Al Moffat

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Al Moffat


[Start of Recording]



I: The 24th today [May, 2017]. Al Moffat here and he was at STV between '81 and '99 [1981-1999]. [Tim Amyes is the interviewer]

R: Yes. That's right.

I: So the first question is how did you actually find yourself in television?

R: Well I came in 1981, late 1981, because I'd run the Festival Fringe, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for five years before that and I'd been interviewed on TV and I was also presenting a programme called Encore, which was STV's mandatory Arts programme and so I had some experience of that and I enjoyed that and so I decided that five years was enough doing the Fringe and I spoke to David Johnston, who was Director of Programmes at the time, and he liked the idea so STV hired me as the Arts Correspondent, which meant I had to do stuff on Scotland Today, on the News programme so, although it was a bit disconcerting because John Toye, who presented it at that time, introduced me as the Darts Correspondent, which was a wee bit off-putting! However, I made a joke about not having Jocky Wilson with me and we carried on so that's how I started as a journalist.

The first day was remarkable! I was given a story to do in George Square about a new Arts event that was happening - no training! Absolutely nothing! Off I went with Varik Easton, shooting on reversal, on film, with the sound on the stripe, which had to go to the bath at Yoker to be processed and then come back to STV to be cut about half past three, four o' clock and I hadn't a scoobie doo what I was doing! Nobody trained you to do anything really and so the poor old viewers had your training inflicted on them as, hopefully, you got better! I forgot to do a caption, for example, for the person I interviewed. It was John Grieve, the actor, and John Cairney so that was how I started as a journalist and I got to know the Newsroom and so on and, of course, it was very different television in 1981. It was still a monopoly of advertising sales that belonged to ITV and it was highly Unionised and I got told off several times for picking up things and "Don't touch that!" and you have to be driven and so on. It didn't work because I can remember filming in Europe, filming abroad, we had to take a driver with us and he was so terrified at driving on the right-hand side of the road that I had to do all the driving! So, it was a strange, strange set up to me in the early eighties. But, of course, the TV landscape changed utterly in the eighteen, nineteen years that I was at STV. In the beginning, as I say, we had a monopoly of advertising sales, Channel Four had just launched. Just launched! And we broadcast to huge numbers of people, huge numbers! As Dougie Rae used to call it, Coast to Coast television. And so we were in a privileged position in a way but then, at the end of that period in '99, Sky had arrived, pay-TV had come and the landscape changed utterly so terrestrial broadcasting, of course, had to change as well during that period.

I: So, you became a journalist, as it were, and joined the NUJ?

R: I did. I was a terrible fraud! I was a rotten journalist but I had to join the NUJ! I remember going on strike once (I was never very sure why!) and we weren't supported by the E.T.U. or whatever it was or the cameramen or what became BEC2. It was strange. I'd come from a job where you just did anything! There was no restriction. So that was a shock, a culture shock. And so there was a tremendous amount of waste! You know, I knew people who did nothing all day. Nothing! They turned up, occupied a role and a designation, so to speak, and there was one person with agoraphobia who never went out, for example, who worked in Current Affairs. There were other people who read the papers all morning, went out to lunch, came back and had a nice sleep and so on! It was a function of a monopoly. So, I found it all a bit vexing and perplexing and puzzling, to be honest.


I: And how did you develop?

R: Well, when I was being an Arts Correspondent on Scotland Today that was one thing. There weren't always stories every day and it became clear after a few weeks that the best thing to do was to make documentaries if you could because that gave you a project and there were documentary slots that we made. Half-hour things that you could do and so on and the first time I got a sense of that being good fun was actually something that came out of a news story. I did an interview with a marching band leader called Tommy McGrurie in Springburn, I think it was, in that side of Glasgow and he was terrific! And his wife, Natalina. And they led all these kids wearing this kind of American marching band kit and they were all really in to it, huge enthusiasm, and I thought 'this could be a really interesting film!' And so I persuaded, I think it might have been Russell Galbraith, and Peter Barber-Fleming was the Director and we made this half-hour film about this marching band and it was really fun and it won a prize somewhere, I think, and so I thought, 'this is fun! This is worth doing!' and so I moved more into making documentaries as well as presenting Arts programmes. Sheena MacDonald and I used to do an Arts programme and we did a book programme as well but I really got into doing that and did less on the News because one of the reasons I got hired was for appearances, in the sense that STV were applying for their franchise and having somebody who'd been in the Arts at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and so on, it got a lot of coverage when I got appointed and I remember Gordon Brown was working in STV at that time and he said to me, "You've earned your money already with all the newsprint that they've got!" You know, all the cuttings. So, that was the reason. It was good in a way because you could carve out your own interests.

