Interview with Bruce Anderson on January 27, 2015.
When you joined Granada, where did you come from?
Right. From the age of 17 to the age of 21, I spent four years at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art, which is now part of Bournemouth University. I primarily went there I suppose, because I wanted to be a photographer, or I thought I wanted to be a photographer. While I was there, I gradually came to the conclusion that being a photographer wasn’t going to be as good as perhaps working in television, so what was essentially a three-year course, I made it a four-year course by doing what they then called ‘Film’. They used some sort of vague idea of what working in television and film was.
So in the summer of 1968, when I left college, it was my practice to ring around the various television companies and ask the HR department if there were any vacancies – because then it was a closed shop; very little was advertised in the press, it was more or less by word of mouth that you found these things. So what happened was at Granada, they told me there was a vacancy for a… excuse me while I try and remember the exact title. They were the people who did all the commercial breaks, sort of thing. Can you remember what they were called?
In the promotions department?
Yes… they were the people who were considered royalty; they earned so much money, they didn’t marry commoners. But anyway, I went for that interview, and within almost half an hour of the interview I was being told it was unlikely I would get it because an internal applicant had applied. So he was a very nice HR guy, and he said, “We’ll keep in touch, and if anything turns up we’ll let you know.”
So subsequently, it seems crazy, this, I rang them a week or two later, and they said, “Oh, yes – we want a trainee cameraman. Do you want to come up for an interview?” So I went up for an interview, and duly got the job – which sort of surprised me, but I got the job.
And that was in November 1968, which was when I started work. And it was a nine-month trainee period, when really you were a skivvy in many respects, and you spent most of your time pulling cables – because then, of course, cameras had long, heavy cables attached to them, and the camera operator could push his camera around on a pedestal, but it needed someone to trail around behind and make sure the cables didn’t get in the way.
So I did that, and after nine months you were promoted – it was very much like an old-fashioned apprenticeship, in a way. You had nine months to see if you fitted in, I think they called it a probationary period, and kept your nose clean, didn’t shout and didn’t make yourself a nuisance, and then after that nine months, you then became a first year, second year, third year, fourth year, fifth year camera operator – so I just gradually went through those hoops, and during that period, I think it was the very end of the nine months, perhaps the first three or four months, you were allowed to start doing Coronation Street – but only just.
And of course, that was big – because when you did Coronation Street then. You rehearsed all Thursday afternoon, the entire two episodes, just step by step, and then Friday morning you would come in and do a run, and then a dress, and then you would tape the complete episode. There was no tape-recording facility then. They would stop and start – which, I suppose, on reflection, people can’t imagine. And in some respects it was stressful, and yet I always seemed to put a pace into it. So I suppose with the first year you did your first Coronation Street, once you sort of gradually getting into that, you would sort of graduate slowly up the scale. You didn’t work all of the time as a trainee, as a junior, even going through this apprenticeship period – you still spent quite a bit of time cabling, maybe tracking a crane, or learning how to track a crane. There was no real training, it was all very much hands on, which I sometimes reflect nowadays probably simply doesn’t happen.
And this was mainly studio?
Yes. It was primarily studio work, because then there was a permanent OB (outside broadcast) crew that did all of the outside broadcast work, which ranged from Coronation Street on a Monday morning when they did the odd shots in the Street, that was across the road in that little set which was two-thirds to scale, so you could only ever shoot it at a particular angle, otherwise it looked too small, and when you went through the door you went through to the other side and out into a pitch! And there was nothing there, it was just a very rough set, really. So OB did that on a Monday and they might have had a couple of days off, and then started doing the football or whatever was done at the weekend, or…
so you might get requisitioned occasionally to go and help the OB teams, helping them rig – but at that stage, OB work was a permanent team. Later sometimes, ’73-’74, there was a deal done with management whereby OB would be rotated, so there were then… the old OB crew plus four inside, studio crews gradually worked their way around, and the old OB team, they reckoned, was made up of people who couldn’t work in the studio, who were not very good, it was said, in the studio.
So you didn’t do film?
