[Start of Recording]
I: ...interviewing Russell Galbraith and we are in STV for the Scottish History Project. First of all we talk a bit about the background. So, where were you born and then how you became interested in media and where you came from there? If I can ask you to give us a quick run down on that.
R: Well, like a good many people in the sixties, when television was really starting out, in the whole of the UK really, as much as in Scotland, I had been in newspapers. I started out in newspapers. I started out in the old Kemsley chain who had a lot of newspapers in Scotland and they were eventually bought out by Thomson. Roy Thomson, the same fella who started Scottish Television so there was some kind of symmetry there but, after a period in newspapers, through the fifties, into the sixties, latterly with The Scotsman and, again, Roy had bought The Scotsman and caused quite a furore in doing so! Who was this rude Canadian, you know, who believes in making money and thought The Scotsman could make money! Anyway, working on The Scotsman I found myself doing the odd bit for STV and, indeed, the first time I met Roy was at The Scotsman and I always remember he said to me, he said, "You work for me, kid?!" You know! So I said, "Yes, I do, Mr Thomson." "Do you like working for me, kid?" As it happened, I'd just started working on The Scotsman a few days earlier. I said, "Yeah, I think I'll like it here!" So he said, "Well, just remember, you make a buck for me, I'll make a buck for you!" It sounded good until you remembered there was one of him and God knows how many thousands of me, so it was an uneven trade! But I thought Roy did a really remarkable job getting Scottish Television on the air. It was something like six/seven weeks, something of that kind between getting the license or having the license confirmed and the Company being on the air! And the opening show, the opening night show was hugely ambitious! I mean, the truth of the matter is, fifty years later, I doubt the Company, as it became, would have been able to do it. It certainly didn't have the facilities to do it so they had gone off on a quite different trajectory. But I think folks ought to remember people who were involved in that first night's show had a lot to be proud of.
I: We interviewed Jimmy Nairn who was one of those people.
R: Yeah. Did he tell you about the chap who died? It's pretty awful actually. Some man, one of the crew die during the actual transmission and he was finally away to hospital but there was some, they didn't stop.
I: And you heard about that or you were involved in any way with him?
R: No. I didn't join until 1962 which, by that time...
I2: I'll close the door. Sorry about that.
R: I'll pick it up.
I2: Actually, can I just interrupt the interview to make sure this is silent?
R: OK? No, no, I wasn't there at the beginning. I didn't join until 1962 and by then they were actually showing great ambition in news and Here and Now, the first nightly show, well I think anywhere in Britain at that time, was up and running and doing very well! The thing about STV you've got to remember is, right at the beginning, when it began, the thing you've got to remember about STV, right at the beginning when it all began, it was made so welcome by the audience. It got off to a terrific start! That, it must be said, was due in large part to the fact that the audience, the local audience felt no affinity whatsoever with BBC. BBC Scotland. They didn't seem to think they catered for them in any way and then along comes this new kid on the block trying everything, giving them all sorts of stuff they enjoy but, as much as anything, what they're giving them are local voices and local faces, local people! OK, a lot of folk say much of it was, kind of, the kale yard, that kind of thing, but it wasn't what you get in to news and current affairs, they were really trying to do what was happening. I mean, for instance, the Manuel Trial, which was a notorious killer on trial in Glasgow for seven murders, they'd a report on that every night! A fellow called Bill Knox, who was a very well-known journalist of the period, and author and he came from the Court every night and did a colour piece from the High Court - very successfully. So they were showing they wanted to break out and do things differently and there was no shortage of ambition. There was probably a lot more ambition than there was ability and certainly experience but that didn't stop them trying things. And also, an awful lot of it was done by newspaper men, people who came in from daily journalism and, you know, if they had the nerve to go on camera, didn't mind going on camera and, I must say, some of them loved it! It was a great boost to their egos, which they didn't miss! It worked. It worked and some of them went on to quite good careers in the industry.
I: How did you find the change?
R: The change? I didn't like it actually. I didn't like much being in front of camera. I didn't like the intrusion. I mean, it's quite astonishing, especially then, if you were on television for any length of time, you became known but nobody else was there so that, and people really did seem to think they'd some kind of call on you if you were in a pub or something, you'd never get any peace, you know! Everybody had a view about the programmes! Even ones that, you know, you had nothing to do with!
I: So how did your career develop within STV?
R: Well I started as an in-vision presenter and reporter, first of all with a programme called Date Line, which I presented for a few weeks and then I was a reporter on Here and Now, which was a five-nights-a-week show which was, I think, certainly one of the first in Britain as a whole and it was produced by a man called Davy Johnson and edited by Henry Hay in those days and that was my start and I did that for about three years, four years, I think. Went in to editing, I was the programme editor on it, finally became a trainee Director and moved on from there.
I: And this was in the Theatre Royal?
R: This was in the Theatre Royal. The Theatre Royal was one of Glasgow's great music halls and had been there for more than a hundred years, a couple of hundred years I think, and Roy did a deal. Roy bought it and every day, with a show called The One O'Clock Gang, there would be queues down Hope Street. Again, people, people loved this new-fangled thing!
I: And what did your job entail as Editor?
R: Well, as Editor, you were responsible for the content of the daily programme. It was twenty-five minutes running time, that was a half hour to allow for commercials in the middle and you had as much of the daily news as you could get your hands on or accommodate.
I: And the facilities that were available to you?