And then I guess a turning point for me was I went to an exhibition at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe down in Leith and it was a really remarkable exhibition of paintings, watercolour paintings and oils, by an artist who was blind! She had gone blind, she had lost her sight as a teenager I think so she had a memory of the landscape and what things looked like. Caroline, her name was, and she painted and she could distinguish the colours by smelling them. She knew the smell of black, blue, yellow and so on. Anyway, I thought this was fascinating and, as I say, the pictures were really good and I persuaded Russell to let me make a film called I Can Hear You Smile because that's what she said on the phone. She was so in tuned to speech patterns that she could hear you smiling if she said something funny. So we made the film and it won the Royal Television Society Best Documentary and it was in the same year that Bill Brown, wonderful Bill Brown who was really the soul of the Company in my day and I would like to say something about Bill because he can't say anything for himself sadly.

I: We have Nancy coming.

R: Oh great! That's wonderful! That's great! It was the same year that Bill was awarded a gold medal by the RTS so that was super. And, after that, I was allowed to make more documentaries and that was really fun. I did a film about Bill Forsythe's local hero with Dave Turner, who was a Director, and that was fun. We got to go to Texas and it was different from Springburn and so that was good and you taught yourself really. You learned from talented people, people like Alan MacMillan who was a brilliant Editor and a great Director. Ross Wilson, another really really good Director. From people like yourselves who had skills in particular areas and so on. You know, the Sound Recordist, Len, what was his name? Len?

I: Southam.

R: Southam. Great man. He came with us to Texas. So, you just absorbed it like a sponge, so to speak, but there was no formal training. But Bill Brown, who was Managing Director all the time, or Chairman all the time I was at the Company, he was the heartbeat of it at STV and I admired him enormously! In a way, it was Bill who hired me and eventually appointed me as Director of Programmes and he, I think, was a real inspiration! Certainly to me! And his understanding, he'd been at ITV for many years before that, every single franchise application that he stewarded, he won and so, a great man, who died sadly, sadly young.

I: And you respected him enormously.

R: Oh, very much so! Bill Brown was the person that you knew at Scottish Television.

I: And that's why they got the contracts?

R: Yes.


I: So, you developed the job. What happened after, you were working as a, I was going to say Researcher but that's not true.

R: Well, the trouble with STV in a way was that nobody really had any defined roles apart from Producer Directors and so I was really, in reality, a Producer although I wasn't called that. I got various credits. They were all not quite right because, for some reason, we didn't have Producers. Anyway! What then happened was that Gus Macdonald came to replace David Johnston as Director of Programmes and I had known Gus from doing the Festival Fringe. He was involved in doing the Television Festival and so, you know, with Bill, he reorganised the Programme Department, with Bill Brown and he made me a Producer to start with and, of course, he made a lot of people Producers who had been called Programme Editors and things like that. They weren't really Editors, that was a journalistic title and so that was good because it gave a bit of clarity to the role and then I was put in charge of Religion, Education and Gaelic. I'm not a Christian. I went to a comprehensive school. I didn't speak Gaelic! However! Leaving that aside, I did remedy that by learning the language and I also really enjoyed working in Religion because we had Educational Advisory Committees and Religious Advisory Committees and these were people by really outstanding individuals and so that was great fun and I enjoyed that. Then we made a film for Channel Four about the disruption of the Church of Scotland called The Rebellion of the Pious with George Rosie. David Steel presented it and that was very successful. It got great reviews and Channel Four liked it and they asked us to do other things and so on and then I was appointed Controller of Features which was a kind of catch-all for special projects, you know, things that we thought, anniversaries, things that we should mark and so on and that was fun. I enjoyed that. Then, when Gus Macdonald moved to become Chairman, I became Director of Programmes in his place, so to speak and that was, my main focus there was the Network because that's what we wanted to do, was build that network business.

I: And how much material did you have to create for the Network and how much were you allowed to create?

R: Well, there was no question of permission at that time because what happened was, there used to be a certain amount of quota that the non big five companies, ITV was organised into the big five and the rest and the big five were London Weekend, Thames Television, Granada, Central and I've forgotten the other one!

