It was Harold, very close to John Grist, etc., and he was there at Lime Grove.  He would stay to drink afterwards and tell all sorts of stories, and we really got along. 

He got to know Hugh Greene fairly well, who was then the Director-General.  Hugh entertained him in his house in Holland Park.  And when the election was called, the ’64 election, when the ’64 election was called the BBC schedule on that Thursday night included Steptoe, Steptoe & Son.  Steptoe at that time was the most popular comedy programme on British television.  The audiences were 12, 14, 15 million people.  Marcia Falkender…Marcia Williams, as she then was, was working for Wilson at that time and she knew about things, she had a feel for things.  And Marcia realised that if Steptoe went out on Thursday night at 8:30, half an hour before the polls closed, that Labour would lose a lot of voters on that night.  And she said to H. Wilson, who then…”Get Steptoe off the screen on that night.”  And Wilson, being close to Hugh Greene, persuaded Hugh Greene to take it off on polling night. 

            Now, did Greene make a mistake?  I honestly don’t think so.  I think it was in the public interest that a programme…that people went out to vote, and that people were not kept at home because there was a popular television programme on the air.  And Greene did the decent thing, not because of Wilson, he did it, quite honestly I think it was the correct thing to do.  And Steptoe came off and as we all know Labour won, a very, very narrow win on that night, four seats wasn’t it?  Whatever it was.  And no doubt, no doubt, the fact that Steptoe was not on the air that night…not a new edition of Steptoe was not on the air that night may…was…had an effect on the outcome of the election.  Wilson was pleased.  He continued to be friends with the BBC.  But of course the relationship changed.  Once the man goes into No.10 Downing Street it’s a different thing. 

            Wilson then tried to persuade Hugh Greene to allow him to speak to the nation, say, “What I want to do Hugh…” was fireside chats, regular fireside chats, the way President Roosevelt used to do on radio.  And Greene said, “Well of course by all means, if you want to take up…have a fireside chat, that is your right, you call a prime ministerial broadcast, I just have to tell you one thing that we…the BBC will invite Alec Douglas-Home and Jo Grimond to give similar broadcasts on the following days.”  “Oh really, why is that?”  “Well that is a thing called balance Prime Minister.”  Said Hugh Greene to Wilson.  And from that moment onwards the relationship soured.  Wilson thought Greene was difficult.  Wilson thought that Lime Grove was difficult, and that the people at Lime Grove, notably…he got on with Grace but, notably, Paul Fox and, notably, John Grist, were difficult people who didn’t like him.

            Ted Heath began to emerge as a more popular figure on television.  And there were two major rows between Wilson and the BBC, and one was at a Party Conference in Brighton, when John Grist was summoned by Wilson, who was then Prime Minister, and given an almighty dressing down in front of everybody, in front of the press, in front of colleagues.  And John behaved most honourably and kept quite, and took the dressing down like a gentleman.  Wilson was wrong…I’ve forgotten what the hell it was about, I mean, the issue really doesn’t matter.  It was a public dressing down, which was then reported in the papers, and Wilson was playing to the gallery as he always did.  So the relationships were bad.

            He was then out of office, Heath came in, and by the time we came to Yesterday’s Men…by the time we came to that election…let’s talk about the election first…I had taken it upon myself as a Producer of the election to try and get an interview with Wilson, live from the train on Friday morning.  The train that was bringing him from Liverpool to what one assumed would be Downing Street.  And we had rigged the cameras and the…all the equipment to do a live interview from the train, which was quite an innovation.  John Morgan was the interviewer.  And we thought, well, John Morgan is a friend of Wilson’s he’ll persuade him. 

Now, to be fair, I had not asked Wilson’s permission or…(a) for the interview or approval for the interview, I had not issued any invitations, nor had I asked permission, not that I thought it was needed, to do the live thing from the train.  Wilson took it amiss, I mean, he thought he was…he was outraged that I had assumed, without asking him…or Marcia may have been outraged…that I had gone ahead in this thing without ever speaking to them about it.  And he flatly refused to talk to the BBC.  Flatly refused to speak to his friend John Morgan.  What was worse, he gave an interview to ITN.  ITN did not have the facilities on the train.  ITN threw the tape out at Crewe Station and got the interview on the air before we did. 

            But we had one little thing left in reserve.  Desmond Wilcox had just arrived at the BBC from Rediffusion, and I’d asked Des to go to Euston Station to meet Wilson off the train and do the interview.  And Wilson, looking at Wilcox, thought here’s another man from ITV and gave the interview to Wilcox, never realising that Wilcox was then working for the BBC.  And Des had done…did the interview and we managed to get it.  But Wilson, he never forgave me.  He never forgave the BBC.

            And then years later, when he was out of office, came the story of Yesterday’s Men.  I went and had…I suppose, I was Controller of…I may have been still…whatever it was…I had lunch with David Dimbleby at Chez Ciccio’s in Kensington [unclear 0:17:00] [s.l. still remember the thing], and David sold me on the idea, when Wilson’s out of office we’ll do a programme on the end of the Labour government.  We will interview Wilson.  We will interview Tony Crosland, Jim Callaghan, Richard Crossman, Roy Jenkins, all the people who had been in power, and we’ll do a programme on them.  I thought excellent idea.  Smashing. 

Foolishly, I did not ask David what the title of that programme was going to be.  David went on, did the programme.  I was at Television Centre as Controller.  John Grist was the Head of the Current Affairs Group.  Tony Smith was the Editor of 24 Hours.  David was working…David Dimbleby was working on this programme…he was a freelance…was working on the programme to Tony Smith and to John Grist.  The programme happened.  Everybody was interviewed.  First of all there was the enormous row when David did the interview with H. Wilson and asked him about the price…how much money he got for his memoirs.  And Wilson said, “Outrageous, stop the recording at once.”  And then the recording started again and David asked exactly the same question, “What was price of the memoirs?”  Or, “How much money did you get from your memoirs?”  And Wilson said, “Have you ask Ted Heath where he got the money for his yacht from?”  It was one of those child-like rows.  But of course it became known, inevitably, it got in the prints, and Wilson was very difficult.

            All the other, all the others, agreed to be interviewed by David.  Jim Callaghan who was Foreign Secretary.  Roy Jenkins was Chancellor of the Exchequer.  Dick Crossman, Tony Crosland, all those people.  The programme was put together and, eventually, was produced by that woman called Angela…

I:            Pope?

 

R:            What?  Pope.  Angela Pope.  And eventually it became clear when Radio Times billings came along that the programme was to be called Yesterday’s Men.  To be fair, I was Controller of BBC1 and I didn’t think…I didn’t think it was a particularly witty title but I didn’t think anything dreadful about it, as a title.  But then the row broke.  The programme was in the Radio Times, Yesterday’s Men, Producer, Angela Pope, blah, blah, blah.  Charles Curran was by that time Director-General of the BBC, and Charles Curran gave a dinner party at the Television Centre, and this was in the summer of whatever year it was…July…June…he gave a dinner party for Fred Friendly and others.  And in the middle of this dinner party the phone went, Huw Wheldon, “Could you come to the phone…” have you heard this story?  Has this been told? 

Huw Wheldon…Huw went to the telephone, “Who’s on the phone?”  “This is Lord Goodman.”  “Oh yes, hello.”  “I am speaking on behalf of Harold Wilson, I am representing…I am his Solicitor and I’m complaining about this particular programme, and if nothing is done about this we will issue an injunction first thing in the morning to forbid the programme going out.”  This was on the eve of transmission.  “Thank you very much.”  Lord Goodman put the telephone down and went off. 

Half an hour later the phone rang again, Charles Curran, can you come to the…”Who’s on the phone?”  “Lord Goodman.”  “Lord Goodman.”  “Yes, I’ve just spoken to Mr Wheldon and I’m afraid I didn’t get a very satisfactory reply I am speaking on behalf of Harold Wilson, Tony Crosland, Roy Jenkins, Jim Callaghan, Uncle Tom Cobley and all, and we will issue an injunction tomorrow morning, we think this programme’s absolutely outrageous…” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, “…and unless something is done about it tonight…”  “Well I’m at a dinner party…”  “Well we’ll have to talk about it…” 

Charles Curran went back, talked about it to Huw and between them they decided, well this dinner party’s got to end, and the Americans thought it was absolutely unbelievable that there would be such outrage caused by one programme, and that this Solicitor would be phoning up.  Anyway the Americans were sent packing, and a number of us got together and said, “Well the thing to do is we’ll have to go and see Lord Goodman.”  This was midnight by then on the Wednesday night.  And off we trooped…”Lord Goodman lives in Portland Place?”  “Yes, he lives in Portland…” 

By that time, of course, all the secretaries and everybody had gone home and there was this team of BBC Executives, led by Charles Curran and Huw Wheldon, going along Portland Place, “Where does he live?”  “Oh, I don’t know, he lives somewhere in Portland Place.”  “The number?”  “No, I have no idea of the number.”  There were these senior executives striking matches and lighting cigarette lighters, walking along Portland Place seeing where Lord Goodman lived.  Eventually, 12:30, 12:45, found Lord Goodman, had a most amiable conversation with Arnold, and he said, “No, no, maybe not, maybe we won’t issue an injunction but…” blah, blah, blah…”…we’ll see what happens…what you do tomorrow.” 

By that time, of course, Charles Hill was the Chairman of the BBC, at that time.  There was a meeting of the Board of Governors due to take place on that Thursday, and Charles Hill demanded to see the programme so that he should see it and be able to talk to the Governors.  That’s the first time in the history of the BBC that the Chairman had demanded to see a programme in advance of transmission.  It was outrageous.  But he was the Chairman and Charles Curran could not persuade him to do otherwise.  Charles had seen it by that time.  Huw had seen it.  Both thought it was okay for transmission.  Neither of them liked the title.  Hill saw it and thought, well it was okay, didn’t like the title, but he could convince the Governors that it would go out, and go out it did. 

And just before the real furore broke one story worth telling.  Jim Callaghan, who had been Foreign Secretary in that government appeared on 24 Hours on Friday night and at no stage did Jim complain about the programme, either in the chat beforehand or in the drinks afterwards, or during the programme.  It was Wilson who…I mean, Tony Crosland made a fuss because his house in Ladbroke Grove was shown without permission but, I mean, that was just Tony being mischievous.  Roy didn’t make a fuss.  Jim Callaghan didn’t make a fuss.  The only person who made the fuss was Wilson.  And I suppose when you look back on it, the title Yesterday’s Men was pejorative.

            Two postscripts to this story.  One was, when they…on the Wednesday night, on the eve of the thing…when the trouble was…when it was clear there was gonna be trouble, Angela Pope the Producer had taken the programme home with her, or allegedly home with her, took it with her, certainly didn’t take it…and when people asked, “Well where’s the master of this thing?”  “Well Angela’s taken it with her.”  “Well could somebody ring Angela please?”  Well Angela wasn’t sleeping at home that night, but she’d got it under her pillow somewhere or other, wherever she was sleeping that night and that’s where the cassette was.  That’s one postscript.

The other postscript, more amusing actually than that, was this Thursday was Huw Wheldon’s day in the BBC box at Royal Ascot.  And Huw said, “Well…” to me, he said, “Look it’s out of the question old boy I can’t possibly go to Ascot, you’ll have to take my place, you be the host in the box and you enjoy yourself, because I’ll have to go the Governors meeting and make sure that this programme goes out.”  I said, “Okay, fine, terrific, wonderful, had a lovely day.”  “Oh…” he said, “…just one tiny spot of bother, Lord Goodman is among your guests.” 

And so we went…Betty and I went to Ascot and all sorts of people were there, we arrived, good time, entertained our guests.  By 1 o’clock time lunch no sign of Lord Goodman, of course, naturally, none whatsoever.  People kept putting their heads round the door saying, “Has Lord Goodman arrived?”  “No, awfully sorry.”  We started eating, kept a place for him.  Sure enough at 1:45 Lord Goodman bowled up, “Ah very nice to see you…” blah, blah, blah, all wonderful, lovely.  Ate his food.  People arrived, kept whispering in his ear.  Goodman had a terrific helping of salmon.  Ate the strawberries.  Had a bet on the Gold Cup.  Chatted about Southern Rhodesia, he’d just come back as Wilson’s envoy.  The row with the BBC from the previous night was never mentioned.  Not at any stage was it mentioned.  It could never have happened.  He stayed for the Gold Cup.  Naturally, he’d backed the winner.  He collected his winnings.  Had another portion of strawberries and buggered off. 