R: Facilities were very tight! Film units were very tight. Early on in this sort of thing began to happen quite quickly, there were constant 'quarrels' might be too strong a word but certainly disputes about how many people were necessary to do things and in the early days especially, the crewing arrangements really made absolutely no sense! Part of the problem was that Roy Thomson was a tight soul and he wanted things, frankly, as cheaply as he could get them so there was a constant bickering going on over salary scale and that sort of thing. Now, before long, all that was taken out of his hands with national agreements affecting pretty well everybody but Roy wanted, really, a tight deal whenever he could get it. The Unions, on the other hand, I always thought it at the time, I could understand it but I always thought at the time, a little foolish because they wanted as many jobs as possible so that you could have, in the early days, six people, sometimes more, on a news crew. This was eventually reduced to two so long as the piece that they were reporting didn't run over, I think it was four minutes from memory. Something of that kind. Now, the problem with this, of course, is that it meant that something that was terribly complicated in its way, say filmicly, could be shot by a camera man but if it was a talking head that was gonna run for five minutes, it needed a cameraman, an assistant cameraman, a director, a production assistant, perhaps an electrician, even, before long, a stagehand and in the, with the passage of time, this attracted the attention of a certain lady in Downing Street who, quite frankly, didn't like it! And it really meant because if she was coming, this isn't just Glasgow, it would affect every place, if she was coming to a local area almost certainly they would want to interview her for more than three or four minutes so she always saw the big crew! She never saw the tight, two-man crews. And this got lodged in her head, you know, I mean, famously, she had a meeting in Downing Street, which all the ITV Managing Directors attended and she opened proceedings by saying to them - "Gentlemen, you are the last living example of restrictive practices and I'm going to change it!" And change it, she did! Didn't actually change it for the better but she changed it! And all of that could have been avoided. And, I mean, I like to think in the early days instead of having the big crews, if you had the wee crews, you would have more wee crews and that would have been for the good of the shows. And you always found, I like to think, I mean maybe I'm being a bit naive here but the journalists who, in those early days, tended to be the driving force obviously in news and current affairs but even it stretched across all sorts of top-based programming. They wanted the programming and they would certainly have been pushing for more crews and getting more stuff done but, again, there were all sorts of civil wars going on about control which was partly ego and partly professional. It came down to all sorts of things but there was many a good battle!
I: And you became...news, no, Current Affairs, News and Sports was '73?
I: How did that change what you were doing?
R: How did it what?
I: How did it influence what you were doing?
R: Well, obviously, it influenced it greatly. It made you in charge across a wide range of programming. I think it is certainly more than 80% of the output at that time in terms of time, not necessarily in terms of what was being spent on it but it occupied a huge amount of airtime and time on the box.
I: Do any events stand out?
I: Any events that particularly stand out?
R: Well, it covered quite a long time. I think one of the, one of the biggest events, if you want to call it that, that we recorded in my time would have been the 1979 Referendum. The 1979 Referendum was obviously a huge occasion and it effected just, well, it did effect everybody and I kinda took the view that we would cover it in as much depth as we could possibly muster so that if there was a vote in the House of Commons, we would do a special half-hour after than night out from ITN then in then Foley Street London and I remember Davy Johnson who was, by that time, Director of Programmes, saying to me once, he said, "Don't you think we're over-doing the programmes on the Referendum?" And I said, "No, I didn't". I said "The thing you've got to remember, whatever the result, we'll get the blame!" And I said, "The one thing they won't be able to say - they weren't tellt!" So we covered it very extensively.
I: And you had a good relationship with ITN at that time?
R: ITN were absolutely committed to the idea that there was nothing more important than television on ITN and they would, they would happily at twenty five past ten, as News at Ten was proceeding, come on to our Master Control and say they would be extending, over-running by five or ten minutes and people had to take it so, of course, that knocked the following schedule out all over the place and gave our Schedulers a terrible time! It also gave the folk who might have been doing a live programme immediately after it a terrible time because the easiest thing for the Schedulers to then do was to take ten minutes off them which isn't always an easy thing to accommodate. So, they weren't all that popular. So they insisted, as an Editorial policy, that stories on ITN had to be covered by ITN Reporters and this would mean that, there was one fellow in particular, Martin Lewis, who became a very successful Newscaster at the BBC, and Martin covered the north of England as I recall, down to Manchester I would imagine, and Scotland and Northern Ireland and Martin would always drive up if a story was big enough and ITN wanted to cover it. But, of course, this usually meant that he arrived after the story had been covered by our guys and he would then happily use their material, sticking himself at the head of it and so on, and between it and robbing them of a wee bit of network glory! But it got done!
I: And you then were doing Assistant Controller on the programme?
I: That would be in '82?
R: I think it was, yeah. There always seemed to be something happening over the years and it didn't give you time to think, 'Why am I still here?!'
I: And what were your responsibilities in interesting programme decisions that had to be...
R: Yes, I mean, the, on a stage STV-sized then, I would say the, it was quite a tight ship in terms of management structure. As far as programming went, for most of the time, it was the Managing Director obviously, for most of the time, in fact, for all of the time I was there just about, a man called Bill Brown who made a tremendous impression on the place, but then you would have had a Director of Programmes and then you had a number of Heads of Departments covering, in my case, News and Current Affairs, Drama, which meant plays and things of that kind, which were very ambitious over many years - Entertainment, likewise Religion, Schools - but one of the things you should never forget, it terms of how it affected the output and the running of the place, was the fact that Scotland had its own Schools' arrangement and also Religious arrangement and a great deal of time was spent catering for them. (I'll have to pick this up now. Throat's going!)