I: Yorkshire.

R: Yorkshire, thank you! And STV and other companies were fobbed off with a quota of programmes to make. But then what happened was that the Network Centre was created to commission programmes centrally and we did very well with that because it was on merit. I'd been appointed to run part of the ITV schedule, kids and various other bits and pieces schedule so I knew the kind of geography of the Network, so to speak, but when TVS lost their license in the South-East, I moved in and hired some of their people, took over some of their programmes and we built a big portfolio of children's programmes run from Cowcaddens, run from STV. We also expanded our Drama. I got the rights to Dr. Finlay and we made a series with lovely Ian Bannan as Cameron and David Rintoul as Finlay and Nettie Crosbie as Janet! So, we had that and we had a McCallum series with John Hannah and we had Taggart, of course, with Mark, who was still going then.

I: And these were produced both with the staff from the Company and externally?

R: Yes, it was. Robert Love was a brilliant Head of Drama and he looked after all of that and then I hired other people into the Company, so to speak, or as freelancers or whatever to run things like kids and so on. It was a time when we made a lot of Network programmes and that was great because it created jobs, it was profitable for the Company, it was what we wanted to do.

I: Cartoon Cavalcade stopped in '92, I think it was?

R: Och! Glen Michael's Cartoon Cavalcade! And what was the lamp called?

I: Paladin.

R: Paladin, yes, I mean goodness me! But yeah, it was, my kids loved it!

I: We've interviewed Glen.

R: Oh, I'm glad! I'm glad. But yeah, it was an exciting time because we were creating jobs, we were making Glasgow into a production centre and that was the most exhilarating period without a doubt! Without a doubt. [16:04] But then of course what began to happen was that ITV began to consolidate. You know, Granada bought London Weekend and so on and eventually, eventually ITV became virtually one company and we were left on the sidelines, so to speak. STV was left on the sidelines and that made it very difficult and I thought to myself, and ITV was also not being run by Programme Makers. That was what was interesting in the past. There were seven of us who ran the Network Scheduling Committee, that was, had been a billion pound budget and we commissioned and scheduled all the programmes and every single person (all men, I'm afraid) who were on that Committee had been Programme Makers and that changed. Accountants began to take over and that was a reaction to the change in the broadcasting landscape. It was tougher! In the old days when we had monopoly of advertising it was much easier but when you'd competition from Sky, from other sources, it had to change, I guess. I could see what was happening at the end of the nineties and that was when I decided that I would do something else because it had been a Programme Maker's paradise to a degree and the decisions that we made, the Network Scheduling Group, were based on gut instinct as much as anything. I went to them with the rights for Dr. Finlay, I had Ian Bannen and I had Nettie Crosbie. I didn't have a Finlay, I didn't have David Rintoul, and, on the basis of that, it was commissioned! Seven hours. Three million quid!

I: Which for a small to medium-sized company!

R: It was great! It was great! But it was done because of the afterglow of Doctor Finlay's Casebook. We weren't allowed to call it Casebook because the BBC had copyright to that so we just called it Dr. Finlay and that was a huge success. But that was Programme Maker's gut instinct and it was right. It was right. And lots and lots of programmes, like Peak Practice, which was another medical show, and Soldier Soldier, all these things were commissioned by Programme Makers who just sensed that, somehow, it would work. And there was also trust. If I'd made a mess of Finlay, they wouldn't have trusted me and so it was important to develop trust and I think we had that at STV. We had some talented people and so, we should have been trusted but it was a much looser and more free system than it became, I think. And then, as I say, in '98 I began to say to my wife, "Look, I'm going to find something different to do" because it was just closing in, so to speak. We weren't making as many Network programmes as we could. We weren't making as many Network programmes as we did and I thought, well, I'd always wanted to do something else and so I went off and did it.

I: What was the catalyst for the change? I mean there was the 1990 Broadcasting Act.