No, that was another world altogether – it was all video recorded. And as I say, in some respects, in video recording, most of it, if it wasn’t live productions, it would have… it was recorded as an episode. There were all sorts of things that we did in addition – I’m talking about Coronation Street and some of the dramas that we did. But, of course, University Challenge, that was live; What the Papers Say was live; all the news programmes were live, the programmes that went after the news, there was usually a half-hour local slot… I’m trying to think of one of them that Ray Gosling used to present, that was live, that was linked up with the OB crew, who would go to various locations and Ray Gosling would be at the live location, and back in the studio. I think Mike Scott was at the other end when he used to be on the screen… so that was what was happening in a sense. By the end of the fifth year you became a cameraman, and I think by then you were on about £2,500 a year, which was good money, you know, £50 a week.
So you would have done a really wide range of programmes?
Yes – there were educational programmes, there were some religious programmes made in the studio, there were political programmes that Granada did make in the studio, as you know, some of these small…
Sure – some of those sorts of things. I actually used to enjoy some of those smaller programmes from a personal perspective, and I always used to enjoy University Challenge because it was interesting to hear the questions.
Now, part of what I’m going to say that’s worth taking into account. When I came to Manchester, I lived just up the road in Birch Lane, I joined the local Labour Party, as you do, or as I did. And of course, it was a bit strange in reality for anybody working on the studio floor to be a Labour activist – it just didn’t happen. People were either Conservative, or some Labour supporters, but I was an active Labour Party supporter. And while I was still a comparatively junior cameraman, I was asked to stand by my local ward. There was a complete clear-out in Manchester, and the city council, by that stage, had had its number of seats reduced from 120 to 99. And instead of doing it ward by ward, all of the wards had complete re-elections, so there were 99 completely new councillors elected, and I was selected for a seat, Longsight, that had always been solidly Conservative. There had never been anything but a Conservative councillor there.
So I was selected on the basis that of course I wouldn’t get in there, but it was part of the system – and lo and behold, we swept in with quite a good majority. So at the tender age of about 22 or 23, and still only a comparatively junior cameraman, I was Councillor Anderson. And the company… it was the company ethos at that time, they were, in a way, a Labour company. The drive from Sidney Bernstein and Denis Forman, they were active members of the Labour Party themselves, and that sort of ethos rolled through the production areas in quite a strong way. And so when it was announced that I was now a Labour councillor for Manchester, my hand was shaken and I was told that I could have all the time that I needed to do the job, which did rile some people on the shop floor, you know, “Well, of course it’s all right for you, you’re off on Fridays…” and of course being a city councillor in Manchester wasn’t an evening job; it was one or two days a week, and all part of my education in life.
It’s interesting you say that. A lot of people have mentioned about Granada being quite a left-hand company, and certainly in my experience, on the production side, everybody was left-wing.
Labour, broadly Labour, within ranges, a couple of people on the outside of that, but you say not within the technical staff?
Do you know, when I look back, and it’s become more obvious recently because of the Jimmy Savile business, a lot of the shop floor was racist, sexist, homophobic – it was not a very nice place, to be honest. I’ve thought about that quite carefully. It was horribly sexist, it was horribly racist. If you ever saw some of the… and I am sure they did re-edit them, all of those early episodes of The Comedians were vile. They were horrible. And when we used to have them in the studio, the warm-ups, the jokes that were told really were loathsome. Really were loathsome. Horribly racist, and sexism was the norm on the floor, and you… in the context of how we see things now, the fact that women working on the studio floor… I don’t think guests, but certainly women working on the studio floor, and there were some… they were constantly the subject of taunting and fondling – I would say that was virtually the norm, and now that people are being prosecuted for it. I’m not saying what they did was right, but at the time it didn’t surprise people, what had happened.
I remember once, in the course of a conversation, saying I didn’t think it would be a bad idea if an extra penny on income tax was devoted to the arts and culture, and I was virtually shouted down. Shouted down. I don’t think the operational areas of the company were particularly radical – and why should they be? People were hired to work, they had a job to do, they wanted to get on and do it and go home.
Do you want to talk about your own experiences?
In the context of…?