I2: Absolutely. I was actually just about to suggest that because the camera needs a break as well.
R: So, where were we? You can hear it back!
I: Assistant Control programme.
I2: I know you were saying that you, you were taking note of the fact that there was a different education system.
R: Oh yes!
I2: You didn't mention legal but I think you were about to.
R: Yes. Ah ha, so, try and pick up on that for you. Yes, so the fact that we'd our own education system and our own religious arrangements and our own law meant that arrangements had to be made to cover all these areas and Schools and Religion especially got an awful lot of attention I mean, twenty years after the Company started, we were still doing a five-minute Late Call at the end of every night's programming in which a minister and various denominations - a minister, a priest, whatever, rabbi, would be given usually about five minutes to deliver some, some homily. That occupied a sacrosanct place on the schedules. Mind you, it served a lot of purposes because five minutes a night is thirty five minutes a week and, if it's stretched a little, it's getting well on for the best part of an hour which, when your license, went to, say, nine hours a week, it's a substantial hole in it. I'm not saying that figured largely in Management considerations for doing it but it was more a question of winning brownie points, I think, in the wider world. But, at the same time also, I think it should be said again, particularly with the religious slots, it provided some kind of comfort zone for a good many people over a lot of years. There were also some good old rows and good political stories if you don't mind thinking of religion being political at times. So, it did serve a purpose.
I: And were you careful to make sure that the number of hours that was required by the I.B.A. was fulfilled?
R: Oh you had to! Oh yeah, they were carefully checked and double-checked and indeed it worked both ways because you couldn't just willy nilly add hours. I mean in the early days a good many outside broadcasts happened as a means of adding hours to what was allowed. Now we had bought a new outside broadcast van quite early on. Again, a good sign of omission but you then had to use it as an expensive piece of kit and before long, of course, it had a dedicated crew so they had to be kept busy. It appeared that anything that was covered in an O.B. was seen as actuality as long as you didn't interfere too much in how it was put together. That didn't count against your nine and a quarter hours therefore you could have additional programming into which you could put commercial breaks and into the commercial breaks you could put commercials for which you earned money. So they were quite attractive for that reason.
I: How much control did the Sales Department have within programming?
R: I'd say none really! You were very much aware, one of the things that was a bit of a hot potato at that time but programming took priority I must say but if it could be avoided, you avoided it but the - I'll come to something on that in a moment - the idea that an actor, say, should be even doing a voice-over on a commercial and then appearing in a programme on either side of that break wasn't allowed! And it was pretty heavily policed. I mean, there's a lovely story told about STV. Francis Essex had just arrived and Francis was a very dashing wee chap from ATV and London and very much a Light Entertainment specialist, and indeed, hadn't long won the Bafta for a show with Millie [Millicent] Martin, as I recall, as Light Entertainment Producer of the Year when we got it. Anyway, Martin, sorry, Francis wanted control of the programme and wanted to demonstrate his new powers and for some reason that seemed good to him at the time, he decided to change the movie, I think in the first week or so when he arrived and he showed Scott of the Antarctic with John Mills and everyone else and in the course of that, James Robertson Justice decides that he's going to sacrifice himself outside in the storm and saying he'd be gone for some time or whatever and off her goes so as he exits left, for example, we go to a commercial break and entering right is James Robertson Justice who, at that time, was advertising a very popular soup and he's rubbing his hands together and blowing on them saying, "Oh, it's cold out there!"! So, these are some of the hazards I suppose when you start doing that sort of thing. That kind of took us away. Where can we go now?
I: Did the cost of Drama and Entertainment effect the money that...
R: Oh yes, we were talking about that whole visit. You would endeavour and, I mean, for instance I was very fond of documentaries or longer programmes using well-known names to narrate them. Folk like Gordon Jackson who was a very popular actor for many, many years over in STV's early history and was also a very skilled and hugely employed voice-over narrator on television and in commercials and things of that kind. Well, if you were using Gordon or Edward Fox is another one from the period that comes to mind, but if you're using any of these fellas, you would make sure that you let Sales know, you know, so that...because it was very seriously frowned upon! It was, the sort of thing that you see now would just never have happened. Personally, I always thought, if anything, it kind of cheapened your product if they came up selling soup or something.
I: What about, 1979 was a strike.
R: The '79 strike. Was that the big one?
I: That was the big one. That was the one that STV and the Union voted to go back six weeks in. They were told by the Management they couldn't. Do you know that story?
R: I don't think I know that story!
I: [Unintelligible] You've got to stick with your I.T.C.A.