R: Yeah, it was certainly, there were two things that happened politically. Margaret Thatcher developed a relationship with Rupert Murdoch, for which he wanted dividends. His newspaper supported her, the Sun and so on particularly and so, the dividend for him was that he was allowed to begin broadcasting without paying for the privilege. ITV companies, as you know, paid a levy, essentially a tax to the Government. Murdoch didn't have to do that. And so they came in and they did the big, big thing, which was to go for Sports' rights, for football particularly and they paid far more than we could pay or the BBC for football rights and they made that their USP [Unique Selling Proposition]. You could watch all the, probably called the First Division in those days, I don't know, the Premier League, you can watch it on Sky and it was a big gamble! I mean, Murdoch bet the company, you know, there was no question about that! But that was the beginning and like fools ITV, the Network Scheduling Group, because I played rugby and had no interest in football I was the only voice against it but we spent our budget trying to compete with Sky and we should have not tried at all because what we did was to thin out our Drama budgets, for example, and that was, nine o' clock Drama all through the week was our USP and we shouldn't have done that! We should have said to Murdoch, "Fine! You want to spend three times the amount we do on football, you go right ahead!" But we didn't and the reason was that the other guys were all football fans, you know! Why are all middle-aged men obsessed with football, I don't know, but there we are! So, that was the beginning of a real change and, of course, Sky developed momentum. It merged with BSB [British Satellite Broadcasting] and became BSkyB [British Sky Broadcasting], I think, for a while and so, yes, that was different. And so you can see why ITV in particular developed the way that it did, why Programme Makers were simply not given their head because it was risky. It was risky and so, I thought that was probably enough for me.


I: And you were a Director of Scottish Television Enterprise?

R: Yeah, I mean what we did was that we set up a Network Production Company called STE. I was actually against that because I didn't want to divorce it from Regional programmes, which is, ultimately, what happened. I saw Regional Programmes as being, you know, the training ground, the breeding ground for talent of all kinds! Behind the camera as well as in front. And we had bid for our franchise when I was Director of Programmes and that was an exhilarating process. We bid only two thousand pounds and I can remember a board meeting where Bill Brown said to me, "Is there anybody else out there?" and I thought to myself, 'measure your answer here!' and I said, "Not to my knowledge!" and that was true! So, because we thought we'd have no opposition, rather than pay a lot of money to the Government, we devoted the cash to giving the people of Scotland a terrific regional service, which I'm proud to say, we did! I think Scottish Television was at its best at that period immediately post the franchise, the first half of the nineties. That was probably the Company's zenith. And, as I say, Bill Brown was the moving spirit behind all of that.

I: So, STV were in Glasgow and eventually in Edinburgh and then the Gateway in Edinburgh was closed. Any particular background to that?

R: Yes, the Gateway was really where I did my first TV and I knew the theatre from the Festival because it used to be a theatre, the Gateway Theatre, and then when STV took it over it was where we made Encore, our Arts programme. The darts programme! And so that was fun and I liked it because the studio still felt like a theatre. When you went in, it was as if you were going into a theatre and also it was a very cheery and can-do team who ran it and I liked that. And I had an office in the Gateway which was good and I tried to work there one day a week because we had the franchise for Central Scotland and one of the dangers for STV was that we were seen as a Glasgow company and that was quite wrong. We shouldn't. We were broadcasting to Fife, to the Lothians as well as to Strathclyde so the Gateway closed, I think it was in '94, which was a pity, I thought, because we didn't need the studio capacity, I guess, because it wasn't really used for much but we did keep an Edinburgh presence which was good and, certainly, we needed to do that from a News point of view apart from anything else but production, studios were becoming unfashionable so to speak. We had several set-piece studio shows like Wheel of Fortune where you needed a big studio and a lot of kids' programmes like Funhouse and Art Attack and Finders Keepers, they needed a studio too but we could manage with old Studio A in Glasgow if we had good scheduling.

I: How did the interest in children's shows develop?

R: Well it came from the fact that, there were two things. When Gus Macdonald did my job, he was in charge of ITV's kid's programmes as well and so I simply moved in to that role after he became Chairman and that was, I'd also done a bit of, well, quite a lot of work on it because I knew Nigel Pickard, who was Head of kids and other things at TVS and Nigel later became Director of Programmes at ITV and I'd talked to him about what would happen if TVS lost their franchise, which they duly did. And they brought a great number of programmes with them into our sort of purview. Also, we had a great relationship with the Disney company and we made the Disney Club. That was Gus Macdonald's initiative. We made the Disney Club on Sunday mornings and, again, that was an entree, so to speak, into American kid's TV which we did use. We, Nigel created a show for us called What's Up Doc? which was a Saturday morning's kid show because TVS had made that, it was called Motormouth and we went to Warner's because, you know, we wanted to be both sides of the street! Disney and Warner and so we got Bugs Bunny and all these characters because "What's up Doc?" is one of Bugsy's lines and we worked very happily with Warner's for a few years. Because American, when you think of animation of cartoons, America dominated, so to speak, and so, to have a relationship with the two biggest Producers was obviously a good one, a good thing to do, so that was really where that came from. Was me stepping into Gus's shoes as far as the children's programmes are concerned.