Yes… well… I don’t mind in the slightest. I think the reality was that there were some people who were obviously out, but on balance, at that stage, it was not something that you necessarily talked about. Being gay was relatively in the closet, I think. You obviously knew the other gay people because you could possibly have met them socially in bars or in some social context. At this time also I was a very active member of CHE – Campaign for Homosexual Equality – which was based in Manchester. So I can’t really recall how I fared as being a gay person, except that I think some people knew and got on with it, but other people were disagreeably anti-gay. And I don’t think that was anything they thought through, I think it was just the norm at the time to be homophobic. Unwittingly, you know, I mean, there are people now, if I put my finger on them, I remember Ken Grieve – do you remember, the director? – making remarks that would now be considered very homophobic. I don’t think they were intended to be, I just don’t think they were conscious that perhaps gay people were about, to the extent that it was acceptable to make remarks, and certainly the homophobic jokes that were told on The Comedians… they just wouldn’t be allowed nowadays. …..
I remember coming back from a holiday where I’d sent a postcard to my crew and put something like, “Having a nice time by the pool,” so the card lay in the in-tray, and one of the crew – and I know exactly who it was – had written, “So the poof is lying by the pool, is he?” You know. And that person was viciously racist, viciously homophobic, and I don’t know if you ever remember the circumstance, and I don’t know to what extent this is confidential, whether I should be naming that person, but as you may yourself recall, we had closed shop, it was part of your condition of contract that you were a member of the appropriate trade union. I think that was how it was marked up, and we were all members of the trade union – in fact, I was pleased to join, you know, to get in.
And when a new shop treasurer took over, which was John Scarrott, he went through the books very carefully, and this was something like 10 years on from the previous treasurer, it turned out that one person, a television cameraman, had never joined the union. And of course, on a ‘deducted at source’ basis, if you hadn’t physically put in a membership application, you could exist as a member, a nominal member. You could go to shop meetings, you didn’t have to show a card, there was no evidence to know whether you were a member or not. Now, this particular individual had never joined, which on reflection, seems ridiculous. What happened was that John Scarrott worked his way through the list, and because I was on his crew, and I was a reasonably active trade unionist, he said, “There’s something I can’t work out; there’s somebody missing.” And then a day or two later, he came in and said, “I can’t believe it, it’s (XX), he’s not a member. And he tackled him about it, and his excuse was, “Oh, well I realised I hadn’t joined, and I was just frightened of what would happen if I applied.” Well, there was a lot of suspicion about that. You could say that, me being racist, that being a Yorkshireman, he found it advantageous not to pay 1% of his salary. I don’t know. I don’t know. But the net result was, he was demoted from being a senior cameraman to a cameraman, and he had to find a lot of money to join the union, and he didn’t stay at the company much longer, he left, he was demoted and was unhappy in his new role, which was understandable, but… he had broken the rule. And he was the person, as far as I was concerned, who was one of the most vile, racist, particularly racist – you know, normal conversation, talking about ‘nig-nogs’ and ‘blacks’ and ‘we don’t want blackies in the studio’. There was a young guy who, in fact, was half Asian who came to join the camera department, and he was identified as a ‘nig-nog’ straight away. You can’t believe it, can you? I can’t.
I talked with Wallen – do you remember Wallen Matthie?
Yes, of course.
I did an interview with him and talked at length about the whole race issue, and with Vanessa – do you remember Vanessa Kirkpatrick?
Who was getting not only racist behaviour, but sexist behaviour as well, in a really bad way.
Yes. What did Wallen say?
Wallen said exactly the same, that when it came to the production staff…
You just got on with your job.
Yes, there was a sense that people might have been racist, but when it came to the technical staff, it was very much a different story.
It was loathsome. He was a sports researcher, wasn’t he?
He did sport, but he did lots of other stuff as well.
I remember him coming in as a sports researcher initially. I’m just trying to think who was a very successful researcher.
No – the one who set up his own production company and eventually sold it for a lot of money.
Who was black?
No – he wasn’t black, but he was gay.
No – Brian Park was very successful, still is. No… we used to do that quiz programme that had an outside aspect to it, people had to go on this course up at Holkham Brook.
The Krypton Factor?
The Krypton Factor. Who was one of the early researchers on that who made a lot of money in the end?