And the programme went out that night and that was the end of Good…he never…you would never believe that he and the BBC were gonna meet in court.  Out of the question.  It was hilarious. 

So Yesterday’s Men…if…truly after all these years, looking back on it, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the programme.  If the programme had been called, Last Thoughts of the Labour Administration, or, H. Wilson Looks Back on Ten Years…or however many years…in Downing Street, it would have been fine.  It was the title, which was unquestionably pejorative and the title should have been spotted.  It cost John Grist his job as Head of Current Affairs, there’s no question about that.  That was the consequence.  And John Grist was moved, either to Washington, either to New York, or…no, he was moved, became Controller Midlands, he was moved out in the regions.  And that was that Yesterday’s Men story.

I:            Fascinating.

 

R:            Go on, anything else?

I:            Well, you’re now Controller 1, you’ve just…

 

R:            I’m now Controller BBC1, what did I do as Controller BBC1?

I:            Yeah.

 

R:            I enjoyed myself hugely.

I:            Important years, they were.

 

R:            Undoubtedly.  Well, they were important years.  They were years like…the years [unclear 0:27:08]…the years had certainly included the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, I suppose, that was the most important thing.  We certainly…the most thing that happened because we reported on it well.  Lots of…other assassin…the assassination of Martin Luther King.  The assassination of Bobby Kennedy.  And, I mean, the most important, the Russians in Czechoslovakia. 

            And thanks to the bravery of the Czech’s we were able to get television coverage out of Czechoslovakia, live on the air, and were able to plan the BBC1 schedule so that it reflected the news of the…special programmes were a great thing in those days.  I had a marvellous…two wonderful colleagues in planning.  First of all, Colin Shaw and later on Tony Preston and, indeed, Peter Rowley who’d been a distinguished BBC Correspondent in Algeria and in France, so those were the three people in planning who helped enormously readjusting the schedule and making sure that we could get the stuff on the air when it was wanted, when it reflected the news.

            And BBC1 was a lively channel in those days.  Did I do anything…what do I look back on with satisfaction?  I suppose, one of them was, unquestionably, I managed to get the news back to 9 o’clock.  The news in those days was either at 8:50 or 9:10, and the reason for that was because BBC programmes, as indeed American programmes, were…had a running time of 50 minutes.  And therefore, it was very difficult to get to an hour, to get to the…on the hour for a change of programmes.  And to get the news to 9 o’clock did require a certain number of adjustments, and playing around with the schedule.  I enjoyed playing around with the schedule.  Once the news was established back at 9 o’clock, where it should have been, the 9 o’clock news, from that on the news run in those days by Desmond Taylor, lovely chap, wonderful news programmes in those days, wonderfully professionally, the 9 o’clock news became established.  That, I think, gave me [unclear 0:29:16].

            In the…my views, really, on the Heads of Departments were there…that the Heads of Departments were there to offer programmes.  If the programmes worked they were on the air.  It was up to them to get on with making the programmes.  What I had available were the two most important things any person could have, I had air time and budgets, I had control over those two things.  And in that way, one was able to control the schedule.  I was lucky I had David Attenborough next to me as Controller of BBC2, at first, and then later on Robin Scott came along, and BBC1 and BBC2 were going concerns in those times.

            Huw Wheldon was the boss, first as Controller of Programmes.  Kenneth Adam was still there.  But Kenneth Adam by that time was pretty much the worse for wear, even in the mornings.  And when Kenneth retired, Huw became the Managing Director…or the Director first and then the Managing Director.  David then became…David Attenborough then became the…

I:            Director of Programmes.

 

R:            …Director of Programmes, really a job that wasn’t very satisfactory.  And Robin came…Robin Scott came next door, and BBC1…I…two things I believed in, unquestionably, I did believe in the ratings, and felt the ratings were important, that we mustn’t fall behind.  I did believe in a schedule, landmarks, I’d built the schedule around landmarks.  The schedule didn’t change too often.  But the content of the programmes was up to the Heads of Departments.  And I had terrific group…Heads of Departments.  In drama was Sydney Newman first, followed then by Shaun Sutton.  In light entertainment I had Tom Sloan first, followed then by Bill Cotton.  And two terrific Heads of…one of comedy, one of light entertainment, Duncan Wood at first, wonderful, and then Michael Mills, enormous successes.  And it was up to the Heads of Departments to get the programmes on the air.

            And over at Kensington House there was Bryan Cowgill in charge of sport.  And you, Norman, in music and arts.  Steven Hurst was there.  Aubrey Singer in charge of science and features.  And it was…I mean, again, I was very fortunate with the reporters in Panorama, I was exceptionally lucky with the Heads of Departments.  And the Heads of Departments were allowed to choose the programmes they wanted to offer.  And once the offers meetings had been concluded and I said…I only had…I had…only had three words to say, really, at those meetings, yes, no, or, maybe.  I either said, yes, to an offer, or no, or maybe.  And it worked.  And it worked, I believe, very well.

            Planning Department were terrific because they helped to get the schedule going, they found the resources.  And I liked it…I mean, I know I had a wonderful time in those six years.  I’d like to think that BBC1 looked good.  That BBC1 was popular.  And that BBC1 had some distinguished programmes.  I have to say I didn’t read the scripts in advance.  I didn’t feel that this was my job, that’s what the Heads of Departments were there for.  Nor…I did discuss casting occasionally, but in the end those decisions were left to the people who were running the departments.  It was their job to get on with it.  And they did get a great deal of freedom.

I:            I remember showing you one programme in advance, which was Ken Russell’s film on Richard Strauss, do you remember?

 

R:            Indeed I do.

I:            Dance of the Seven Veils.

 

R:            Indeed.

I:            But you let it go.

 

R:            Well I [unclear 0:32:57].

I:            And David was with you too, David Attenborough.

 

R:            Yes.  Well because I didn’t feel sufficiently confidently in being able to make a judgement on that particular…on that bit…but there was also Tony Palmer’s film on Vietnam, if you remember?

I:            No, All My Loving.

 

R:            All My…

I:            Yeah, pop music.

 

R:            Pop music…sorry, pop music.  But it included…

I:            It had a sequence about a burning monk.

 

R:            …it included that sequence…no, it also included that sequence…

I:            Oh yes, sorry, yes.

 

R:            …of the Police Chief in Saigon putting the pistol to the guy…to a prisoner’s head and killing him.

I:            That’s right.

 

R:            Now I had enormous doubts about letting that go.

I:            And Tony showed it to the background of The Beatles, on the soundtrack.

 

R:            Yes.  In the end, because it was Tony and because I thought he was pretty serious about this, I let it go.  I don’t…I have no regrets about that.

I:            It’s been repeated two or three times.

 

R:            Well I have no regrets.  I mean, I’m…the relationship with the news was excellent.  The news got airtime.  The relationship with sport was good.  Special programmes went on the air.  While I believed in the sanctity of the schedule, when the events dictated, the schedule was thrown overboard and special programmes went out.  There were lots of trailers; presentations did a super job in those days.  I mean, obviously, with a value of hindsight I look back on it as good days. 

Monty Python started in that time.  It may not have started at the best time.  They were the people I did meet because they were very unhappy about the slot I allocated them.  It was experimental comedy at that time.  They came on, on a Tuesday evening at a time when it was only visible in London.  And Michael Mills, who was the Head of the Department, and John Cleese and the others, were furious that it was done at that time.  And eventually, once the programme had been established, it was promoted to better times.  It never ran on BBC2.  It only ran on BBC1.  And I still speak to John Cleese now…I must go.  I’m perfectly happy to come for another session…

[Interview paused - 0:35:04]

[Interview resumed - 0:35:05]

M:            Right, we’re running now.

I:            Yes, let’s continue.  Monty Python Act 2.

 

R:            Well the Monty Python…the placing of Monty Python in the BBC schedules was a course of heated debate.  I mean, the real problem, as I said, was, that it was not seen outside London, and that they were irritated by this.  But this was, to some extent, I mean, let’s be clear, the first series was avant-garde comedy.  One was…one thought this was something for London only.  I know John Cleese and the others were deeply irritated by this, but the second series, and the third series, and the fourth series, and however many series there were after that, were certainly placed in a prominent position.  And I have to say that whenever I see John Cleese now, and I do bump into him occasionally, or any of the others, I mean, Michael Palin I see at football and at other places, I mean, they could not be more pleasant, all the…such arguments as there were, were professional arguments, all forgotten.  I admire them enormously.  And, of course, they’ve achieved…they’ve made wonderful achievements.  If you look at John Cleese as a major movie star.  Michael Palin as a major contributor to BBC television programmes, the travel programme.  And the others have all done really tremendously well.  Monty Python was a joy.  Michael Mills who brought it to the BBC was a most inventive Head of Comedy, and he died much too young.

I:            True.  Okay then, we…probably reached the end of your BBC career part one, Paul.  So we’re in the early ‘70s aren’t we?  Is it ’70…?

 

R:            3, something like that?

I:            ’73, yes.

 

R:            Yes, I suppose…

I:            And then…

 

R:            So I’d been Controller at BBC1 for seven years, and I’d always been one of those people who had moved on to other jobs.  And the set up at the BBC at that time was that Huw Wheldon was the Managing Director.  David Attenborough was the Director of Programmes.  I was in charge of 1.  Robin Scott was in charge of BBC2.  It was a splendid arrangement, worked wonderfully well.  And then David suddenly…David Attenborough suddenly decided that he’d rather go back and put his shorts on again.  And the reason for that, quite straightforwardly was, that I had a gap in my Christmas schedule one year, I suppose it was ’71, maybe it had been ’72, and there was an hour’s gap and the programme that was needed, unquestionably, was a nature documentary, a documentary about…natural history documentary.  And I knew the chap who could do it better than anybody else, and that was David.  And David then in his exotic role as, whatever he was called, Director of Programmes, by and large in charge of the lavatories and the computer project, in a boring job, jumped at the chance to go off.  He wasn’t sure whether he could still do it.  But anyway, there he was.  Off he went.  Did a most wonderful programme, which got an audience of 11 or 12 million on Christmas.  And David suddenly thought, by golly, I can go back to the old stuff and to hell with this bureaucracy.

I:            Yeah, what was the programme?

 

R:            I’ve honestly forgotten the name of the programme.  It was a programme that was placed on Boxing Day, or may have been the 27th of December.  It was the most marvellous programme.  I don’t know, he’d gone to Borneo or somewhere, one of those places that David used to travel to.  And he was, having been a bureaucrat, a BBC bureaucrat, for 8/9/10 years, and having done a wonderful job, having turned down the chance to become Director-General as, indeed, David…David was offered that by Lord Hill, absolutely turned it down flat, and went back and said, “I’m leaving my desk.  I’m going.”  Huw Wheldon couldn’t hold him.  He’d done a…David had done a sensational job for the BBC.  He had rescued BBC2, unquestionably.  He made friends around the place with everybody, and it was a pleasure to see him, wherever David walked.  And the combination of Huw and David was incredibly strong.  I mean, here were these…egging each other on, as far as the stories were concerned.  It was a wonderful time to be on the 6th floor of the Television Centre. 

            David went, a large plank had left…had dropped out of the…Huw was clearly coming closer to retirement.  He’d been made Deputy Director-General.  His chance of becoming Director-General had gone, and I was getting bored.  And the opportunity did come.  Huw did say to me, in passing, how would you like to become Director of Programmes, take David’s job?  And I thought that seeing how disenchanted David had become with this job, I thought that this was something that I didn’t really fancy, and I said so to Huw, “No, I’m not interested.”  And he brought Alasdair Milne back from Controller of Scotland into the job as Director of Programmes.

            Now Alasdair and I had known each other in Lime Grove.  We were colleagues.  We were friends, but we were cool friends, let’s put it clearly.  I admired Alasdair enormously.  Here was this young man who’d come, more or less, straight from Oxford after having done his National Service, into the BBC.  Without him Tonight would never have happened, would never have got on the air.  Donald Baverstock may have had the idea but Alasdair actually ensured that the programme got on the screen.  And then he left the BBC in rather sad circumstances, because Donald left, he felt he ought to go.  And Huw Wheldon brought in him back, and brought him back, first, as Controller of Scotland, and then brought him back into the centre of things at Director of Programmes.