I: And there was a drop in the number of staff quite dramatically over the nineties. How did Programmers carry on in the sense that they were quite...?

R: Well, when I came to STV in 1981 I was astounded at how many people worked there! And that was partly a function of the power of the Unions, they could insist, you know, having a driver without a News feature crew! I mean, for goodness sake, you didn't need that! I could drive people or somebody else or somebody else could drive. It was that kind of thing so there was over-manning without a doubt! Without a doubt. And I'm glad it changed because it made things more possible. You could do things just as well in my view, if not better, because you didn't have to contend with this massive below-the-line cost of manning so it had to happen and I'm glad it did. I am a pro-Union individual, don't get me wrong, I think Trade Unions are essential and even more so now than they've ever been but it was just overdone in television because the Unions had the power to take the station off the air and, indeed, they did so. There was a long ITV strike which you will remember and so, yeah, I think it was a development that needed to take place.

I: We actually voted to go back on this strike.

R: Is that right?!

I: And Management said, "No! You can't!" Because the ITCA [Independent Television Companies Association] wouldn't agree to it! I think the staff generally had a good relationship with the Management.

R: Yes, och yes, I think it was OK. I think also when we did make programmes, I mean we had the absurd situation of the cameramen deciding which cameraman you would use and, at one point, I pulled out of a Channel Four commission saying, "We're not doing it because I want this guy because he's terrific and I don't want that guy because he's lazy!" And so we didn't make the show. So that was, that was an illustration of the power of that and that was mad! But, nevertheless, it was certainly the case that people, I think, got on well and it was still a smallish company. It wasn't a huge company like Granada or Thames.

I: Yes, we get this impression that STV was a family.

R: Yes, I think that's right and certainly, and also there was a bit of, you know, we're playing for Scotland here, we want to get jobs for Scotland, we want to win Network commissions for Scotland, we want Scotland to matter! And that was good and something that I, because, you know, my team, nobody would choose anything as an individual. Everything was a team game in my view and my teams did help each other. They did work together by in large, of course there was a lot of bitching and betrayal but nevertheless, by in large it worked well and I've heard that around the network. You know, people who talk about Yorkshire, Border TV where you were and I think that's good because it's a real sense of a company and, in the literal sense, a company and I think that's good.

I: Not like the BBC!

R: Well, I've never worked for the BBC so I've no idea!

I: How did technology change? What was happening to it?

R: Well the big change that took place in my time was the movement away from film on to tape, particularly for News and that revolutionised editing of course. We still made documentaries on film, I remember, even, for quite a long time after Betamax came in but, of course, the movement to digital editing and the incredible increase in speed that you got was astonishing. When I left STV I still made television programmes for about ten years for Border TV, sometimes for STV, sometimes for Tyne Tees, I did that because I didn't want to trail down to London to get the Network to, because I'd been there and done that for years! I'd far rather go to Carlisle and persuade someone to give me a series, or Newcastle or Glasgow and that was a lot of fun. I got Chris Buckland, who was a great Editor, and Anne Buckland, his wife, to direct. She directed and Chris edited and we put the kit in a room in Chris's house! I mean it was astonishing what you could do with, literally, a mouse and two or three screens! And so that was wonderful! A huge improvement and I think the quality of work is higher as a consequence, you know when you watch clunky, old reversal film on the News - blimey, it looks clunky! You know, things out of sync, lip-flap at the end, oh, gee whiz! So, it's much much better! Much better.


I: So in '99 you left STV?

R: Yes.

I: And a little more background about as to how that happened?