No… it wasn’t Jeremy Fox, it was later than Jeremy Fox. I can see him… sorry I can’t put my finger on it… and he set up a business making programmes in quite a big way.
Oh, you mean Steve Leahy?
Steve Leahy! Yes. Now, I’ll give you an instance of how… what the issues were about being homophobic and being in the closet. I was reasonably friendly with him. And he came here, and we had a party, and another researcher came along, who was also gay, and Steve kept clear of him. “Oh, no,” he said. “I don’t want to be…” And the other guy was quite wild… James Maw. Do you remember him?
A character to remember! And I liked him very much, but he was mildly mad in his own way, wasn’t he? But yes, to have him and Steve at the same party here, where we had a whole variety of people, Steve was very wary about being tainted by being associated with James Maw, who I just found funny, quite outrageous, in all sorts of ways, you know, just challenge everyone.
And of course, Jon Savage as well.
Yes, sure, yes.
Who was also slightly outrageous, but a lovely guy.
Yes, he was very nice, yes. He was here on another occasion, and was a good chap to know. He’s still doing quite well, isn’t he?
Yes, he’s writing a lot of books about youth culture.
Yes, and music, he was very much into his music. Interesting guy. There were some very interesting people at Granada. If I say… probably because of a combination of being a councillor and ultimately involved in ACTT, which we haven’t got on to yet really, I met a lot of very interesting and worthwhile people there.
Going back, the business of… so I was elected a councillor about 1971, and continued until 1976. And in 1976, I wasn’t re-elected, the ward… there was a change in general politics, and I was not re-elected, only by a handful of votes, which was very irritating! So I came back to work full-time, you might say, and almost immediately, just at that time, Granada had not long taken on Andrew Quinn as the new General Manager – I think he came from the motor car industry originally. He worked in HR, having come from, I think, Luton, and maybe Vauxhall/General Motors. And he came to work at Granada and he made his way up to being the General Manager, and I think… whether it was at senior management level, which I think it was, it was Denis Forman who was driving the idea of a works council, some sort of works council – it might have even had the grandiose title of the Granada Forum, do you remember that?
I do, yes.
Anyway, the net result was, I was put forward by the union as the joint secretary with Andrew Quinn, and it was quite interesting. We used to have these meetings every so often – people around the table, management, nominees, trade union nominees, some of the people who weren’t even in either – and then afterwards, we would repair to the flat upstairs with Denis Forman and have a whisky and chat over the events. And over a period of two or three years, the union became less and less enchanted with it.
I think part of the idea of why it was set up was that to a degree there was a maturing population, a maturing employee group, who were not getting anywhere. When you first went to Granada, I think, in the 60s, as a young person, your prospects of perhaps being promoted to something grand was quite real and quite possible. Mike Scott came from the floor as a cameraman and as a floor manager, and there were quite a few people who did make their way up like that, but then it started grinding to a halt because these people were sitting in their jobs, and people were getting older and not getting anywhere, other than being reasonably well-paid. So it was a lot of aggro in a way. It wasn’t exactly fighting, but there was a general air of dissatisfaction, you might say.
I certainly think that Denis Forman was well aware of that, because those were the wonderful, grand old days. You could go into the canteen, you would be having lunch and Denis would come ad sit down next to you and talk to you. That used to happen! Scotty used to come in and sit down and talk. Management used to come into the canteen and sit and chat with people. So the Granada forum rolled on for two or three years, and at the end of it I think there was sufficient dissatisfaction on the union’s part, that the net result that really cheesed off the union was that there was going to be an enquiry into how people could get on and succeed, and they came to one conclusion – that if you hadn’t made it by 30, you were not going to make it. Now that really cheesed off the union, I think. I think they saw that as a label that was going to be pinned up over the door a bit like balaclava. ‘Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here’. And if you came to Granada and you hadn’t made it by 30, that was it, and I think the union were not happy with that as a… I don’t know. I think it was the practical aspect of Andrew Quinn simply saying, “This is what’s happening. If you don’t make it while you’re quite young, it’s unlikely you are going to get much further,” you know? You will carry on in your job.