            And, quite frankly, having been Alasdair’s equal, so to speak, in the old Talks Department under Grace Goldie, I didn’t really fancy Alasdair suddenly becoming my boss.  I’d got on with David because we were equal.  And Alasdair then started sitting in on office meetings and things that, in the past, really had been left to the Controller of BBC1, and I got…I mean, I don’t think I got tetchy but I was just slightly irritated.  And suddenly Alan Whicker phoned up.  And Alan said…Alan, who had left the BBC, was working for Yorkshire Television.  But Alan and I had always been friends.  He was still living in Regent’s Park in those days, in London.  And Alan said, “Why don’t you come over to lunch on Sunday, I want you to meet somebody.”  And over lunch on Sunday, at Alan’s home, I met Ward Thomas, then the Managing Director of Yorkshire Television. 

And Ward and I we’d met each other briefly, we knew each other vaguely, and we chatted.  And Ward said, “How would you like to come to Yorkshire Television as Director of Programmes?”  I said, “You’ve got a Director of Programmes…” Donald Baverstock was the Director of Programmes.  He said, “Well Donald is coming to the end of his time and Donald will have to go and you take his place.”  That was an extraordinary circumstance, because 7/8 years earlier, I had been in a consortium with Tim [s.l. Heward 0:42:22] and others, to apply for the Yorkshire franchise.  I mean, it was a combination of that marvellous…it was Tim Heward, David Coleman, James MacTaggart, Alan…whatever his name was…the variety chap…and I.  Tim as the Director of Programmes.  I as the Deputy Director…so we tried for Yorkshire Television ages before…when Yorkshire first started.

I:            Yeah, well this will be 1967, before they began, or the year before…

 

R:            Correct.

I:            …what it is ’67, I think.

 

R:            Before I became Controller BBC1…and when I lost that I became Controller BBC1...and we lost that franchise.  Ward Thomas and his group headed by Sir Richard Graham and the Yorkshire Post, won the contract, and here seven years later was Ward offering me the job to go to Yorkshire Television.  Well it took a little bit of negotiating.  But the terms…quite frankly, the financial terms were so good, and so much better than the BBC, plus the possibility of actually getting some shares in a public company, that I was deeply attracted.  I was bored at the BBC and I didn’t really…I wasn’t really looking forward to working with Alasdair, so the negotiations with Ward were kept wonderfully secret.  Nothing leaked out.  Nothing at all. 

I went into Huw on a Monday or a Tuesday said, “I’m sorry I’m gonna go.”  And Huw was deeply upset, I mean, truly was.  And it was still in those days…he said, “Well if you’re going you’ve got to within 24 hours or less, clear your desk.”  I was a little hurt, I mean, I’d done, whatever it was, 23 years service in the BBC, I’d given it a fair whack of my time.  And Huw said, “Off you go.”

M:            Sorry, stop there.

[End of transcription - 0:44:29]

VOICE FILE NAME:            Paul Fox Side 4

I     =     Interviewer

R     =     Respondent

M     =     Male

s.l.     =     sounds like.

I:            Paul Fox, Side 4.

 

R:            So, Hugh said, “Clear your desk, off you go.”  And, I have to say, that I left the BBC after 22 years service without a drink, without anybody…I mean, my secretary and I had a drink.  She was upset, Anne Fox, and I left and that was it.  Now fortunately arrangements were in hand that Betty and I would go on holiday, 24 hours later, to Portugal.  And there I was, having left the BBC, cleared my desk, gone home, following day, or 48 hours later we went off to the Algarve, had a few messages down in the Algarve from people.  And two weeks later, after the Algarve holiday, I turned up at Yorkshire Television in Leeds.

            Donald having gone…I mean, the truth of the…the fact of the matter was that Donald had been fired by Ward and I had taken his place.  Arrived at Yorkshire, in fairly strange surroundings, I didn’t know many people at all.  But found that there was a great deal of work to be done.  We decided not to move house, not to move homes, up to Yorkshire.  Yorkshire Television offered me a house up at Menston on the way to Ilkley, and I stayed there.  And the decision about moving really was made, really, by what Lord Thomas said to me, “You’ve gotta make up your mind where you want to spend your weekends.”  And quite honestly, Betty and I had decided that we wanted to continue to spend our weekends at home in London, and there we stayed.

            And I did, during the next 15 years, I suppose, in Yorkshire Television.  I spent more time than I would have thought on the M1 and on the train between London and Leeds than I spent in the office, because I did find that the bulk of the work, all the lobbying, all the negotiations, all the meetings, all those things took place in London.  And I wanted to ensure that Yorkshire Television, fairly new major television company, ITV company, had to have a place in the sun.  Had to be there at the top table with the big boys.  And I suppose one helped to bring that about.

            So, on to Yorkshire.  My first meeting in ITV was…I mean, ITV was totally dominated by meetings.  You were there at meetings all the time.  The Controllers met.  The Managing Directors met with the Controllers.  You met with the IBA.  You met for this.  You met for that.  The meetings were constant.  And one met a large number of new people as a result of that.  I mean, David Plowright, John Birt, Michael Grade, Brian Tesler, Cyril Bennett, all people I’d known vaguely before, I met, and we became colleagues, we became friends, and these friendships to some have lasted to this day.

            My very first meeting in ITV was at the old ATV House.  It was a meeting of the five major Managing Directors and the five Programme Controllers.

 

I:            That in Cumberland Place was it?

 

R:            In Cumberland Place.  Cumberland Place at old Lew’s place.  And I arrived at…in time and, I suppose, I was the first one there.  And Lew was there, and Lew said, “Good morning Paul, how lovely to see you, have a cigar.”  And opened the cigar box and, “Have a cigar now and put two in your pocket for later on.”  And I suddenly realised what the difference was between meetings in the BBC and meetings in ITV.

            Meetings in the BBC always began with the immortal phrase, “Have you had coffee yet?”  Meetings at ITV clearly begun, “Please have a cigar, and take one for later.”  And Lew, of course, I mean, those were the days when Lew was around.  When Howard Thomas was still around.  When Sidney Bernstein and Cecil, indeed, were at Granada.  And Denis Forman, of course.  And who else?  And London Weekend Television was then run by John Freeman.  I mean, it was, let’s be clear about it, the people, the calibre of the people who would sit round the table in ITV outshone the talent of the people who were in the BBC.

I:            And they knew a lot about programmes.

 

R:            And they knew a hell of a lot about programmes.

 

I:            And which were good and which were not.

 

R:            Absolutely.

I:            And how to make good ones.

 

R:            Absolutely.  Because they were all programme makers.  They were all programme makers.  The people who were the bosses in ITV were programme makers.  Let me just, it’s just worth going through it again.  ATV, Lew Grade, I mean, the master showman of all time, in the days when he was still, I mean, I suppose I joined when he was still…I suppose, he’d just been made Sir Lew Grade.  Lew Grade assisted by Bill Ward, the pioneer of television. 

            At Granada, Sidney Bernstein was in full flow, assisted by his brother Cecil.  Assisted by Denis Forman.  Assisted by David Plowright.  I mean, all of them knew what programme making was about. 

            At LWT, John Freeman, I mean, here, you know, the man who had been a master diplomat, Ambassador in Washington…and High Commissioner in New Delhi.  The man who made face to face, had as his Programme Controller, Cyril Bennett.  The lovely, wonderful Cyril, who had been all over in commercial television, knew what it was about.

            That’s three companies.  And then there was Thames.  Thames?  Yes.  And then there was Thames headed by Howard Thomas, with Brian Tesler as Director.  George Cooper the man…no, with…Howard Thomas as the Managing Director and Brian Tesler as his Programme Controller.

            And then there was Yorkshire, I mean, Brian being in television…I knew Brian when he was in the BBC, one of the outstanding intellects of our time, and also a wonderful producer of entertainment.  And Brian ran Thames brilliantly.

            And then there was this new company, Yorkshire Television, headed by Ward Thomas, who had been trained at Granada by Sidney in the Sales Department.  Had then gone on to become Managing Director at Yorkshire Television.  Was a bit feared around the place because Ward could be cool and tough.  But Ward ensured that Yorkshire Television had its place at the top table, and insisted that Yorkshire was one of the big five.  And I helped him do that.  And I have to say, I had one hell of a good time in ITV in those days.  The company was terrific.  Of course there were hard negotiations, and when the five companies dominate…the five majors dominated the network, the network worked extremely well.

            There were enough people around that table to ensure that there were good place for public affairs programmes.  David Plowright ensured that.  I ensured that.  Cyril Bennett ensured that.  Bill and Brian, you look at the group of five Programme Controllers, Bill Ward, Cyril Bennett, David Plowright, Brian Tesler, and I.  It was a fantastic collection with old Frank Copplestone as the Chairman, and later on Berkeley Smith as the Chairman. 

I mean, here were people who understood television.  Who cared for television.  Who were interested in ratings.  Of course, we were interested in ratings.  No question.  But we are also interested in good programmes.  And while each of the majors had to have its share of programmes, and we negotiated hard for that, we also knew (a) that the schedule mattered more than anything, (b) that the audience mattered, most of all, and thirdly, that there had to be compromises.  And the compromises came about because we understood each other, and we were…may have been rivals but we were also mates.  And it worked extremely well.

            So that was that run of Yorkshire Television.  I really, truly enjoyed it.  Yorkshire was…I mean, Yorkshire programmes…there were two people at Yorkshire who had helped to make good programmes…three.  One was Peter Wills who had ensured that there was a wonderful drama tradition at Yorkshire.  He’d come from Rediffusion.  Here was this old war hero, former Hollywood actor who was a showman in the extreme really, limping away on one leg.  Moaning like mad.  But doing wonderful drama.

            Secondly, Tony Essex had gone there from the BBC to start the drama tradition…to start the documentary tradition, and there was a strong documentary tradition at Yorkshire, quite apart from Alan Whicker.  The Whicker programmes, Whickers World was at its best, it got ratings and they were good programmes.  There was another documentary tradition.  And when Tony died he was succeeded by a man called John Fairley, who is now the Managing Director at Yorkshire Television, and John, who had been brought in by Donald Baverstock, from radio, he’d never done…been in television before in his life, ensured that there was a strong tradition of documentary programmes.  Strong local programmes.

            And the one thing that I did, I brought in Duncan Wood from the BBC, to head entertainment.  And Duncan was sensational, I mean, I’d always admired Duncan at the BBC.  Not only was he great as a boss of comedy, Duncan was also much underrated.  A wonderful manager of people and resources.  And I knew how to get Duncan across to Yorkshire Television, it wasn’t money.  What Duncan wanted was longer holidays, because to spend more time on the golf courses.  And I ensure…and to spend time in Spain.  And what I gave Duncan to get him across from the BBC, I ensured that he’d have seven weeks holiday a year, instead of the four weeks…and he came.  And Duncan and I got on wonderfully well.  And I got on with John Fairley as well, very well.  And Peter. 

And Duncan really turned…helped to turn Yorkshire around, because the entertainment side had been awful.  Absolutely appalling.  There was a fellow called John Duncan who was one of Donald Baverstock’s mates, who was running entertainment and…hell of a nice fellow but hopeless at light entertainment.  And the very first act I took at Yorkshire Television I yanked a comedy series off the air, it had been on for two episodes.  It was Jimmy Edwards.  I can’t remember the title.  But it was the most appalling show out.  And I said, “No, alright, this series will not go on the air any longer.  We’re killing it and that’s it.”  And Duncan arrived two or three weeks later, and as a result of Duncan’s arrival, we managed to get Rising Damp.  And he brought in Vernon Lawrence as his deputy, and we suddenly set off on a great run of comedy programmes.  And so Yorkshire was [s.l. established 0:11:31] and everything was going well, fine, dandy.

 

I:            Wasn’t Joy Whitby there too?

 

R:            Joy Whitby came along afterwards…

I:            Children’s programmes.

 

R:            …as the Head of Children’s.  Yes, indeed, yes.

 

I:            And Tony Preston?  Yeah?

 

R:            Well, let’s come to Tony.  I assumed…I mean, the person who…just to go back to the beginning of this, I mean, Ward Thomas was the Managing Director.  Sir Richard Graham, splendid Yorkshire landowner, figure in Yorkshire, was the Chairman.  But Yorkshire Television was owned by Trident Television.  And the Chairman of Trident was James Hanson, great Yorkshire figure.  And before I was…before Ward could actually settle my contract I went along to meet James Hanson.  And there was this 6 foot 5 figure I’d heard about, you know, the man had been engaged to Audrey Hepburn, it’s well known, and here was this great tycoon on the way up.  Exceptionally handsome man, and vigorous, and all that.  And I took to James, I have to say, I immediately took a…liked him.  And he said, “Well, all goes well you’ll be the Managing Director of this company within three or four years.”  And he kept his word.