R: Yeah, I mean I'd been commuting for almost nineteen years and I worked out I spent something like six months of my life on the M8! I didn't want to carry on doing that and also my kids were beginning to grow up and I wanted to do something different while there was still some gas in the tank. I'd become Director of Programmes when I was thirty-eight, I think, yeah, that's right and I was forty-eight so I was ten years in a job like that and that's, you know, you have to be utterly committed to it and I wanted to do something different. I could see that TV was not going to be run, or certainly ITV was not going to be run by the Programme Makers anymore and so I decided that I would, I'd always wanted to write. I was very interested in history and I'd done a book for Weidenfeld and Nicolson which they'd liked and was just about to be published and I thought, 'right, I'll go down that road and what I'll do is I'll write history books and I'll make TV on the basis of them' because you get double use out of the research, so to speak. So, I did that for about ten years. That was a lot of fun because by that time I could develop a really small group of Programme Makers - camera, sound, electrician, that was it! And all retired from Border Television! And driving around in my own Mercedes, it was great! And Anne Buckland doing a brilliant job, and Chris editing, so that was essentially what we did and that went back to the days to when I used to make documentaries and I enjoyed that very much. And so that was, I left very happily and had a, I knew I'd had a good time but I felt it was changing and not in a way that I liked. So people couldn't understand, you know, why I was leaving a well paid job, particularly my wife! But I wanted to do something different, I really did, and the freelance life is, it can be, it's free but it's precarious at times. But I have to say I've enjoyed it and I watched TV change and the lesson, the lesson of change is this, it seems to me, in the late nineties people were obsessed with platforms. How you get television whether it was satellite, terrestrial, whatever it is and I never thought it had anything to do with that! I thought people cared about the content, about programmes! That's what mattered and that's what I wanted to see STV invest in and it's turned out to be true. The Americans, companies like HBO [Home Box Office] and so on, Netflix now and what not, they are investing massively in drama, in content, massively! How they'll get their money back, I don't know, but they are and you look at something like Game of Thrones, which seems to me all about scrapping and chopping people up! However, their production values are prodigious! It's cinema! You are seeing cinema!

I: [inaudible] everyone watches it.

R: Oh yeah!

I: They know exactly what they want to see!

R: Indeed. So my main lesson was forget platforms, forget how you get programmes to people, it's the story stupid. It's the programmes that really matter.

I: Did you ever get involved in Market Research in what people wanted?

R: No, we just told them what they were getting! We didn't want, I mean, Market Research never ever produced a great programme idea, it just confirmed what people liked, you know, the genres they liked. That they liked period, that they liked character pieces, that they liked thrillers, that they liked, you know, Game of Thrones. You know, I'd often thought that if we'd made it in STV we would have called it Game of Scones! But yeah, I never really got involved in that and I still slightly mistrust it to be honest!


I: What haven't I covered?

R: Sorry?

I: What haven't I covered? Are we done?

R: I think we're done pretty well. I just...

I: You've been very concise which helps!


R: I mean the one thing I do regret about STV and this is going to seem such an old farty thing to say but I liked the Cowcaddens and I liked it because it was showbiz and I liked it because it was next to a theatre and I liked it because it was a rabbit warren and quirky and, you know, the studios were daft in a way! Built on a crap site! None of that mattered! What mattered was that it had history! It had a bit of texture. It had a great feel and, of course, it had STV's origins right next door because it was the Theatre Royal that STV was in! And I think that's a pity that we've left - there we are, I'm still talking about 'we'!

I: Back to your point!

R: That we left the Cowcaddens. I think that's a shame!

I: Russell was saying the same. Russell was saying that when it came to the final thing, everybody pulled together to do something. They really had to!

R: Oh yeah, oh they did! I liked that a lot. I mean they'd bitch at each other afterwards but, nevertheless, they did and sure, you know I can remember lots of times where I thought, 'blimey! Are we going to achieve this!' And we did! So, och, no, I think STV can look back on a lot of pride on sixty years of experience serving Scotland and broadcasting to Scotland and I'm proud to have been a small part of that and I look back very fondly and there are a million stories that I could tell you which I would never repeat which, no no, about how it actually worked! But it was a lot of fun, I think and I liked that, as you say, it was a Company. It was a Company and much of the credit for that has to go to Bill Brown! He was a truly great man!

I: And he knew most of the staff, by their names!

R: Who all called him Mr Brown.

I: Yes, which was quite funny because Sally Chetty, she went to a golf evening, went to a golf thing and he insisted they called him Will? I don't know.

R: Bill.

I: Bill. And not call him Mr Brown! Once you are outside work, it's OK!

R: Well, I always called him Bill because I knew him before that but I just thought he was a great man and he was the soul of the Company without a doubt and it's a pity that he's not been able to talk to you.

I: Yes, yes, it's one of those things. Yes, that's interesting. I was speaking to Tina Wackerrel who had a different opinion of him!

