David Collison

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Interview Date(s): 
26 Nov 1996
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Born 1938, Bramwell, outer Manchester and educated in the area. Got County Major Scholarship, King’s College London to study law, failed intermediate LLB. Called up for National Service in December 1957. After Basic Training commissioned and posted to Hong Kong, where in his off-duty periods he did some radio announcing, and news reading. Whilst there he applied to the BBC. On his demob, he went for an interview (May 1960) and was taken on as a trainee Studio Manager at Bush House; became a General Overseas Service Announcer. He talks about various members of his course and the kind of people it produced. In 1964 he got an attachment to BBC2 and opted for outside broadcasts; he talks about that period and then an attachment to Science Features. Was seconded to NBC in July 1966 for the [football] World Cup. He talks about David Attenborough and Paul Johnson. He applied for a job dealing with History and Archaeology, spent six months on Chronicle, then got a permanent job which lasted until 1973. He worked with David Attenborough on Tribal Art. He talks about a film he made called Non-Ordinary Monk which stirred it up. Next, on to the Silbury Hill excavations, a two-year job. In 1971 moved to Arts as a Senior Producer.


He talks about the kinds of freedom producers enjoyed and specialisation. When Paul Johnson died, he had hoped he might take over that job; he then talks about his idea of using film shot by amateurs and the flood of material which came in that enabled them to make 14 twenty-minute programmes, Caught in Time, with James Cameron as anchor man. After that, The Vikings, which he made with Magnus Magnusson. In 1979 he left the BBC to go with Video Arts Television, after an abortive BBC Board for a job in Bristol. His first programme for them was The Arabs, and he goes on to talk about the problems of being an independent producer.


He continues talking about a comedy series he was hoping to produce with Ben Elton as scriptwriter but Elton was unacceptable. After Video Arts, he went off on his own to Channel Four to make Islam in Britain. Then, thanks to Magnus Magnusson, he made a film for The British Library, together with six training films. He worked on various projects. He joined Third Eye which was founded in 1981, in January 1985 as Managing Dirctor. He then goes on to talk about the work done by INC, which was to become PACT. He then backtracks to the period when Michael Checkland took over as the Director General at the BBC.


As the “window” got a little wider the Independent Producers were offered more work. He was able to produce another series Caught in Time in conjunction with French and German TV producers, each country making three [?] programmes. He then goes on to talk about the future and goes back to 1962 when the Pilkington Committee were investigating the “Possibilities” of commercial radio. Together with a friend, they drew up a scheme and sent it to Norman Collins, who was impressed and introduced them to Wigmore Radio, and they went ahead and made detailed plans of how the station would operate. Pilkington turned down the idea. He then moves forward to 1995, a terrible year for Third Eye. Various ideas promoted and some development money comes. He talks about the way he thinks the company can survive, and then goes on to talk about standards.


He goes on to say that TV is the only medium which is able to show live events, and he talks about the difference in the disciplines of TV and Film.

This is an excellent insight into the career of a person who has gone from radio as a performer, technician and producer and then on to TV in various positions and is still enthusiastic.