            And sure enough after being there, I don’t know, perhaps five years, I became first Joint Managing Director with Ward, and kept my Controller of Programmes job, so I was Joint Managing Director and Director of Programmes.  And then Ward decided to move further up, somewhere or other, Hanson became the Chairman of the company.  Ward became the Group Chief Executive, and I was a Managing Director and Director of Programmes at Yorkshire Television.

            So the meetings in London were continuous.  Perhaps it’s…looking back on it, perhaps I should have appointed a Programme Controller, what I did instead was to bring along somebody as Deputy Managing Director.  And the man I went to was an old chum and one of my oldest mates, from the BBC, Tony Preston.  I’d first met Tony when he was my Planning Assistant when I was Controller BBC1.  He then became the Head of Planning at the BBC.  He then went to light entertainment, Bill Cotton moved him, made him Assistant Head of Variety.  He then succeeded Bryan Cowgill as the Head of OB and Sport in the BBC.  And then, once I’d been in ITV for a couple of years, I suggested to him that there was a vacancy as Controller of Programmers at…Controller at Southern Television, when Berkeley had gone, and Tony went there.  And that his first time in ITV.  He worked for John Davies, for David Wilson. 

But we were great mates.  We talked to each other once a week on the telephone.  And when the Yorkshire vacancy came up, I persuaded Tony to come up to Yorkshire to join me.  And I have to say, he was absolutely marvellous, Tony, I mean, incredibly loyal, wonderfully hardworking, and terribly good for the place because he was so good with people.  And he was always there.  He always…always in Leeds.  Whereas I spent, quite possibly, too much time in London.  But I spent time in London because I had to go to these flaming meetings, (a) with the IBA, (b) with the council, with other ITV companies, and no doubt I decided that meetings in London were Monday and Fridays, and sometimes they were Tuesday’s as well.  So quite often I’d only spend two days in Yorkshire, Wednesday and Thursday.

            Tony and I shared the house.  It saddens me to say, there’s no doubt, it…his move to Leeds ruined his marriage.  He…his wife decided not to come up to live in Leeds.  He’d got a wonderful house from the company, she should have come up, and Tony would have been the King of Yorkshire.  Sadly, she decided not to and the marriage broke up as a result of that. 

            So, Yorkshire days, just one…a couple of key things.  Franchise renewal.  Yorkshire had had one easy franchise renewal.  The next one that came along when Lord Aylestone was the Chairman of the IBA, and the dreaded Brian Young was the Chief Executive…yes.

I:            What year was that, Paul?

 

R:            I’m hopeless at years.  I’d been there about five years, I suppose, about ’78, a bit longer?

 

I:            Something like that.

 

R:            ’79 maybe?  Something like that.  There was a franchise renewal process and…or was there an extension?  I think there may have been an extension.  Anyway, Yorkshire got its extension.  But then the next franchise renewal was, again, with Brian Young in charge and Bridget Plowden as the Chairman.  And those…that franchise renewal process was appalling, I mean, absolutely dreadful, for a number of reasons.  This followed the strike, this franchise renewal.  And the strike in…

I:            That was ’79 wasn’t it, the strike?

 

R:            Yes.  The strike in ITV was a very, very unhappy time.  It was a very unhappy time for the whole of the ITV network.  It was particularly unhappy in Yorkshire Television.  And it was particularly unhappy for me.  I was…I suppose…I think I was the Chairman of the ITV Council at that time…or I had some prominent role in the thing.  And foolishly, or bravely, or foolhardy, I certainly became a key figure in the strike, no doubt.  Seen by the ACTT as this…this is the unacceptable face of ITV, no question about it.  And I was…I dug in…I dug in very hard.  I felt we were being taken to the cleaners by the unions.  And particularly, by the unions in Yorkshire Television.  We had a very, very tough job, led by a man called David Dale, who was the presentation Editor, hell of a nice fellow, unbelievably tough shop steward.  And another guy who then left to go to Thames Television, who’s no longer in television.  Anyway, it was a deeply unhappy time.

            The strike happened…I mean, it was very interesting the story of this strike.  The strike happened during the parliamentary recess.  It was in August.  So at first, quite frankly, ITV didn’t…August, dead time, okay we’re off the air, we’re off the air, the transmitters were closed down.  We had enough staff in Yorkshire Television…enough management staff in Yorkshire Television to get us back on the air; there was no question…non union people.  I mean, there was Ted Wright and other people around who could get us back on the air.  We had enough programmes lined up to get us back on the air.  What we needed were the transmitters…was the Yorkshire transmitter. 

And Ward Thomas who was as strong about keeping the unions out, I mean, whether it was a lockout or whether it was a strike, don’t let’s go into the argument, as far as we were concerned was a strike.  As far as the ACTT was concerned it was a lockout.  Ward was determined that they shouldn’t win, and that we should get on the air.  And he phoned up the IBA.  Brian Young wasn’t there at the time.  The man who was there, who’s now the Chairman of LWT, who was the Deputy Chairman…I’ll come to it in a minute…he was…what the hell is his name?  Man who’s just taken £6 million, £8 million out of LWT, in a share scheme?  Anyway, gone.  He was there.  And Ward said, “Look, could we get the transmitter out?  Could the IBA get the transmitter on the air?”  And he said, “I wish you hadn’t asked me that question, I don’t think we can.” 

And a week later Brian Young was back from holiday and we asked the question again, could we get the transmitter on the air?  And why not?  Well other unions were involved it would be dreadful.  Quite frankly…and Brian Young was undoubtedly scared to…I mean, all it needed was somebody to press a button, the Yorkshire transmitter would have been on the air.  We had a link established between Leeds and the transmitter, and we would have been on the air, and would have defied the union.  And in the end that would have broken the strike.  There’s no question, the IBA should have helped us and decided not to help us.  And the strike went on.  And in the end the strike, I suppose, lasted 6/7/8 weeks?  It was an appalling, a truly appalling…

 

I:            Yeah, a couple of months I think.

 

R:            …no revenue…certainly we weren’t paying any wages, but no revenue was coming in.  And the times were exceptionally…it became quite clear.

I:            Well I was Granada at the time. 

 

R:            So it was tough.

 

I:            I knew quite a bit about it.

 

R:            And what the conclusion, I think, it was started by John Freeman, I suppose, really.  John and Denis Forman, and others, decided, look…and Bill Brown at Scottish…we’ve got to settle.  And settle we did, on very unfavourable terms, I have to say.  And I remember being at Yorkshire Television when they came, to be fair to the union, I take my hat off to them now…or soon afterwards actually…they came back…and they came back…and they marched, I mean, all of them came back together, and there was no doubt, I mean, whatever it was, 3/400 people, they’d lined up outside, and they didn’t come back in dribs and drabs, they came back as a union, solidly, marching into the building.  And there we were.

            David Dale and I made peace shortly thereafter.  People who’d been out, who’d been Producers and senior figures, like, Duncan Dallas, and others, came back and life returned to normal.  It was never quite the same.  And the reason it was never quite the same was because some of those people then got themselves involved into a Consortium that bid for the Yorkshire franchise.  Bid for our jobs and for our livelihood.  One of them was Duncan Dallas, and there were others.  Another who’d come out of semi-retirement was Donald Baverstock and Austin Mitchell. 

Austin was an MP by then.  I don’t know how he could possibly have become a member of a…whether he would…he would have had to give up his seat, had that group won its franchise.  Another who was involved in it was Jonathan Aitken, who had also worked at Yorkshire Television.  And another who became involved in it was Stella Richman.  So it was quite a formidable line-up against us.  Donald Baverstock, Stella Richman, Austin Mitchell, Jonathan Aitken, and various people from the Yorkshire Television staff.

            And the story, of course…was the story…was, the Yorkshire Television staff wanted to dump their owners.  Now it wasn’t…I mean, same time we still had to make programmes with these people.  Some of them were, in opposition, having meetings…I stopped them having meetings on our premises.  But certainly, down the road, bidding for my job, for Tony Preston’s job, for our shares, for the company.  I think it was called the White Rose Consortium.  And there was no doubt one had to see them off.  But the IBA thought, oh, there’s something splendidly romantic, here’s the staff bidding for this franchise.  There were other bidders in the wing.

And the franchise…and the great coup…sorry, the one great coup that Austin Mitchell secured, they secured Harold Wilson, then retired, as Chairman of this Consortium.  And here was Sir Harold Wilson chairing the Consortium with Jonathan Aitken, who’d brought in city finance.  Austin, Donald Baverstock, and others.  And this is how the franchise process went.  There were meetings around Yorkshire taking the people’s mind, as Brian Young’s wonderful phrase was.  I went to the first meeting.  First meeting took place at Doncaster Racecourse.  Been widely advertised.  The people of Yorkshire could speak about their television company, make the criticisms.  And the people in the audience were, two old grannies holding their brown bags…two bag ladies, who’d just come out of the rain.  Three boy scouts on an initiative test, and two other worthy citizens of Doncaster.  I promise you there were more people sitting on the platform than there were in the audience.  And that was the one public meeting I went to out in…outside Leeds.

            There was then a final meeting at Leeds Town Hall, which was a deeply unpleasant meeting, when Yorkshire Television were on the platform.  The IBA were there and some IBA authority member was sitting there on the platform…in the chair…and Austin Mitchell, and others, were in the audience, and some members of Yorkshire staff were in the audience.  There were those members of Yorkshire staff who were against the company and had lined with the other Consortium, while still being employed by us, while still having their wages paid by us.  And it was a bitter scene.

            But when we went to the IBA…I mean, of course, the fascinating thing was, here was Bridget Plowden, Brian Young, Colin Shaw had joined them by that time as Deputy Director, and various other people, sitting there in that room on the 8th floor of Brompton Road, and in we trooped, Sir Richard Graham and the Chair, Ward Thomas, as whatever he was, Group Chief Executive.  I, as the Managing Director, this that and the other.  We’d taken Duncan Wood along.  We’d taken Peter Wills along, to show that we were the programme makers, that we…that this is really what it was about.  And we had a perfectly decent interview.  I think we made a good impression, because we talked about programmes, and Bridget listened to all this. 

The next Consortium in was led by H. Wilson, I mean, would you believe here was the former Prime Minister leading the bid against us.  Now Harold, you know, was a little bit gone a little bit by that time.  And suddenly there was Bridget Plowden facing the former Prime Minister.  But, I mean, Harold simply didn’t know how to answer the questions about television, I mean, really it was, quite honestly, it was a hopeless quest. 

But we didn’t win the contract as easily as all that.  We were the…I mean, other companies got their renewals.  Thames got theirs.  LWT did.  Granada did.  ATV did, with difficulty, David Windlesham had to do a fantastic job.  But we were…there were others still bidding.  And what the IBA where unhappy about was this group structure of Trident Television, which of course owned Tyne Tees and Yorkshire Television.  And what they disliked was the Trident Television Group with two programme companies.  And the decision that came down, we went…had to go and collect our envelopes on a Sunday after Christmas, I mean, it was the worse Christmas I’d ever had.  The only worse Christmas was when I was a solider in the Ardennes in 1943…in 1944.  This was, whatever it was, 30 years later.  And it was a thoroughly unpleasant Christmas.  Only the IBA could think of getting us in to get our…to make…announce their decision on the franchises, on the Sunday after Christmas, December the 27th was the date.  Why December?  The Stock Exchange was closed and was quiet.  And no, I mean, we truly, I mean, Christmas Day, Boxing Day were miserable because we simply did not know whether we’d renewed or not. 

Richard Graham and I went in to…on that Sunday…into the IBA, got our letter from Lady Plowden…got a letter…nothing verbal…got a letter…would you like to open the letter in my…no…Bridget, Brian Young sitting there in their two chairs, Richard Graham the Chairman, and I…and I as the Managing Director…opened our envelopes…renewal of Yorkshire Television…yes, you’ve been granted…on the following conditions.  And the conditions were that Yorkshire broke away from Trident Television.  That Trident Television was dissolved.  And that Tyne Tees went its way and that Yorkshire Television went its way.  And that was the only way we could [unclear 0:29:36].  We picked up our envelopes.  We murmured a few words of thanks.  Didn’t really feel like it.  Went downstairs and went across to the Basil Hotel, the outside, where Ward Thomas and James Hanson, by then Lord Hanson…no, by then Sir James Hanson…were waiting, and showed Hanson and Ward this letter, and Hanson was absolutely furious. 