R: I'd been, in my time, an ACTT official. In fact I'd been an N.U.J. official before that but I think by the time it came to '79 I may still have been a member of the ACTT. The ACTT had a very sensible arrangement actually in that people who were in the Management who were Members could, what was called, lodge their cards and then in theory it meant that for as long as they were in Management, they weren't subject to the disciplines of the Union. They were obviously, it was assumed that they wouldn't work to the serious detriment of the Union but as long as they were functioning in what any reasonable person could judge was a proper Management role, they would be given their cards back without any trouble which actually was very important because in those days, without the appropriate Union card...that actually (I don't know whether this is part of your remit but I'll tell you anyway) there's quite a, we had a, for a while there was a, I'll use the name but I'll pause and somebody can take it out! There was, what we would describe as a zealous shop steward in ACTT called Sid Ognell who actually if getting increased rewards for his Members was the judgement then he did a very good job for a very long time but a lot of people had different views. Anyway, Sid was very keen on checking if new employees were members of the Union and this cameraman, studio cameraman, had been employed, and I think he had worked in Dublin before he came to us and the Manager who was taking him on did ask quietly, "Was he a member of the Union?" and the cameraman said, "Yes", he was a member of the Union shop so he left it at that. And the first day a week or so later that he turns up for work and he's about to go on air live with the news and Sid, obviously waiting till the last possible moment for maximum effect, walks into the studio and demands to see if he's a member of the Union. He said, "Yes." so he wants to see his card so he says, "Yes, no bother!" so he goes into his pocket, brings out his card, which he hands to Sid, who's the shop steward of ACTT and he's a member of the Transport and General Worker's Union who organised studio cameramen in Dublin. That, were you there when that...?
I: No, I wasn't. With Sid coming to see you!
R: Asking for your card! Now it's, I don't know! Is the ACTT still organised?
I2: It's BECTU.
R: Is everything BECTU? Oh, well, you'll have to prompt me!
I: Shall we move on to football?
R: Football! Yes, football. I mean at the 21st century it would appear that you can't turn the TV set on at anywhere, at any time of the day or night, and not find the football from somewhere. Football was very rarely seen on television in the early days of Scottish Television and there was a very strong body of opinion in the football centres that it should not be on television! That it stopped people, if it was on television, people wouldn't go to the games. And they believed this in some cases very very strongly and over several years I found myself negotiating different contracts and it was quite different, but of course then you were only discussing a few hundred pounds a match but the idea that football itself might make money out of television hasn't really occurred to them and I'll never forget at one meeting, there was a man called Tom Hart and Tom more or less owned Hibs and he was a very ambitious, very clever, astute man. He was a builder. A builder to trade. He had his own building company. A real rough brickie, I imagine, in the beginning, something of the kind! And Tam was totally opposed to football on television but how he thought about football, I mean he's the man who paid George Best to come to Hibs and paid him out of his own pocket to play! He was nae daft, mind you, I think every time George stumped up Easter Road he put thirty thousand on the gates. Tom Hart got a good return on that. However, we were sitting this day and he was, they had brought in a new committee and Tam was one of them and he was totally opposed to any football and I got a bit exasperated with him and I said to him, "All that advertising! Ground advertising at Easter Road! What's it there for?!" You know, opposite the main stand. and he looked at me and said, "The folk in the main stand!" You see! And I said, "Oh, the TV cameras which are also in the main stand!" "Oh no, no, no, nothing to do with them!" So you were never, ever likely to change his mind! So it took a long, long time and I remember the guy who worked for the S.F.A. telling me he had suggested to Willie Allan, who was a legendary secretary of the S.F.A. that people could pay, you know, money could change hands in a big way if they put advertising on the players' shirts and Willie just wouldn't believe it! "No!" he said, "That'll never happen!" So, it took them a while! It took football a while to come round to the idea that there was money in it for them. But I do remember also, of course, as it happens, I mean I negotiated the very first million-pound deal in Scottish football which seemed an awful lot of money at the time and it was an exclusive deal for the 1990 early World Cup qualifying matches involving Scotland.
I: What percentage of your budget was that?
R: Well, budgets were funny but, going back to budgets, we budgeted, let's get this thing out the way. Before then, for years and years, both ourselves and the BBC presented a joint negotiating team and that started really not to work too well and also, as the industry became more aware in a business sense to, you know, there was the fear that people could see that one side was ganging up against the other and, you know, you had to be aware of that. Be careful about that so it was bound to end sooner or later! Anyway, it ended with us getting a million-pound deal. Now that million pounds bought us exclusive access to all Scotland's qualifying matches at home, with a promise that the S.F.A. would work to get us the away matches, all the Scottish Cup exclusives, including the final live and any friendlys that Scotland might engage in during that period live. So, compare that for a million pounds to what you get for a million pounds now. I have no idea what people are paying now but I'd be surprised if they're not paying about that for an ordinary Scottish League game, you know, which we probably paid about three or four hundred quid for so everything has changed.
One football story I'll tell you which you might find as an indication of the attitude of ourselves to the BBC and the BBC to us and the rivalry - there was a, Arthur Montford, who was the Presenter of Scotsport for many, many years and was a legendary figure and Mr Football and Mr Sport really, I suppose, as far as we were concerned and Arthur was very competitive and it was Cup Final day and I got a call from the engineer in charge at Hampden to say that he wouldn't be getting any pictures of the game. Now, in those days, we came on the air early, both ourselves and the BBC. We came on air about ten o' clock in the morning doing related programmes and other programmes that would take us up to the kick-off at three o' clock but he was giving me lots of warnings. This was late morning and he was giving us lots of warning that we'd be getting no pictures! However, he'd come to some arrangement with his Op. O. at the BBC who was prepared to give him a feed of his pictures but he wasn't taking the responsibility for us doing this! And he went to get some formal agreement with the BBC so the bloke who was in charge of our engineering didn't think this was his problem and was passing it to me. So, anyway, I got on to the BBC and they had a Sports Editor in those days called Malcolm Kellan or head of Sport, rather, called Malcolm Kellan and Malcolm said, "Oh, OK, can you leave it with me?" He wanted to consult at Queen Margaret Drive and he came back and he said, "Yes, you can have our pictures but we want a credit." Hardly a surprise, you see! So, I said, "Fair enough!" And I went to Arthur and said, "Right, we're going to get the pictures." To this moment I don't think he knew that we weren't getting the pictures but anyway, he said, "We're going to get the pictures. BBC'll give us the pictures but you've got to credit them. Thank them." So, he started to protest about this and I said, "Look. Don't let's argue about this! Just do as you're tellt, please! Thank them!" So, the game duly arrived, we saw it, we had our own commentary of course and they had married that to the BBC pictures and, at the end of it, after it was all done and Arthur was doing his wind-up he said, "You wouldn't realise," he said, "but I've got to explain to you," he said, "that those pictures," he said, "that you saw, they weren't ours. They were the BBC's pictures and we've got to thank them for it and I've got to apologise to you if they weren't up to our usual standard!"