And of course what ultimately happened then was that these people who were then approaching their 50s, that was when the redundancies started, when there was a gradual realisation that new technology in the form of satellite, multiple channels, was going to happen, and the workforce was going to have to be smaller, slimmer – and of course the management wanted the idea I think of being able to rely on freelance staff. So all through that period of the late 70s, there was an unsettled atmosphere, which culminated in 1979 with this long strike of three months, which started – if my memory is correct – around the issue of new technology. It started in London with a few people going on strike, I think, at Thames, and then it started to escalate. The management, I think, on a national basis, exercised their right to a ‘lock-out’, they gave seven days’ notice of lock-out.
It was about money because we wanted more money for some of the aspects of new technology. I think the employers inevitably wanted to capitalise on new patterns of working; new styles of camera were not necessarily going to need quite a big crew. You could do far more editing, so you didn’t need so many people working in a studio, in reality, on production. You could work on a production outside, shooting drama outside with two cameras and a couple of operators, and one or two assistants. You could make material à la film, in a sense, because there were good editing facilities coming in. There was a whole range of things that were being kicked around by both management and the trade unions. And in 1979, the real issue became, in the end, that Thatcher was elected, the Tory government was elected. And when for the previous three years we’d had requests put in for an increased pay rise to cover some of these aspects of new technology and new equipment, new patterns of working, you could get away with certain things, like certain productivity deals, but I think the company didn’t want to be giving money for productivity deals.
So in 1979 when the new government came in, and what had been the Labour government’s restriction on pay rises, which had been limited, at the same time inflation was racing away, and to have a settlement of seven to 10 per cent was not unusual, so I think we had asked for seven and a half per cent, maybe 10, and the employer completely turned around and said, “No, we’re not paying all that.” So we found ourselves saying, “Well, we definitely want 12 and a half per cent,” and then I think there was a bit of a break-out, I think at Thames, there was some trouble there about new technology, then bumph, it all escalated, and we were all locked out.
Did you expect to be locked out for so long?
No, not in the slightest, I don’t think. I remember Quinn saying to me, “When we get this one sorted out, we’ll see what your mettle’s made of.”
Because I was having lunch with Gordon Burns and a couple of other people, and we were waiting for Jeremy Fox to appear. This was the day the strike started.
The day we signed the mortgage on this house!
I did exactly the same – well, not quite that day, but I had literally, that week… so Jeremy Fox suddenly appears at the lunch and says, “Sorry I’m late, I’ve just heard you’re all locked out.” And he said, “I’ve spoken to my dad – Sir Paul Fox – he says 63 days.” And that’s virtually what it was.
Yes… 10 or 11 weeks, wasn’t it? Virtually three months. What I remember was, initially, the employers really dug in, led, I believe, by Granada. Granada really were hawks, they were saying, “We’re not forking out all this money,” and they were very much against the national agreement, they didn’t like the national agreement, they said they couldn’t do much better deals locally. It was happening all the time, there were little deals being negotiated. But anyway, as you know, we were out for 10 or 11 weeks, and I think at the end of the day we considered it was a triumphant return, because we had an 18-month settlement, which was worth 46 and a half per cent, and of course during that period… it was surprising, people did go of and get jobs and do bits and bobs, I stayed on the picket line.
There had been a month’s strike in 1970 at Granada, I don’t know if you remember that, that was again about the company wanting to re-equip and so on, and that was in the month leading up to the general election in 1970 when Labour lost. But that was certainly a local strike, and there we were all… the rest of the union, the rest of the circuit, you might say, they all chipped in to a strike fund, so in fact the people at Granada more or less kept their money flowing all the time – we were not out of pocket. But 1979 was obviously a long strike, and we eventually came back to work – in fact, the company even loaned us a month’s pay when we came back!
I joined Granada the year before, and I do recall I came from Tribune, where I was earning a pittance! And joining Granada I think on about £5,000 a year, and being slightly surprised that it wasn’t more than that, I had anticipated that Granada would pay a lot more. And then after the strike I was suddenly earning £7,500, which was a massive increase.
Yes. Even now, people have said to me, “It was a long time,” and all the rest of it. But of course, that meant your pension went up In effect, all that sort of thing was reflected in deferred earnings like that, so I think that was quite valuable.