He had been kept out…he’d always been…he had not been recognised by the IBA in any way, because he hadn’t been given a television contract.  The fact that he was the Group Chairman of Trident Television, a publicly quoted company, he was unrecognised.  He was absolutely frozen out by the IBA because they said, “The contract had gone to Yorkshire, gone to Tyne Tees.  This company Trident Television, we do not recognise.”  And James realised that if Yorkshire Television was to continue…and Ward realised…we all realised…we had to de-merge from Trident Television.  Trident Television had to close down.  Tyne…Trident, the group, had to close down really as a television company.  Yorkshire could go on its own way, and Tyne Tees went off on its own way.  And that’s what happened. 

Not quite.  Because there were difficulties about this de-merger, real difficulties, and we had to find new owners for Yorkshire Television.  Trident could no longer be the owner.  We had to find new owners, that became clear.  And I was sitting at home the following Sunday, the following weekend, and I got a call from a man I’d never met before called, James Lee who represented Pearson’s, the Financial Times Group.  And James said, “Look, you and I have never met and I’m interested in getting involved in Yorkshire Television, and we would like to take a shareholding.”  And the next call I got was from a man called Derek Palmer, who was then the Chairman of Bass, and he said, “Look, you and I have never met, but I’m interested in Bass getting in the leisure business and we’d like to take a stake in Yorkshire Television.”  And suddenly, truly, overnight, out of the blue, two people had phoned me who said, “Look, we are coming along to help Yorkshire Television.  We want to invest in Yorkshire Television.  We believe in it…” blah, blah, blah.  And we put this rescue operation into place.

            Bass became the shareholders with 20%.  Sir Derek…Derek Palmer, as he then was, became the Chairman.  Pearson’s came in for 20% and…with James Lee as Deputy Chairman.  The ‘Yorkshire Post’ who’d always been a supporter, stayed, and they took, whatever it was, 15%, which is all they could do.  So suddenly we had 55% of the company…Trident kept a little bit and the rest went out to the public.  And suddenly we had a company again.

One last, though.  Brian Young, in a move I will never forget, came to me, said, “Look…” I mean, this sounds like we’re boasting and egotistical but it is true, “…the reason that Yorkshire got the contract back was because you were there as Managing Director.  We wanted to get rid of the other people.  If I find you some new owners, another company, very keen on Yorkshire Television, would you stay with them?”  Now here was the Director General of the IBA trying to seduce me from my company.  I thought it was the most outrageous thing that had ever happened to me.  And I was so angry.  And I told Brian, this was dreadful behaviour and I absolutely wouldn’t hear of it.  He did the same thing to Peter Payne at Tyne Tees Television, because he and I swapped stories, because we both knew we were being seen privately by Brian Young.  Peter and I were the…I mean, he and I were…we exchanged stories.  I didn’t tell another soul, nor did Peter.  Obviously I told my wife, I thought it was outrageous.

Now there was another group waiting in the wings, unquestionably.  And it was a group that Brian Young had somehow got together, which had failed down in Southern Television, TVS had got the contract in the South, and another group had got together, and he had various people together said, “Look, they’ll get the contract, all they need is you to come in as the Managing Director, and I will give it to them rather than to Yorkshire people.”  And I thought it was monstrous.  And really, because of that, because I was so angry at that, that we…that we…we managed to get this group with Derek Palmer, Bass, Pearson’s, the ‘Yorkshire Post’, and eventually WHSmith came along.  So we had a very strong company with blue chipped shareholders, and they invested well in the company.  I was retained as Managing Director and Controller of Programmes, although within a year, I suppose, I decided that John Fairley should become Controller of Programmes. 

And five years later we floated that company on the Stock Exchange.  We were over subscribed, whatever it was, 55 times.  And it was an exceptionally good company.  Brian Young, thank God, had disappeared from the IBA.  Bridget had gone as well, to be succeeded by…John Whitney took…yes, I know…Bridget had…Bridget was succeeded by Lord Thomson, George Thomson, was a wonderful Chairman.  And Brian Young was succeeded by John Whitney.  And suddenly the whole thing at the IBA changed.  George Thomson having been a politician knew what life was about.  Was a much easier person to deal with than this appalling woman, Bridget Plowden.  And, of course, Brian Young that elitist of all time, who was totally wrong in the IBA…in the commercial field of the IBA…was actively disliked by people like John Freeman, and David Windlesham, and Denis Forman, was gone as well.  John Whitney came in.  John was not a success at the IBA, but life went on.

And then along came Mrs Thatcher and destroyed all of that with her Broadcasting Act.  There is no question of that.  She saw…I mean, one has to remember…I mean, one looks at the history…the ACTT strike…the strike at that particular time did underline that the practices…Labour practices in independent television were hopeless, were outdated, and the overtime situation was absolutely appalling.  The Yorkshire problems were greater than others.  And one of the reasons that the Yorkshire problems were greater than others, it had nothing to do with the ACTT actually, had to do with the ETU.  Yorkshire had to employ, as a result of being set up, the electricians that had been working for ABC in Manchester at Didsbury.  And when ABC became Thames Television and Howard Thomas took the best people down to London, he left the unpleasant bits of ABC Television back behind in Didsbury. 

And those people, who might have been out of work, had to be employed by Yorkshire Television, but the old Yorkshire Television.  And we inherited a group of electricians who were, quite frankly, appalling.  Truly appalling people.  They continued to live in Didsbury.  They were the most bloody minded people you could imagine.  They ran rings round us in labour terms.  They were earning unbelievable fortunes.  And we should have got rid of them.  And I’d attempted to.  I remember going to see…I mean, relationships were so awful.

The time came when I went to see Frank Chapple.  And rang Frank Chapple over a weekend because yet another programme had gone down, because of bloody mindedness by the electricians.  And rang Frank Chapple at home and said, “You and I must meet.”  And Frank said, “Okay, let’s have lunch.”  And I said, “Where do you suggest?”  And Frank, good old trade union boss, said, “How about the Ritz?”  And Frank Chapple and I had lunch at the Ritz.  And I said, “Look, this can’t go on Frank.  We cannot go on with these bloody electricians behaving in the way they are.”  I mean, there was simply no way of coping with them.  We couldn’t deal with them.  And Frank said, “Well I agree with you Paul I think they’re terrible people.  If I were you I’d sack them.”  And I said, “I agree with you Frank I’d like to sack them.”  “Okay, we’re agreed to…will you give me other electricians?”  And Frank said, “Well I can’t do that Paul.”  I said, “Well, you know, well where the bloody hell are we?  I can’t sack ‘em and I can’t…”  But of course that’s what we should have done. 

We should have sacked them.  And whether we would have found other people…you see, in the end that’s exactly what Murdoch did, in the end, Murdoch sacked the bloody printers who’d given him such a hard time and, of all unions, got the ETU in to run the place.  And we weren’t good at our labour practices, I mean, Tony Preston, Ted [s.l. Wright 0:39:25], and others…and I, we had a hard time with that.  The ACTT were…the ACTT were ready to work provided we paid them, and they were earning big money.  NATTKE were not so difficult.  The ETU was our problem. 

And all this became, of course, public property and the Conservatives around Mrs Thatcher realised that the trade union practices in ITV were appalling.  I mean, Lew Grade paid them…well in order to keep production going at Elstree, Lew paid the unions extra when ITV went into colour, something that the BBC certainly didn’t do.  And so the practices were dreadful.  Most…all companies were beset by it…by labour problems.  Yorkshire more than most.  And I suppose we should have examined our practices a bit more.  We should have dealt with them a bit differently.  Whether it would have helped or not…but there’s no doubt what Mrs Thatcher and the people around her saw, here was ITV beset by restrictive practices, and that’s how the phrase came out, you know, the last bastion of restrictive practices, and we’re gonna break that.  And she did.  And in doing so she ruined British broadcasting.  No question.

I:            No.  Well what is particularly interesting, in terms of your career and so on, is you’ve totally changed, of course, from the complete 99% programme maker into a, what, 75%, or whatever, administrator, boss, and that kind of thing.  Did you have any time for programmes?

 

R:            A reasonable amount, I suppose.  What I still did do Norman, and what I’m…what had never been done at Yorkshire Television, we still had regular programme meetings.  In the end, one learnt at the BBC, the only way to make better programmes was to talk about the programmes that had been on the screen, and talk in groups about programmes.  And I did institute regular programme meetings at Yorkshire Television.  And I chaired those meetings until the day I left.  Whether I was Director of Programmes, or Managing Director, I chaired them, not the Programme Controller.  And programmes were discussed and debated, and the values of programmes were assessed, and that’s how we came to a decent programme philosophy.

            John, I mean…and plus those…plus all the routine meetings, I mean, John Fairley as the Director of Programmes and I met each week and we discussed the programmes.  I mean, the output, let’s face it, Yorkshire Television contributed 15% of the ITV’s network.  It was a much smaller programme portfolio than I had at BBC1, obviously.  Did I…I had time for…I enjoyed…I continued to enjoy programmes, and continued to talk about programmes.  And, of course, I still went to Programme Controllers meetings for a while, where I then…really gave that up and became Managing Director full-time, but still talking about programmes, because by that time the other Managing Director’s at ITV had become programme people and we…sorry, the other programme people had become Managing Directors at ITV, and when we met round the table, I mean, here was David Plowright.  Here was Brian Tesler.  Here was Bill Ward, and here was I, four programme people met, and the only one…it was only later when the Accountants came in and the Sales Directors came in as Managing Directors that the discussions about programmes came to an end. 

The Managing Directors, we met for lunch once a month, and regularly talked about programmes.  And we were still involved in meetings with the IBA, the Network Programme Committee did talk about programmes.  There was a constant flow of programmes.  I was a Director of ITN at that time and so I went to ITN to talk about programmes.  But I have to say, administration, finance, those sort of things, did take up more and more of my time.  Plus preserving the name of Yorkshire Television.  Plus of course, this key thing, of launching Yorkshire Television as a publicly listed company, I had a big role in that.

 

I:            Yeah.  To go back historically, Paul, to the early days of Yorkshire, because I worked for…

 

R:            Christopher Bland was the…

I:            Ah yes, Christopher Bland, yes, sorry.

 

R:            …man’s name at London Weekend Television.

 

I:            He’s in the news this week, that’s right.

 

R:            Yes, indeed.  And Christopher Bland was the man who was then the…

I:            London Weekend.

 

R:            …Deputy Chairman of the IBA.  And we said to him, “Look how about the…you getting the Yorkshire transmitters switch on.”  He said, “I wish you hadn’t asked me that question.”

 

I:            Yeah.  Sorry, go back to the early days, because as you know, I worked in Granada in the ‘60s when you were, obviously, at the BBC.  And this is merely for the record…well, for students in the future, learning and reading all this and listening to all this.  Granada, of course, included Yorkshire at that time, yes?

 

R:            Yes.

I:            Granadaland included Yorkshire and both sides of the Pennines, and it was Monday to Friday…

 

R:            Correct.

 

I:            …not at weekends.  And ABC were…

 

R:            Yeah.

I:            …at the weekends.

 

R:            Correct.

 

I:            And I remember Sidney Bernstein’s famous quote, you remember, wasn’t it, “If Yorkshire break this thing up and we lose the other side of the Pennines I’ll appeal to the United Nations.”

 

R:            [Laughter].

I:            He said.  But, you know, in terms of…Yorkshire, therefore, began with what was half of Granadaland…

 

R:            Indeed.

 

I:            …before that…

 

R:            Absolutely.

I:            …historically.  And I made a note, Paul, I don’t know if this is correct, the early days, obviously, 6 million viewers, that means 6 million residents…

 

R:            In the Yorkshire…

 

I:            …in the Yorkshire area.

 

R:            Correct.

I:            At that time.

 

R:            Correct.

 

I:            Which doesn’t sound much now, but…

 

R:            No, but that was the population…it may be 7.  But the wonderful thing about them was, I mean, there were two…I mean, that was…there were advantages and disadvantages of that Yorkshire franchise.  The advantages, unquestionably, was…I mean, you know, Yorkshire is a bit special.  I’m not a Yorkshireman, but Yorkshire is a bit special.  And there was terrific pride in the company throughout Yorkshire.  The fact that it was called Yorkshire Television was an enormous asset, and the local programmes were watched very keenly.