I: Oh dear!
I2: Camera break!
I: So, 1980, 1980s.
R: Arrive the mid eighties. I suppose, I mean what was happening as I recall was that TV was obviously changing and the whole business of change, was changing. The thing that marked ITV, you've really got to think of ITV and how it started and Sir Robert Fraser's plans for ITV. I think you really should try and have a think about that! I don't know if you have done but where you had the regional companies and he never imagined that there would be network companies. Bob Fraser really thought that the regional companies in their own areas should face the BBC but he was persuaded, as I understand it, that you needed a single schedule to compete with the BBC if ITV, as a channel and a service, was to have an identity and a chance. Now, in order to provide that, there was a very complicated system of four but there may have been five national companies, network companies, established in London, Birmingham and Manchester really. Some years later they added Yorkshire, based in Leeds, but the originals were based there and different companies covered London across the week, changing over for the weekend and the same happened in the Midlands but, out of that, you had these four all-powerful companies who really dictated what went on the network and one of the things that was little understood was that, for a regional company to get something on the network meant that one of these network companies had to do without and the network companies demonstrated very early on that they weren't good at doing without! So, they wanted what they had and ran it very, very tightly so it was extremely difficult. Now, partly as a result of that, you had a lot o' folk that say in Scotland, because we're interested in Scotland, complaining that there was little sign of STV on the national network. Now, we had, in fact, one programme on right from the beginning and it was there for years and that was a programme called This Wonderful World, presented by John Grierson, thank you, we had This Wonderful World presented by John Grierson. Now, John was a great character! A huge personality! A personal mate of Roy Thomson. He'd everything going for him and he was available and he could do it. He was there for ages. Now, we very rarely got anything on for many, many years. That probably started to change a bit by the seventies but it was very occasional. Indeed, it brought STV to a stand-still. One occasion we did, we did one of the various Queen of Scots' plays and the play stopped. I mean, it was a terrific production and it got the short lead for the Emmys - there's no denying it was very, very good but it just stopped the place and that was really a price too much, I think, so our association with the network didn't seem to be all that good. It improved.
Now what then started to happen was (and I'm sure this was the same for other regional companies), I personally never thought this was a bad thing. I would have been quite happy if we'd been concentrating our attention on making us the best regional company in the UK and our patch in Scotland! I mean, the contract wasn't even for the whole of Scotland, it was for Central Scotland and Grampian used to drive us nuts because they were forever invading our territory. They moaned something awful if we invaded theirs and were forever complaining to the I.T.A. and, thereafter, the I.B.A. but they didn't mind doing it to us! And part of their ploy for a long time was to have Scotland split vertically so that you would have a west coast and you'd have an east coast. The east coast giving them Edinburgh and Dundee. Dundee was actually ours, it wasn't that people would have thought it should be, it might have been Grampian's but, anyway, it wasn't. This, of course, is nothing to do with what happened many years later when a quite different STV bought Grampian but they, then there were some unholy rows. Now, the idea of whether you should be in the network or not in the network raged off and on for a long, long time. As the years went past, ITV as a whole started to change. It started to contract, the bigger companies started to buy up the smaller companies, which would just never have been allowed early on and it's, I still think it's a fair question to ask whether it's better the way it's become or the way it was. I think major, major areas like Glasgow in Scotland or even Aberdeen or many places in England are well worth their own TV stations and their own TV services and can certainly support them. They might not make as much money or they might not make as much money for as few people but they might provide a better service. Anyway, we lost that. So we were charging then, what was happening in the seventies, also in the eighties, was that you had Mrs Thatcher in Downing Street who was determined to change how the companies worked. I mean, she famously had a meeting in Downing Street of all the Managing Directors and introduced the subject by saying they were the last representatives in Britain of restrictive practices and she was going to change it! But one of the ways that she set out to change it was to put in a quality cost for each of the TV licenses. The figures that were fixed were supposed to be subject to open bid. I doubt they were but anyway, it resulted in some dreadful miscalculations all over the place! I mean, famously, one of the network companies, the Board had a meeting to decide whether they were going to put in the minimum bid, which I think from memory was either a thousand pounds or two thousand pounds or they were going to put in a realistic bid which should have been forty million pounds! They decided there was nobody up against them, why waste the money, put in the two thousand pound bid or whatever and as the Managing Director said, the price of the dinner cost them more than the price of the license so there can't be much sense about that.
Anyway, that's how we started to get in to the eighties with, I think, the big license bid for STV, occurring round about '89 or '90. I was no longer there so I don't know the details of the infighting but there was the very courageous decision taken by the then Board to agree to a bid of two thousand pounds, I think proposed by the Director of Programmes, Gus Macdonald, and supported by the Managing Director, Bill Brown, and they managed to pull that off. I do know that they had a fright the night before because after their bid was in, they got a phone call saying that somebody had put in a proper bid and that, I think, gave them a bad morning!