So you had become heavily involved in the union?
I was, sure. 1979, I think some of us were cheesed off with the way the negotiations had gone on, and of course the ACTT, although we had Alan Sapper, the left-winger, as general secretary, he didn’t really get involved in much of it until about the second month, he didn’t bother himself with things like that. Anyway, at the end of the strike, there was sort of a broad decision, I think… actually, quite a bit at Granada level, that we wanted to take more of a part in national politics, you might say, of ACTT. And very rapidly and very quickly I found myself elected to the national negotiating committee and was appointed/elected to be the chair of the negotiating committee. There was a slightly off set-up, there was the negotiating committee that had a chair, and also had a negotiating leader going from Yorkshire Television. But it did mean, I think, that Granada had quite a strong voice there on the future, and yes, at that point you could say that being a member of the negotiating committee was quite a responsible job and I was in London virtually every week, one day a week.
There was always, even when we went back at the end of that long strike, there was an idea with the employers, well, that’s it, no problems now, it’s all going to be cleared up. And, in fact, it almost created a backlog of other problems, and the company – companies – took on a new head of human resources to chair all the negotiation problems, who was a former shop steward from Granada Television, a guy called Sumner. His son worked for a long time as a film editor at Granada, I don’t know if he’s still got his own business, but his dad had a long time ago been a shop steward at Granada, and he took over as head of the negotiating team on behalf of the employers. I’ll give him his due, he came in and he said, “Right, let’s clear the decks, let’s get all the problems we’ve got and get them all sorted out and start with a clean book.” And we did, and I think relations were quite harmonious then, in all fairness, for some time.
But then again, what happened was, we were getting to the middle of the 1980s. By then, 1983, I was elected the national president of ACTT. As the chairman of the negotiating committee for the ITV division, I was also the chair of the trade union’s standing orders committee, so that at conference, I used to chair the standing orders committee, which meant that really we set the agenda, and if there were any problems, the then president of the union… Ron Bowie, a Granada film cameraman, was always in a bit of a muddle, he didn’t really quite understand the rulebook, to him it was a bit academic. So most of the annual conferences where Ron Bowie presided, and the general council meetings that we held quarterly, were constant chaos. Constant chaos. And people said it was a breath of fresh air when I took over as the chair of the standing orders committee. I reckon for a couple of conferences, although I was only the chair of the standing orders committee, I reckon that in effect, people were saying, “You are virtually running the show.” Ron would turn to be and say, “What do we do next, Bruce? What do we do next?” and I’d say, “Well, the next procedure we should follow is the so-and-so.”
And then there was a major rewrite of the ACTT rule book, and because I was the chairman of the standing orders committee I was very much involved in that. We had this special rules revision meeting, special conference, and people said, “We can’t do it – all these proposals we put forward, we can’t do it.” And in fact, we did. I simply said, “Look, if you agree to one pivotal rule change at the beginning, everything will follow through in place, unless people really challenge it.” And we did – in virtually a day, there was a long debate about whether there should be these major changes, then there was an agreement, quite a good, numerical agreement, that we should change the rule book to the extent that we had put forward, and it all fell into place.
And then about three months later it was the AGM, and nominations had to be in for a new president, and challenge the existing president, and my name was put forward by the writer’s section, who I always got on very well with. He said, “Oh, you’re the person to chair it in future.” So again, at the tender age of 33, I was elected the national president, which was a bit of a surprise I think. This was 1983, when I was 35 or 36. From 1983 to 1988, yes. I was 36. And of course, before then, apart from Ron…Ron Bowie had only become president because Bolt – do you remember Bolt, the screenwriter?
Robert Bolt, from Sale, had had a massive stroke and couldn’t work – and part of that was that he was president of the union, and that the senior vice president was Ron Bowie, so Ron Bowie had never been elected president, he just came in and took over. And before Bolt… it tended to be some grandee from the film world. I was the first ordinary working member to be elected; there had been this tendency for sort of grandees… Anthony Askwith was one of the notable ones. And also there had never been any set period of office, other than the annual re-election, and in fact when I took over, it had been decided there would be a fixed term of office for five years. You had to be re-elected each year, you had to stand for election, but you couldn’t do it for more than five years – so I did it from 1983 to 1988, and again generously the company said at that time, “Take what time you need,” which again was probably a day or two a week that I was in London on trade union business.