I:            There’s a famous…is it…Calendar…a famous series.

 

R:            Calendar…absolutely…well that was a nightly programme.

I:            Yeah.

[End of transcription - 0:45:55]

VOICE FILE NAME:            Paul Fox Side 5

I     =     Interviewer

R     =     Respondent

M     =     Male

s.l.     =     sounds like.

I:            Paul Fox, Side 5.

 

R:            So, Yorkshire Television programme, I mean, certainly Yorkshire was created out of the old Granada franchise, and broke off, and instead of…Granada were compensated by getting seven days, and Yorkshire got seven days on their own, and Yorkshire became a major company.  That was the thing.  Up till then there had been four major companies.  Now, as a result of the arrival of Yorkshire Television, there were five.  Now, of course, the other four companies resented that.  But by the time I had arrived in Yorkshire, four/five years later, the resentment of the 5th company…the 5th major…had gone, and there was certainly no resentment on Granada’s part.  I mean, Granada and Yorkshire were natural neighbours, and David Plowright and I often had meetings privately in Manchester, or in Leeds, or in London to ensure that the North would stick together against the South.  There was no doubt…Granada had this strong Northern tradition.  Sidney Bernstein had long given up being concerned about losing Yorkshire and, you know, I was enormously fond of Sidney, I had a great admiration both for him and…both for Sidney and for Cecil, and Denis Forman, of course, and liked the whole Granada setup.  And I think we were friends.  We did exchange certain bits of information.  Not too much, but certain bits. 

            Now the Yorkshire programmes, I mean, the Yorkshire people took enormous pride in their own company, the fact that it was called Yorkshire Television.  The local service was excellent.  There was a local programme called Calendar, weekly news programme, which was way ahead of the BBC, because we pumped a lot of resources into the local programme, and the local programme really did very well.  So I say, the other programmes were documentary programmes built up by Tony...created by Tony Essex, continued by John Fairley.  And along then came a young man called, John Willis, Ted Willis’ son.  And, I suppose, ten years down the road, we started a regular monthly documentary programmed called, First Tuesday. 

            Now the reason for First Tuesday was simply this.  Granada had World in Action every Monday at 8:30.  Thames had This Week every Thursday.  Here were these two companies with a major public affairs programme.  Central, even though Charles Denton was by then the Programme Controller, were interested in public affairs programme, they had people like John Pilger and they wanted to push those programmes in at peak time.  What John Fairley and I realised was, that we needed a regular monthly strike, to have a documentary programme on the air, which was there every month and could not be moved.  Could not be moved by the planners or the schedulers and had to be there.  And we came up with this idea of going on Tuesday night, the first Tuesday of the month. 

Now I have to say the title was pinched from an old NBC programme run by my old mate Reuben Frank, which was called First Tuesday, and once we’d decided that title we said, “Okay, we’ll go every first Tuesday.”  And I was still, I suppose, then on the Programme Controllers group.  And I ensured that this would be the [s.l. play 0:03:41].  And that programme was founded ten years ago in 1983 and has run every first Tuesday at 10:40, occasionally sometimes at 9 o’clock, since then.  And John Willis was the founding Editor.  And John made a fantastically good job of it.

            John was a distinguished programme maker by that time.  He’d made programmes like Johnny Go Home.  He brought out the dangers of asbestos.  He’d brought out the dangers of what happened at Sellafield with radiation.  Yorkshire documentary programmes were campaigning programmes.  Strong campaigning programmes.  But until First Tuesday arrived we did not have a regular monthly slot.  And that was the important thing.  And in the end ITV programmes had to be…if the ITV schedule had a series of, say, four programmes on the first Tuesday of the month, that series had to be interrupted to take on First Tuesday. 

And it is an indication of what’s happened to ITV that First Tuesday’s coming to an end this year, after ten years of critically acclaimed…loads of awards and big audiences, and enormous professionalism.  Many of its makers have gone on elsewhere.  John Willis is now at Channel 4 as the Director of Programmes.  The other chap who came in as a Producer is now the Director of Programmes at Yorkshire Television, and so on.  But the traditions that were created by First Tuesday, introduced first by Robert Kee…Robert Kee was the first?

 

I:            Well Jonathan Dimbleby later wasn’t it?

 

R:            Later on.  I think Robert…

I:            Not much later, yeah.

 

R:            …was the first one.  And then John…yes, it was maybe…and then Jonathan Dimbleby and now, of course, Olivia…whatever her name is.  It was…it has been a remarkable series and it saddens me that after…I know all programmes have got to change, but it…I mean, in the end it’s a…it’s not only a title it is a concept, there’s something that’s there every first Tuesday of the month, 12 months of the year, 12 programmes produced, with an enormously high tradition.  That was that.

            In drama terms, I arrived, Emmerdale Farm was there.  But Emmerdale Farm…

I:            ’72, I think it began?

 

R:            Yes, in the early days.

 

I:            ’72.

 

R:            Emmerdale Farm was an afternoon programme when I arrived and was played at lunchtime.  And it was okay.  I suppose it was on the air for 30 weeks of the year, twice weekly.  The first thing I did was to move it to teatime, sure that it went out at 5:15, twice weekly, and it did quite well.  And then the next move was to bring it to 7 o’clock into peak time.  And that was a…I mean, I’m not kidding myself, that was a major achievement.  To get Emmerdale Farm into the same slot as Coronation Street, 7:30, Emmerdale Farm at 7 o’clock, and Crossroads.  So ITV had a very strong hand.  Five editions of Crossroads.  Two editions of Coronation Street.  Two editions of Emmerdale Farm, in the evening. 

            The next thing to do with Emmerdale Farm…Emmerdale Farm was the only one of those that still took a summer holiday.  The next thing then to do…took off…took 13 weeks off…was to ensure that we could get Emmerdale Farm to 52 weeks of the year, 104 editions a year.  And that, of course, did take a fair bit of doing, in terms of production, and this that and the other.  Plus, of course, it was a programme that was set on a farm, and the problem with it always was, the harvest was being brought in, in flaming December, usually.  Instead of being fitting it…I mean, one of the great things about Coronation Street is, that Coronation Street celebrates Christmas Day in the street on Christmas Day when it goes out.  And celebrates the Coronation anniversary on the day it happened.  Emmerdale Farm was always six weeks, or eight weeks, or ten weeks behind, because of the production cycle.

            Now Tony Preston was the key figure, plus Ted Wright, in getting it right in…cranking up…gearing up the production process, so that Emmerdale Farm could become twice weekly.  Now that, for a company like Yorkshire Television, to move a twice weekly serial, which ran, I suppose, 26 weeks of the year at lunchtime, to 52 weeks of the year at 7 o’clock, was a terrific operation.  Unquestionably.  And it’s still there today.

I:            It worked.

 

R:            And it worked.  Other things that…I mean, where Peter Wills at first…then succeeded by David Cunliffe, there were great drama series, and some wonderful players, because we had good writers…

I:            Well, Glory Boys I remember, is that Rod Steiger…

 

R:            Oh yes.

 

I:            The Glory Boys?

 

R:            Yes.

I:            One off wasn’t it?

 

R:            Yes.  No, the best thing was that thing in Northern Ireland, Harry’s Game.

I:            Harry’s Game, yeah.  Gerald Seymour?

 

R:            Gerald Seymour, yes.

 

I:            Wrote it, I mean.

 

R:            I mean, because David was…had been taught by Peter Wills to go for the best writers.  And we got the writers, and Gerald Seymour’s book, Harry’s Game, was adapted into a three part television series, with wonderful performances, a terrific script, and wonderful music.  It was a hit that, you know, [unclear 0:09:13], and it, in many ways, had told more about Belfast than many a documentary, actually, what was going on in Northern Ireland.

            And then the comedy was very good because Duncan, again, went for the writers.  We had that lovely man, Eric…

I:            Chappell.

 

R:            …Chappell, thank you.

I:            Duty Free?

 

R:            Eric Chappell, who did Rising Damp, Duty Free, and Only When I Laugh.  Wonderfully cast.  Wonderful comedy series.  Still stand up today.  And comedy worked…while we were not good at variety, although we did some variety, it was comedy that worked.  So the Yorkshire programme portfolio was based on First Tuesday and Whickers World.  Emmerdale Farm and other good plays.  And a strong hand of situation comedies.  Plus strong local programmes, I mean, it was a programme portfolio that worked extremely well, that held on, and that gave Yorkshire Television a great reputation.

            Now, I…go on Norman, sorry, should answer your questions…

 

I:            No, not at all, I mean…

 

R:            …any other issues?

I:            …no, I’m…not at all…children’s programmes?  We talked about Joy Whitby.

 

R:            Well Joy came along…I mean, Joy Whitby, to be fair, is not the easiest person to work with.  But she did create some good children’s programmes.  And she set high standards, Joy.  I can’t remember the children’s programmes we made.

I:            The Book Tower.

 

R:            Indeed.  Sorry, it was the first programme…

 

I:            That right?

 

R:            Yes, absolutely.  The Book Tower was the first programme, really, about teaching children about the value of good books.  And she did that herself.  And she was…she set extraordinarily high standards.  But Joy in a control room, a production gallery, she was a pain.

I:            The…I don’t know if this is the right time to talk about this Paul, but you did…earlier on you talked about Maggie Thatcher, and so on and so forth, and the way things used to be.  The way things are now, I mean, you’re not personally involved directly with ITV scheduling, and so on, anymore.  But we keep reading about it, and as viewers, we know what the hell is going on and what isn’t.  I mean, the ITV situation today, as compared with what it was in the heyday you’re talking about, it seems to me to be…and not only me, of course…changed totally.

 

R:            Well it’s changed out of all…

I:            The whole problem is…I mean, the problems are awful.  If that’s not too strong a word?

 

R:            The problems are awful.  And it was…I mean, the architect of all that awfulness, without a doubt, is Margaret Thatcher and those people who surrounded her.  She insisted, really, that rather than the new contracts being awarded by the ITC, as it then was, as the IBA had become, to the applicants, they should be auctioned off.  I mean, that was…that is the only way to describe it.  It was like Sotheby’s.  Instead of the IBA being there, Sotheby’s could have had this…held this auction.  “What am I bid for this particular franchise?”  It was absolutely the same thing.  And it was a ludicrous way of doing it.

            Now, she’d been prompted in this by the real haters of ITV in her cabinet.  And those included, Nigel Lawson, who thought television should be treated just like oil, the North Sea oil, on tap, or we auction off the blocks, we’ll auction off the television franchises.  Nigel was enemy number one.  Well they’re all equal.  Enemy number one was Mrs Thatcher.  But Nigel Lawson was there as well.  That was [unclear 0:12:59].  The next person was David Young.  And the next person was Norman Tebbit.  Those were the three.  Norman Tebbit hated ITV almost as much as he hated the BBC.  Tebbit, young, the great entrepreneur, “This should all be opened up, these restrictions should be stopped.”  Nigel…Douglas Hurd was the Home Secretary at that time.  And quite frankly Douglas Hurd, in the end, thought, oh to hell with this, I’m not…there must be other things to do in politics than this, and I’m not gonna fight this particular thing.  And truly felt…and when Douglas’ memoirs were written you will find that he found the pressure on him as Home Secretary in charge of broadcasting so great that he said, “Well if that’s the way she wants to do it, well let her do it.”  And that was it.  And the Broadcasting Act was then written.

            The only good thing that came out of it…the only good thing was that David Mellor by that time had become the Minister of State at the Home Office, and it was David Mellor’s job to get the bill through the House of Commons…the new broadcasting bill through the House of Commons.  I mean, I suppose it’s just worth remembering that the first outfit to be attacked was the BBC, I mean, that was the first aim of Thatcher…Lawson, who’d worked in the BBC, I’d given Lawson a job when he was on his uppers and had been fired.

 

I:            In Panorama, wasn’t it?

 

R:            Gallery.

I:            Gallery, yes, I remember.

 

R:            Having been fired as…

I:            First time I met him.

 

R:            …Editor of ‘Spectator’ by Ian Gilmour, so that’s how he repaid the BBC.  Thatcher, Lawson, Tebbit, and David Young, were determined, first…well determined to sort out the broadcaster, that was the thing.  First we’ll have a go at the BBC.  Appointed the Peacock Committee to do something about the licence fee.  And by and large, the Peacock Committee were charged…why don’t we have commercials on the BBC?  That was Alan’s task, no question.  And that will solve the licence fee problem.  BBC will take commercials, that’s it.