I: But it was on quality as well as money, wasn't it? Well, it should have been!
R: Ah, yes, quality, it was allegedly that Granada, I think, managed to get a qualification, the straight money thing, that quality, there would be a quality hurdle and that would be taken into account. I have to say as Mrs Thatcher's Britain, I'm not quite sure how much it would have been taken into account.
I: So, you left in '89?
I: Tell us the background to that.
R: I went in to the, the industry was changing a great deal. The, when I went, one of Mrs Thatcher's great dreams was that there would be an Independent sector of Independent Producers operating in Britain and she seemed to think that, in fact, I think she said that if there was work to be had in Cornwall, everybody would scurry to Cornwall! Of course, what it really meant was wherever Channel Four was located, they'd all scurry to Charlotte Street in London to be near them. The, Channel Four, I think it must be said, was the main outlet for the Independent sector. The BBC were thoroughly ag'in' it and, indeed, had their own Independent sector, I think working within the BBC which is also a route STV and other companies went and companies which were really just internal departments of those companies got themselves registered as Independent Producers and they proceeded from there. Their hearts were never really in it! For reasons you can understand but the whole thing was half cocked right from the beginning. Where are we, twenty or thirty years later, the world has changed obviously and it's a quite different way of working. It bears no relation to what it was for many years.
I: And what were you involved in when you left? What was your...?
R: We did programmes for STV! One of the things that STV...
I: The company that you formed...
R: Oh, we formed the, the former STV's Sports Editor, the man who invented On the Ball at London Weekend, produced Sport at London Weekend, called Bob Patience, he started a company called Caledonia and got the usual brass plate and off we went. I, myself, never liked it! I think I'm a kind of, I think of myself as company big, company animal rather than two or three guys trying to do everything themselves. We had a good run actually and the business of the 1990 license bids helped us enormously because though it seemed daft to us then and seems dafter now, we were among those seen as a threat for the STV license. I have to say, the last thing in the world, I think, at that time in our lives we would've dreamed of doing was going after the STV license. But we got labelled with that. That helped us certainly because it meant STV, Gus Macdonald had the idea of buying up a few, as he saw them, key Independents, weighing them down with orders, if you like, so that you wouldn't go after them. And it worked! I mean, it was a brilliant strategy!
I: They set up a phantom company as well.
I: They set up a phantom company which was supposed to be putting in for the contract.
R: I don't know that story.
I: You haven't heard that before?
R: No. I think that would have been very dangerous if it had been discovered. You mean somebody was out there bidding? No, I don't know, anything is possible. But, no, Gus's idea was that, you see, if you're not the established company, if you're not the license holder, then clearly you need some names or folk with a background with a company. You need money but you also need people who look as if they could deliver the programming and all sorts of folk were being bought up to be names on letterheads. What Gus did was he bought up or drafted in companies who were independent who might have people who would go off and bid so he said, "Well, don't do that!" I mean most of these lovely commissions disappeared once the license was safe!
I: Did you raise a commission on that basis?
I: Did you realise any commissions on that basis?
R: Och, we were coming, we were coming to the end of our time anyway, I think. Age and things like that were a factor, you know, and you've got to be hungry, I think, to be a, you've got to be hungry and young, I think, to be an Independent. And it's certainly very funny, there was a lovely moment at the TV Festival around that time and there was a bloke whose name I've forgotten, who had been Chief Executive of ICI at some time and I think he was the first man to go on TV and tell you how to run a successful company and they brought him in to speak and he took questions and one of the London Independents got up to ask him a question and he described his company and this bloke said to him, he said, "That's not a business, that's a lifestyle!" And I think that was true of a lot of, a lot of Independent TV work. Mind you, so was staff TV work.
I: And STV was a family?
R: Yes, it was. I mean I think most people who would have been there in the early days see the Company as it developed, certainly ten years after, certainly, say, by the mid 1990s, five years after that - oh, sorry, have I come out of focus for you? No? All fine? Certainly within five years of that license bit and that was the last time there was an open bid, the people who, I remember someone who was interested in a license and went to interviews and things and was told, which had never been made public, that one way and another this would be the last opportunity. Now, that may well have changed a few people's attitude if they had known that but anyway, it wasn't known, and, you know, so that might have made a difference. But people who were at STV in the early days, which is largely what we've been talking about, I would say view the Company as quite different from the Company as it became, say, within about five years of that last bid. I mean, management styles were obviously going to change the minute they thought they were there in perpetuity! Not just STV but all over the country and they did change whereas in the previous years we were forever preparing for contract rounds that didn't happen. I can't remember quite how long it went on. It went on for a very long time. I mean when I arrived in '62, my memory is a license bid was kind of pending, it was sort of up there not too far away, expected within the first five years or something of my time there so there was an attitude then towards Members of Parliament, towards the authority, towards officialdom generally, if you like, as the Company was getting bedded down. Also in the kind of attitude to the kind of programmes that got made. I mean, audience-pleasers were made. I mean, folk wanted to survive and there were, in the early days of STV, there was at least one, maybe two serious bids. Or, at least, bids that the Company took seriously which they thought they might lose the contract. Roy Thomson was always a, something of a divisive force. A lot of folk really liked him, a lot of folk didn't like him! He made, well, personally I was, I don't think it was wise of him to say it but not only did he say it, he repeated it when he said on television so it was hardly private, that having a license was a license to print money and you're not supposed to say things like that but we know it wouldn't worry Roy, you know. So there was a feeling, there is even a story which I'll tell because it was wide within the industry anyway. It was widely repeated at the time. As to whether it happened, I doubt you'll ever find anyone who could actually say 100% for sure but you'll find a lot of folk that believe it and that is in the, it would have been in the sixties. A contract round in the sixties when the then Head of the I.T.A., I.B.A., whatever it was by then, was handing out, he was determined to change a license or two, just to do it. Show he could do it. And according to this story, it came down to a choice between STV and Television Wales and West, known as Telly Welly Wales, and they threw a coin! And that's how you allotted it. Now, it's widely believed at the time, you know. Or by the time it came out, widely believed. So, that's no way to run a business of that kind.