R: Well, a lot of people do and people did. Very good, Tim!


I: Now, because we've got money from STV, we have to ask you three questions if you don't mind?

R: Sure, yes.

[Irrelevant off-mic material deleted from transcript]


R: So you want me to, what was my most memorable moment, yeah?

I: Yes. I think we're ready.

R: I think the most memorable moment I had at STV was on the very first day. I was doing a piece for Scotland Today down in George Square with no training, absolutely nothing, oh no, I've already told you that story! I've got something else! I've got something else!

I: We can do a repeat section.

R: The most memorable moment, and it was not a good moment, that I had with STV was very early on in my career and I went with a cameraman, Varick Easton, to do a piece at Pollock Park in the big house there and the story was that they were doing a Victorian Christmas and I was to do, stand the other side of this table which was laden with Victorian kit and fake food and so on and, in the middle, was a display of fruit with a pineapple on top and he, the cameraman, said to me, "You stand the other side and do your piece to camera and we'll do it that way." Fine. And so I did that and I remembered my thirty second piece to camera but what I didn't know was that the camera hadn't locked it on properly and so the camera began to dip ever so slightly and it was imperceptible but I got back to the editing room and discovered the first-ever talking pineapple in television history! And, of course, what could I do with that?!! Absolutely nothing! God, that was a nightmare!

I think the most important contribution that Scottish Television made to the life of Scotland was when we won the franchise back at the beginning of the nineties and the reason that that was important was because we created, I thought, a comprehensive regional television service for the people of Scotland with eighteen hours of programmes a week that really informed them that they could be involved in in some ways. That was terrific! And so I am proud that we did that!

I mean, my fondest and funniest memory from STV, I guess, was the first day because I was sent down to George Square to do a news story for Scotland Today without any training, no idea what I was doing, had seen people interviewed on television so I thought, 'I'll interview them', two actors, John Grieve and John Cairney and I came back and I was given a lot of help by Alan MacMillan in cutting it and that was fine and so, I went in to introduce my little film piece and John Toye, who was the face of Scotland Today in those days, didn't introduce me as the Arts Correspondent, he called me the Darts Correspondent! And the camera cuts to me and there's a momentary kind of, I think I had my head wound back, and I thought, 'oh well, I haven't got Jocky Wilson with me!' and my wife watched that and she, I think her heart stopped! Oh actually I've got, there's another one! There's another one! Scotland Today because I repeated myself.

We used to get famous actors who were doing book tours. Usually they were autobiography. We had Sylvester Stallone and people like this to do a little piece on Scotland Today and that was a good idea because it was a bit of Hollywood and so on. Anyway, a famous actor turned up - not Sylvester Stallone - a famous actor turned up to talk about his autobiography and I was to interview him. What I didn't realise was that he'd had a lot to drink and I couldn't smell it or anything! Anyway, the way we were set up in the studio to do Scotland Today was we had two sofas at right angles so you could cross-shoot and I had an item at the top of the News and then this famous actor down the order but because there was nothing, no film or whatever, he sat on one sofa and I sat on the other and my interviewee for the first piece was Ferne Green who ran the very first May Fest Festival and she was on the other side of the same sofa but, of course, we shot close-up with Ferry so you didn't see the famous actor. Anyway, I stated the piece about May Fest and interviewed Ferry and then, to my horror, the famous actor leaned into shot and kissed her! And I thought, and in my earpiece I could hear the Controller saying, "Get control of this!" and I thought, 'How?!' Anyway, I said, "Let me introduce famous actor! Here he is!" And so on. And I had eventually just to go straight to the interview with him because I couldn't do anything else because it would have just been illogical to go to something else and so I was interviewing him and then he said, and the woman who did the weather was starting to do her bit of the weather and he said, "I've always wanted to do the weather!" and he stood up and his tie mike like pinged off and I thought, 'blimey!' Anyway, I rugby-tacked him half way across the studio to prevent him from this terrified weather person who was looking over her shoulder and, honestly! I came out and my shirt was drenched! I got home and I said to my wife, "Did you see that?!" and she said, "Yeah! It was great television! You just never knew what was going to happen next!" And that's a true story!

I: But not recorded!

R: Well, I don't know if the News ever was recorded but anyway! Good!

I: Transmission will have it!

R: Oh, I hope not! I hope not!

[End of Recording]