            Now I have to say, the BBC fought a very clever campaign, but the advertisers also made…and the agencies made it clear, it was out of the question to have commercials on the BBC because that would ruin the market.  The whole business would come to an end.  And Alan Peacock, having been charged to say, look instead of the licence fee we’ll have commercials on the BBC, Alan Peacock came up and said, “Sorry, the licence fee must stay but it will be replaced eventually by some [unclear 0:15:53]…” some piece of rubbish that Alan came up with.  But it ensured that the licence fee continued. 

And the first thing that had happened to Mrs Thatcher, that her attack on the BBC in this way had failed.  So she turned to ITV and said, “Right instead of sorting out the BBC, we’ll leave the BBC for a little while.  We’ll sort them out when the charter runs out.  We’ll now sort out ITV.  And instead of the franchises being awarded we’ll have an auction.”  And I remember she came to Yorkshire Television for breakfast, she was in Leeds…and Tony had died by that time…Paul McKee was the new Managing…Deputy Managing Director.  And I gave her breakfast.  And she came, and to be fair to her, she did listen to our arguments.  All those stories, that she always destroyed any argument, that she wouldn’t listen.  She didn’t.  She did listen to the arguments.  She clearly didn’t take any notice of our arguments.  But at least she gave us the courtesy of listening to them. 

            And the Broadcasting Act was done.  I think it was abhorrent to Douglas Hurd, who was a decent Home Secretary.  Marvellous.  And a nice man.  And there was David Mellor came in to get the Broadcasting Act through parliament.  Now David takes enormous credit for changing the Act.  I think he takes, you know, being a self-centred man, I think he takes too much credit, quite frankly.  There were some changes made.  But the appalling nature of the auction remained.  Mellor eased it a little bit.  And Mellor eased a little of it because he was star struck.  He was lobbied very hard by a group that included, Simon Albury from Granada.

 

I:            Yeah, the campaign for quality television, that’s right.

 

R:            Yes.

I:            I was on…a member of that, yeah.

 

R:            Simon Albury, John Cleese, and other people.

I:            Rowan Atkinson.

 

R:            Rowan Atkinson, and people.  And David Mellor, never having sat in the same room as Rowan Atkinson and John Cleese, and other talented people, was undoubtedly overcome by these wonderful people, and did make…produced a little bit of softening in the Act.  But he’s claiming far far too much credit for changing the Broadcasting Act in favour of the ITV company, the basic thing remained, it was an auction.  And it remained an auction.  And that was an appalling thing.  And some companies bid too much, as it turned out, like Yorkshire Television.  And some companies paid far too little, like Central Television and Scottish Television. 

Central had frightened off all the opposition by a brilliantly fought propaganda campaign, black propaganda campaign, and paid £2,000 for their franchise.  And so indeed did Scottish Television, paid £2,000.  And Yorkshire Television, for a franchise worth far less than the Central one, paid £35 million, or more.  I mean, the thing was ludicrous.  Ludicrous in the extreme.  Exceptionally good companies went down the drain, like Thames Television, outbid by Carlton, determined to get it.  The breakfast thing was set up…

 

I:            Chaos, I think.

 

R:            What?

I:            Chaos.

 

R:            Absolute chaos as a result of that.  Now, there were two companies…three companies remained of the majors.  Central, Granada…four companies remained, I mean, only one [s.l. winner 0:19:30].  As usual three companies were kicked out.  Thames, totally unjustly.  I speak as a Director of Thames Television so, I suppose, slightly…but they were outbid.  Thames felt they could not bid more without ruining the company, so decided on a figure… and I was in at the board meeting…they decided on a figure.  This is the figure we could bid without ruining…and that was the only figure that was possible.  And we were outbid by Carlton, and that was the end of the matter.  No question of programme quality came in…exceptional circumstances, which should have been brought in, and Carlton should have been thrown out, and Thames should have given the franchise on exceptional circumstances.  The ITC, George Russell et al. were terrified of Michael Green suing them…Carlton…and so Carlton got the franchise, Thames were kicked out.

            Granada kept their franchise at a reasonable price.  So did LWT.  And Central got it at this knock down price of £2,000 with no opposition.  Why on earth, if you’re gonna have an auction, why not put a reserve price on the franchise.  With a reserve price neither Central nor Scotland would have got away with £2,000.  I mean, there’s a total imbalance at ITV at the moment with a company like Central being the most profitable.  Why?  I mean, not that Central don’t do wonderful…programmes absolutely went to the wall.  And you only have to look at the ITV schedule now, I mean, it is a straightforward commercial schedule.  There are still some quite decent things in it.  World in Action is still there at 8:30.  The successor to This Week has not yet been found.  Any programme that’s called The Big Story and runs 24 minutes 30, everybody who knows anything about public affairs television knows that a programme called The Big Story is not gonna work.  And from Brian Wenham in, ‘The Guardian’ this morning, to describe the man who leads The Big Story as a young James Mossman, I mean, demeans anything that Brian Wenham says, quite frankly.  James Mossman was a giant.  This man, quite a pleasant young reporter, newsreader from ITN, is a pygmy really.  For Brian Wenham to say, I mean, well…

            So there we are in ITV.  But the enemy, I suppose, is Sky Television, without a doubt.  Here’s Mr Rupert Murdoch, having been given, despite the fact that he owns three national daily papers and one Sunday paper…three national dailies?  ‘The Times’, ‘The Sun’, and ‘Today,’ and ‘The News of the World’.  Yes, four national newspapers.  Has been given the chance to own a television…to own more than 50% of a satellite station.  No other newspaper group in this country is permitted to hold more than 20% of a terrestrial channel.  The rules for Mr Murdoch have changed.  That is the first thing.  Again, entirely due to Mrs Thatcher.

            The second thing, of course, that Murdoch has succeeded in doing is…

[Recording repeats - 0:22:53 - 0:44:47]

[End of transcription - 0:44:47]

VOICE FILE NAME:            Paul Fox Side 6

I     =     Interviewer

R     =     Respondent

M     =     Male

s.l.     =     sounds like

I:            Paul Fox, Side 6.

 

R:            The Michael Grade arrival…of course, was an enormous coup to get Michael.  It was my job to tell George Thomson and the IBA that Michael was a candidate, and whether that was acceptable to the IBA.  And George Thomson was enormously excited.  And he ensured…he rang every member of the authority over that weekend.  Dicky sorted out the deal with Michael.  And the person who had to be told was Jeremy…Jeremy Isaacs and, I mean, Jeremy wasn’t gonna take kindly to Michael…being succeeded by Michael Grade.  And Dicky took it upon himself to meet Jeremy on Monday at the National somewhere or other…National [unclear 0:00:47].  And Jeremy nearly stymied this.  And Jeremy said, “Oh I don’t think I can accept…I find that very difficult…” blah, blah, blah. 

And the Channel 4 Board met that evening to confirm Michael Grade’s appointment, having had the okay from the IBA, and Jeremy was still a member of the Channel 4 Board at that time.  And Jeremy said, “No, I can’t accept that.  I really can’t.  Really I find this impossible.”  And Jeremy and I were longstanding friends.  And I said to him before the Board meeting, he told me that this is…that he was gonna go against it…I said, “It’s all very well Jeremy, of course you’re…I can understand why you’re against it, you think Michael Grade is a vulgarian and you’ve built this up and he could not possibly continue your work.”  I said, “There’s this one question I have to ask you before you say anything, who is your candidate as your successor?  Who would you name?”  He said, “I haven’t got one.”  I said, “Well come one, if you haven’t got one how can you veto Michael Grade?”  “Well I’m gonna speak against it.” 

And sure enough at the Board…and this is in the confidence of this tape…I mean, Jeremy did vote against him.  It is on record as voting…and publicly after all, came out against Michael and said, “I’ll throttle you if you…I’ll personally come round and throttle you if you destroy my great legacy.”  No doubt, Jeremy had built up Channel 4.  He had made Channel 4 what it was.  It is his creation.  He was the architect and he deserves all the credit for creating this channel from…from absolutely from nothing.  There was no need for Jeremy to leave.   That is the thing worth saying.  There was no need for Jeremy to…he had failed in his application for the Director Generalship.  He could have easily come back to Channel 4 and said, “Well I’m sorry, I tried…” the Board would have had him back with open arms and he could have continued.  Instead, he decided to go to the Royal Opera House. 

            But to go back to the BBC.  As a result of that, there suddenly was a vacancy as Managing Director Designate at the BBC.  And Mike Checkland and I met at a party for The Listener.  The Listener by that time had become the joint property of the BBC and ITV.  I’d worked on the ITV side.  I helped to bring this about with George Cooper.  And Mike Checkland had worked on the BBC side to bring this about.  And suddenly the onus…instead of the onus of The Listener, which had been…had lost money…instead of the onus just being the BBC, they were suddenly the BBC and ITV, and a little party was held to celebrate the new ownership.  And Mike took me to one side and said, “Any interest in…bit bored at Yorkshire?”  I said, “Yes.”  “Interested in coming back to the BBC?”  “Well…”  “Well how about Michael Grade’s…”  “Oh…” I said, “…well maybe, let me think about that.”  And I phoned him a couple of days later and I said, “Yes, I am interested.” 

And Michael…Mike and I met, we said…he lived in Sussex, I live in Hertfordshire, we decided we’d meet halfway.  We met at a restaurant at the bottom of Box Hill, both drove up in our own cars…bottom of Box Hill on a Sunday morning; we said we’d have a coffee.  Nobody could possibly know us there.  Out of the question.  We arrived at Box Hill on time, and walked into an enormous wedding party.  And we thought, there must be somebody here who would know. Fortunately, there wasn’t…I mean, 200 people at some wedding. 

And Mike and I had a cup of coffee and we settled the whole thing in 30 minutes.  Terms.  Title.  And, above all, the length of contract.  I mean, I had to remember that I was 62 by that time and it was beyond the BBCs retirement age.  And I was coming on a three year contract.  That’s all I wanted to do.  And basically I was there, (a) to steady the ship, there was no question…I mean, you know, been a bit rocky…have all these departures… unhappy time…and the BBC Television Service was a bit restless, and, (b) unquestionably, clearly, to find a successor as Managing Director.  Those were really the two tasks.  And to bring a bit of weight around the place.  Act as a bit of an elder statesman, I suppose. 

            Hussey phoned and said, “Excellent.  How wonderful.  You’ll have to…we’ll have to talk to the Board.”  I said, “Forget it.  I’ll come and talk to the…as far as I’m concerned…just confirm to me the appointment is confirmed.”  “Oh yes, absolutely, appointment’s confirmed.”  Well you’ll have to meet the Board.”  I said, “Okay.  Not at Broadcasting House.  I’ll come and meet the Board and just chat to them.  Really just to show that I haven’t got any horns and that I’m okay.  But we’re not discussing my appointment.”  “No.” 

And to be fair to Dukey what he arranged was tea and sandwiches in a private room at Claridges.  And I was still working for Yorkshire Television.  I’d dismissed my driver and I said, “I’ve got a little engagement at Claridges, just going to have a drink.”  And went to Claridges.  Dukey met me.  Went up to meet the Board.  I knew one or two…I knew Gerald Barnett…I knew one or two others…and had tea and cucumber sandwiches.  And the Board said, “How wonderful.  Yes.  How very nice.  Excellent.”  And I was Managing Director of BBC Television.  Went back to Yorkshire, said to my Chairman, “I’m sorry I’m leaving.”  And told the press. 

And, again, Mike and I had kept that story…I mean, we’d met...whenever it was…a date in February…we’d managed to keep it quiet…there were very good reasons why I had to keep it quiet…personal reasons…financial…connected with Yorkshire Television…and we kept it quiet for six weeks, and it never ever leaked.  And the people who knew were Checkland and I, and Hussey, that’s all.  And even that old gossip, Gerald Barnett didn’t know.  John Birt certainly didn’t know.  And nor did Bill Cotton, a long friend of mine.  And the appointment that I gave…told Yorkshire…told Derek Palmer I was leaving…sorry to go…and the announcement was made in London, at a press conference in London when it was announced.  And Bill Cotton was told that day that I would be his successor, and John Birt was told that day.  And there it was. 