I: One thing we haven't covered which we do try to is how technology had changed. How it affected your...
R: Oh yeah, I mean technology...
I2: Take Two!
R: It was clearly a terrific place to work actually. In the early days it was a great adventure! I mean, you've got to, you've got to remember that it wasn't just a question of not many folk worked in television, not many folk had actually seen much television, you know, that you had the BBC and that was it and suddenly folk were being given the chance to work in this great new Fun Factory which is pretty well what it was! I mean I wasn't there when it actually started - I didn't arrive for another year or two - but I've got nothing but admiration for, starting with Roy Thomson actually, who had the cheek to tell somebody to go and do it. But between actually being told by the authority, the I.T.A., that he'd been granted the license and that company being on the air with an opening night show, was about six or seven weeks! It was no time at all. Now they didn't bring many people in. They brought in some people. They were blessed that they had a bloke from Canada called Ray Purdie who was a pal of Roy's and was a very experienced Operator in Canada and Ray came over and directed the opening night show but it's no' exaggeration to say, apart from the Artists obviously, he was probably about the only guy there who knew what he was doing! And he put this show that ran all night, he'd pipes and drums, he'd dancers, he'd some big stars like Jack McCann, you know, it was a great night! It was a great night! So that could not have been easy. That could not have been easy.
And what the Company then did was it started to recruit obviously. Because an awful lot of programmes were information-based, news-based and this kind of way, they brought in a lot of journalists and people, people like that to put these things, to put these things together so they simply stole them from newspapers but all the technical trades, the cameramen, the sound guys, the electricians, lighting directors, most of them had no experience! I think I'm probably right in saying a few sound people, one or two camera people, senior people, were brought in from the BBC. Maybe had found themselves just a rung or two before, below the top in the BBC, given the chance to maybe run a department in STV, this new company. I know that happened in lighting and sound. I'm not sure about cameras. But they brought people like that in and the Production grades, as I said, they tended to depend on journalists. Quite a few theatre people I think came in as Directors originally and they were quite a, quite a rat pack really! There was a great enthusiasm and there was a great feeling of being part of a team, being part of something new and it was something that was being talked about, it was something their relatives were all seeing at home and folk became very well known, you know, I mean, early people like Larry Marshall and Jimmy Nairn and Dorothy Paul and folk like that. The One O'Clock Gang. They became, and it's not misusing the word to say 'stars'. They were stars in the sense that everybody knew them and most of these guys had show business experience so it was OK for them. Folk like Bill Tennent, who fronted the News programmes, they had been, they had been actors so they could handle that but an awful lot of the reporters came in straight from newspapers and had no idea of it and were just flung in front of a camera and told to kind of get on with it! A bit disconcerting for them, actually, to find that next time they went in to a pub everybody knew who they were! So that had its good points and its bad points, its advantages and its disadvantages, I suppose, but they learnt to live with it in most cases.
As far as the relationship between folk who actually worked there, it became very heavily Unionised very quickly and, in part, because Thomson's response to anybody wanting more money was to say no and threaten to try to take what money they had off them so the Unions got a grip quite early on and they divided in to all sorts of quite tight groups covering either Production people or joiners, say, scene people, builders, electricians, that sort of thing. There's one, there's one amusing story from the very early days apparently when there was a stoppage of some kind and the Management, whoever they were at the time, decided this was quite easy so they set out to put The One O'Clock Gang on the air with somebody from Sales or whatever directing the operation and others being the Floor Manager and things of that kind. However, there was a bloke sitting in the Control Room watching proceedings whom none of them knew and they were making a happy mess of this of course with folks' heads cut off and that sort of thing and it was about to go (this was the rehearsal), they were about to go on the air and the clock was ticking through and the person that nobody knew stood up, went to the back wall, opened a little box, produced a key, opened a little box, produced a key of some sort, threw a switch, shut the little box, everything was in darkness and off he went! He was an electrician who knew about power! Real power!
I: Very good! Thank you very much! That's us!
R: The thing I was striving to get to at one stage there was the, there was a, the Unions were very jealous of their own little corners (I'm not getting a good word for that), their own domain. The Unions were very much jealous of their own domain and where they ruled and, I mean some of the stories you would hardly believe but they did happen! I mean I've been with the film unit in someone's house and the couple are doing their best to look after you and make sure you've got everything and the man wanted to shift a chair as a wee obligement and by this time we had a stagehand with the film unit whose job it was to move chairs and he gave him a row! That was his job, you know! Or in the studio, Presenters weren't allowed to get their own glasses of water, that sort of thing. It sounds mad but you can see some sense in it, I suppose. But the same guys who jealously guarded their own turf, were terrific in my experience at pitching in and helping each other when a proper crisis had come and there was also a distinct trend that people inside - it was a bit clanish, there was no doubt about that, there's no doubt that people learned quickly that they were part of something kind of special and while they might fight like cats and dogs among, with each other, nobody outside was allowed to do that and they were generally very loyal when folk were maybe criticising output, that sort of thing. But no, it did, they did build up a serious loyalty factor over the early years and I put that down to, frankly, good management. When I arrived, the Managing Director was actually an ex-Chindit and I always thought at the time that probably there were an awful lot of young folk because there were an awful lot of young folk on the staff who had no idea what a Chindit was and Noel Stevenson was a gentleman in every sense of the word! The way he dressed, the way he behaved, the way he dealt with staff and the idea of this bloke in a jungle fighting off the Japs, you know, you couldn't think of anybody less likely to be doing that! And I'm quite sure that most people had no idea that he had done it! So that's something always to keep in mind. There was good camaraderie, people did really get on in a quite a deep way, I think.
I: That's something that's happened, that's come out in all the interviews we've done. The loyalty and the family. Compared to the BBC.
R: Yeah. I mean they squabbled! I mean, don't misunderstand me! They squabbled! And sometimes it could be, you know, quite serious, almost vicious! But that was then. They were entitled to it! They were members of the Club and the folk outside, the folk who were paying their wages actually had no say in the matter!
I: Very good! Thank you very much!
I: We've done an hour and a half.
I2: Does that include the STV questions?
I: No, I'd better ask the STV questions. I'm not quite sure we still need to but I have to ask the STV questions. I'd better do it. This is the STV questions for giving us five thousand!
R: Aye, sure! Sure!
I: They gave us five thousand quid!
I2: Russell, if you don't mind, I'm just going to...
R: Oh, this is a, oh!
I2: No, no you just stay there! I'm going to slightly invade your space just by doing that and...
I: Is it still working? So, the first question - what's your most memorable moment from your time at STV?
R: Why don't we run through them then I can have a half a thought in my mind before you, right, I don't like memorable moments! Oh, I'll tell the Montford story for the one that's funny. Yes, that's a good story actually! Yeah!
I: We try and keep it down to about two minutes if that's feasible.
R: For all of them?
I: Each one.
R: Oh, each one! That's easy, yes. I'll do the funniest one first.
I: OK. Right.
R: There was a time actually when both STV and the BBC on Scottish Cup Final Day actually ran the match head to head! I know it sounds daft nowadays but that's what happened. Mind you, it sounded daft then as well but nobody wanted to be the one that didn't do it! And we would come on air quite early in the morning about ten o' clock with attended programmes and that sort of thing right through to kick-off and off we'd go. Well, one particular Cup Final, we got a call through the Control Room from the engineer in charge of the outside broadcast at Hampden Park looking for me to tell me that we weren't going to get the match. We couldn't get pictures out for whatever reason. I don't even think anyone knew the reason! Didn't care about the reason! What they cared about was that we wouldn't be getting any pictures! However, he did say that his Op. O. at the BBC was prepared to give him his pictures but he didn't want to take the responsibility of doing so and could I fix it? So, anyway, I got on to the BBC and spoke to my Op. O. there and they kindly agreed we could have their pictures. So I cleared it with Hampden and the pictures were duly delivered. In the meantime, I should say, BBC had asked if they could have a credit. (Look, why don't I do this again?)
I: No, it's OK. It's good! We did this as a conversation.
R: OK. Alright. The BBC said we could have the pictures so that was great. Not ideal but great. They wanted though, they wanted a credit. They wanted us to say the pictures were from the BBC so the Presenter, Arthur Montford, a very competitive chap, and I said to him, "Arthur, we've got problems with the pictures, we're getting them from the BBC, you've got to say thanks!" Right. So, match duly arrived, we got through the afternoon, it's all over, shortly before the end of the programme I pop into the studio and remind Arthur, "You've got to thank the BBC for the pictures". So, it comes to Arthur's wind-up and he says, "I should tell you folks, those pictures, they came to us courtesy of the BBC. I'd just like to say thanks to them for the pictures and apologise to you if they're not up to our usual standard!" I don't think I told that very well, did I?!
I: We are going through the motions to STV!
R: Well, it depends what they want to do with it.
I: What do you think the most important contribution STV made to Scotland?
R: I think just being there at the start! I think the arrival of STV in Scotland and the very fact that they got on the air in such a short time between Thomson being granted the license and that opening night programme, which was terrific all things considered, I mean they did, it was a great show! And it brought to people the kind of programming they had never seen before. Now the Company continued to build on that sort of thing over many, many years and the BBC had never gone out its way to remind a similar service. So, I'd say, its beginnings and its ambitions.
I: And your most memorable moment in your time at STV?
R: Oh God!
I: Million quid football?
R: I, yes, we had that. No, I think maybe the 1979 Referendum. I do think we did a terrific job on that! A lot of people contributed. Every night there was a vote in the House of Commons. We did a special programme. We did special programmes over the whole period of the debates and the vote and that sort of thing and I remember in fact at one time being asked by the then Director of Programmes, David Johnstone, "Were we not over-doing it?" Were we maybe not doing too many programmes? And I said, "No, I don't think so because whatever the result, we'll get the blame! And the one thing I'm determined is, folk can nae say they were nae tellt!"
I: Very good!
[End of Recording]