And so I came back with a strictly limited time for three years.  Moved one or two people.  I certainly fired Peter Ibbotson, because I thought he was a…well, I thought he didn’t fit into that particular…he was there as the Chief Assistant to the Director of Programming.  I felt I didn’t need a Chief Assistant.  I had the Programme Controllers reporting directly to me.  I had never met Jonathan Powell before, other than at the odd television festival.  And knew Alan Yentob slightly…well, I knew him a little bit…also from [unclear 0:08:08].  I…I mean, I liked Alan immediate…I mean, I’ve always liked Alan.  I took to Jonathan Powell immediately, and I thought they were two excellent Controllers. 

What I then felt I needed was, sort of, having a Chief Assistant if anything, I wanted (a) a Director of Resources, who would be my deputy, and that was Cliff Taylor.  And here was a, (a) great friend of Mike Checkland’s, (b) a chap I, again, I didn’t know…an accountant…a terrific…one…if there was a problem in the BBC you went to Cliff in the Television Service…you went to Cliff and Cliff fixed it.  And Cliff became Director of Resources and stood in for me at…was my deputy.  I then wanted an Assistant Managing Director who kept a liaison with the programme departments, and my candidate for that was Will.

I:            Will Wyatt.

 

R:            Will Wyatt.  And I knew Will, and I thought Will had the gravitas and the stature to do that job.  And as he did it for two years, I suppose, I realised that Will was the outstanding candidate for…as my successor.  That’s what I recommended to Checkland.  That’s what I recommended to the Board.  And I’m glad to see they took my advice.  I did my three years.  I enjoyed myself hugely at the…I mean, it was wonderful to come back to the BBC.  That’s where I’d started on holiday relief 30 years earlier…40 years earlier…38 years earlier…and to come back as the Managing Director, obviously, was terrific.

            I have…I mean, just talking about the BBC, I mean, I worked to Mike Checkland as DG, directly.  I had no problems with Mike.  None whatsoever.  I, at no stage, did I discuss things with John Birt in any way…Television Service had nothing to do with him.  He was there as a Deputy Director General.  When Mike was away, of course, I talked to John and consulted John on things, of course, he was then the Acting Director General.  But I had no problems with John.  None whatsoever.  John looked after news and current affairs.  The job, obviously, was different as Managing Director from the job that Huw Wheldon had, because one no longer looked after news and current affairs.  And a large part of the programme portfolio had gone.  And I accepted that.  I didn’t find that…I mean, since I had recommended the merging of news and current affairs while I was away from the BBC, I could hardly rebel against it when I was there.  So I found no problems whatsoever.

            The programme departments worked well.  We appointed one or two people.  The three years were extremely happy.  I had no problems with the Board of Governors.  None whatsoever.  And to be fair to Hussey, he ensured that the three Managing Directors, World Service, John Tusa.  Radio, David Hatch.  And I, Television, were equal members of the Board of Governors.  We…the three Managing Directors sat in with the Board of Governors, not as supplicants, somewhere on the other side of the table, we were part of that group.  We had a Governor either side of us.  And the thing worked.  And there was no doubt, I mean, Hussey had…did change the whole concept of the Board of Governors.  And the relationship between the Board of Management and the Board of Governors improved.  I mean, at Alasdair Milne’s time the Board of Management didn’t talk to the Governors.  The rift was so deep it was…I mean, Alasdair couldn’t possibly…so that he did change.  He unquestionably changed all that. 

I suppose, his relationship with Mike Checkland was not of the best.  And it didn’t have anything to do with the business of Mike’s effectiveness as a Director General.  Mike was enormously effective as a Director General, enormously professional, and a real leader.  It was, one hates to say, it was a social thing, quite frankly.  Mike and Dukey operated at two different social levels.  John Birt, unquestionably, saw that here was his chance to succeed Mike. 

He…I mean, the issue really is this.  John Birt believed that Mike Checkland would only do one term.  That that…he’d only do one term as Director General…would not be extended.  Mike…and those who support Mike believed that Mike’s contract should have been extended.  Hussey clearly made it clear that Checkland’s contract would not be extended and that there would, at the end of his contract, thank you very much Mr Checkland, Sir Michael, we are very grateful to you for what you’ve done but we’re now appointing another.  And if Hussey had gone about it the right way and said, “Thank you Sir Michael…” got his knighthood…sure that he got it…thanked him properly…he had worked with him properly…saw him off, and Mike’s departure was celebrated in the proper way, as it should have been, because he’d made enormous contributions to the BBC, and he had then advertised the post of John Birt…advertised the post of Director General…and he would have been fine.  I mean, the way it ended…the way Mike’s reign as Director General ended was very unhappy. 

He then was, outspokenly, critical of the Chairman at some meeting somewhere, press conference somewhere, and said it was quite wrong that somebody of his age should continue as Chairman.  And the end for Mike came before his time.  He went three months ahead of his time…two months…and Birt was then…I have to say that the Board of Governors farewell dinner for Mike was so false, the whole thought of the Board of Governors celebrating Mike, that I could not persuade myself to go to it.  I know I was invited but I really felt I could not possibly listen to the phoniness of those speeches celebrating Mike when they had really got rid of him early, and appointed John without competition.  So I decided not to go. 

And I haven’t really…I mean, I’ve been back for…obviously, the Television Service’s dinner, which Will gave to Mike Checkland, certainly I went to that, and I was very happy to go to that.  And it was a wonderful occasion.  Truly wonderful occasion.  As indeed was my farewell dinner that the Television Service gave to me.  It was a terrific occasion.  Mike made the key speech, just [unclear 0:14:54] farewell dinners at the BBC, farewell occasions are important, and Mike opened his speech by saying, “Now when Paul left the BBC for the first time 17 years ago he left the day he gave in and said he was leaving and he left without a drink and left without anybody saying thank you, and I know he feels sore about this, so will all the people around this table who were here when Paul was Controller BBC1 and left us 17 years ago, would they kindly stand and drink to him and say farewell Controller BBC1.”  And a fair number of people stood up.

I:            And they did.  Quite a few, yeah.

 

R:            So Mike…”That’s that.  Now we’ll sit down and now we’ll talk about him as Managing Director.”  So I left at the age of 65 after 40 years in television.  And it was a true climax to an enjoyable career.  Hugely enjoyable career.  And I left very happily.  I left Mike Checkland there.  I left Hussey there.  John Birt was still the Deputy Director General.  Will…my recommendation as a Managing Director had been accepted, and I thought the BBC was in a good shape.  Little did I know what a shambles would result.

I:            We haven’t mentioned the Royal Television Society.  You were deeply involved in that for a long long time weren’t you, of course?

 

R:            Well Huw was…I mean, Huw was the President, Huw Wheldon was the President of the Royal Television Society.  And Huw remained the President after he left the BBC.  And Huw and I we’d always been good friends, we’d made it up very quickly soon after my departure as Controller BBC1.  About six weeks after he phoned me up at home and said, “Look there old boy there’s a celebration for Panorama, 30 years of Panorama, we’re giving…I’m giving a big party of the 6th floor of the Television Centre, why don’t you come along and join the party.  It’s a good way for you to come back to the BBC on [unclear 0:16:55]” 

I came back and Huw and I made it up and we, of course, by then we were fellow members of the Garrick.  He had proposed me for the Garrick.  Robin Day had seconded me, and I was a member of the Garrick.  I saw a great deal of Huw, both while he was Managing Director and after he left.  And I was enormously fond of Huw and admired him greatly.  And, I suppose, I was one of the last people to see him just before he died in that wonderful house in Richmond, when he was very very ill.  And I spoke at his memorial service in Westminster Abbey.  It was a most terrific…I mean, Huw died much too young…I mean, unbelievable memorial service in Westminster Abbey.  And there were no speakers from the BBC.  I spoke.  And the chap from LSE spoke.  Lord Ralf Dahrendorf.  The two speakers were Ralf Dahrendorf and I. 

At the Royal Television Society, Huw had given up his role as the President and said to me, “Look, wink and a nod, they’ll ask you and I hope you’ll accept.”  And Tony Pilgrim and somebody else, Stuart…a guy from Sony came along and said, “Would you like to become President of the Royal Television Society?”  And I said, “Yes, please I’d like to very much.”  And that was in my days at Yorkshire, of course.  And it was a highly prestigious job to be President of the Royal Television Society.  I loved it.  I think I was there for too long.  The President’s term of office is not defined.  Huw had been the outstanding President of all time and it was difficult to follow Huw.  But I did it.  I suppose, I ensured that the Royal Television Society became the leading television society in the country, I mean, it was far more important in television terms than BAFTA, which after all, also embraced film.  I’m not decrying BAFTA.  I think BAFTA do a fine job.  But after all it’s film and television.  The Royal Television Society was the only society that looked after television only. 

And early on…our patron is the Queen…and early on to celebrate 50 years of the Royal Television Society…

I:            Yeah, 1927 I think.

 

R:            Yes, early on.  Yes.  ’77.  The Queen kindly agreed to come and see us, and we had a party at Banqueting House and I took the Queen round to meet a large number of people at the Royal Television Society, and it was very exciting. 

The Conventions at Cambridge every other year are the most important events in television…far more important than the Edinburgh Television Festival because they…I mean, Edinburgh Television Festival is…well, for everybody in television, and without being too snooty, the Royal Television Society Convention at Cambridge are for longer serving professionals.  And it became a heavyweight professional operation.  We always ensured that the Home Secretary of the day was there to open the conference and give the first speech.  And in my time they were always there.  And they were terrific Conventions.  I’m glad to see that the RTS is flourishing.  That they’re now monthly dinners…indeed at BAFTA there’s a much greater [s.l. rapproachement 0:20:45] with BAFTA…that the awards work better.  We now do the…the RTS were the first to recognise achievements in television journalism.  Then moved on to programme awards and moved on to designer awards. 

The…Tony Pilgrim did a splendid job as the Secretary, but the Society needed to move into a new era.  Mike Checkland and I, and others, arranged that Michael Bunce should become the Executive Director of the Society, which indeed he has done.  The Society has moved into new premises in [s.l. Gravesend Road 0:21:26] and it is flourishing extremely well.  Bill Cotton succeeded me as a President of the RTS.  And I remember, with great pleasure and enormous pride, the fact that I was there six or seven years.  And it is, unquestionably, the leading professional organisation in this country.

I:            You want to say about what you’re doing now?

 

R:            I’ve retired.

I:            Well, I mean, outside of television.

 

R:            Well out…I mean…

I:            Sport.

 

R:            …I did retire.

I:            Racing.

 

R:            When I retired, Thames Television asked me to join their Board.  And John Brabourne and Richard Dunn kindly asked me to do that.  I joined the Board.  Sadly we lost the franchise.  But I still, as this moment, a Director of Thames Television, which is now a subsidiary of Pearson’s Television…of Pearson’s Group and, in fact, I’m going to a first Board meeting under the Pearson ownership later this week.  I write a column…a weekly column on sport in television for ‘The Daily Telegraph’, having been asked to do that a couple of years ago, by Max Hastings. 

And having been a keen racegoer for 30 years, I now have a job in racing as the Chairman of the Racecourses Association, which is the trade association for the 59 racecourses in this country.  I have an office at Ascot on the racecourse.  Out of my window I look at the three furlong marker.  You could not believe that anything as nice as that should happen to anybody in retirement.  I adore that job.  And as a result of that, I’ve become a Director of the British Horseracing Board, which is now the body that runs racing in this country instead of the Jockey Club.  I sit there as a Director under the Chairmanship of Lord Hartington.  And really, am trying to do something for racing, and for the racegoer, above all.  I’ve been brought up on looking after the audience.  It’s all with the viewer, has always been my main concern, quite frankly, throughout my time in television.  The viewer, the audience, and it is in racing it is the racegoer. 

I’m also on a Board called Satellite Information Systems Board, which is the satellite television system that brings racing into the betting shops.  I’m going to a Board meeting there this afternoon.  And I’m about to join the Levy Board as a Director.  So retirement…yeah, I am on the eve of becoming 68.  Retirement is pretty busy. 

            And thank you very much indeed for asking me to record this thing.

I:            No, thank you.  Marvellous.  Thank you for coming.

 

R:            Really, I’ve enjoyed it enormously.

M:            Thanks.

I:            Terrific.

 

M:            Thank you.

R:            Very very much indeed.

[End of transcription - 0:24:14]

Biographical

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