About this time as well, mid 80s, early 80s, there are major technological changes.
Yes. And I think all part of that that I recognise, particularly when I travelled to the States, which I did two or three times, the major studio network companies were going though traumas with the potential of satellite TV, box office, all sorts of new patterns of delivery. And that was beginning to happen in the UK, obviously, and during that time I remember having meetings with the people who were setting up breakfast TV, and the people behind that, you know, the big press baron.So there was a whole pattern of things that were beginning to happen that made you realise that independent television as we knew it, particularly independent television as we knew it with individual companies, was simply not going to last – that was a model that was already quite out-dated.
If I could pinpoint one programme that seemed to be a watershed at Granada, it was This Morning.
Oh, yes – that was 1988, 1989, wasn’t it?
I was involved in the negotiations – I was on the shop committee when there was a lot of talk about this programme, 15 hours a week or whatever.
If my memory is correct, round about that period there were extensive negotiations with the company about new working patterns, and that was being led by that slightly odd, ex-HR guy that took over as general manager, Tony Brill.
The religious fanatic. Did you know he was a religious fanatic? He’s still running a religious channel, I believe, somewhere. Yes. He was… and he was quite hard-nosed, I think he had a clear objective of what he wanted to do, and it was round about that time that I stopped being president, came to Granada and found myself as a shop steward. And we had quite… we had a whole week, two or three night, head-banging session with management and trade union in a hotel, I can’t think where, in Blackpool or the Lake District somewhere, to try and tussle with the idea of how we could get over some of these real issues, like the company saying, “We want to do This Morning in Liverpool,” say for example, “But we’re not going to pay you overnights.” It was all these sorts of issues about… “And there will be no nonsense of you all going first class by rail with taxis at either end, we’ll put you on a coach and you’ll be bussed over there in the morning and bussed back in the afternoon.” Yes, sure – so I remember all those things that they wanted. So in the end a lot of it was conceded, because it was agreed that that was going to happen; that was the way things were going to go. But I am trying to remember the detail. There was a shop steward, I can’t remember if it was Ray Hughes, who was giving the company virtually everything they wanted. Then we had a big shop meeting about it and a lot of it was rejected. It wasn’t Ray Hughes, it was…
It wasn’t, no – quite the reverse. Her husband worked in the news department and she was a PA. Can you remember her name?
No. Her husband was a news presenter and she was a PA, and she was on the committee for quite a long time and became very much involved. And she was seen to be giving a lot to the company. And also, the guy who worked in mechanical maintenance and ended up getting his own programme about motorcar maintenance.
Oh, Jeff! Big Jeff!
Big Jeff. Well… what was her name?
No, it wasn’t Lynn Marriott… It was another woman (Anne Wilkie-Millar) who had been a long-time employee. They eventually left in disgust and set up a B&B in Wales. But with Jeff, they had given a lot to the company, When we had this shop meeting to agree nominally to it, I think it might have even been turned down by the shop, and Malcolm Foster, who ceded control as the shop steward because I think he had been taken on as a lighting director, led the rebellion. And I sort of got involved at that stage. That was when we really tried to get something sorted out with the company about what could be done.
A lot of people have said in hindsight they were pretty damaged, self-inflicted, damaged days in the sense… they were a bit barmy, to put it bluntly.
Well, I think what happened was, for a long time we had the company over a barrel because we had a closed shop. Once the Thatcher government in effect had dropped that by the 80s and we didn’t have that, and I think Andrew Quinn said we were going to get our own back after the long strike and the big pay rise that went with it. I think they were determined that they were really sort things out locally – there was potential for a lot more local negotiation and local agreements. I think Brill was brought in as the hard man to do it – and he succeeded. He did succeed, in all fairness. So yes, a lot of things did go through and I would say that I certainly recognised what had happened in the States where the big major network companies had carved the wall virtually because of satellite television and home box office, all these things… I think I recognised that those changes were inevitable.
But did the unions create rules which were…?
Well, they didn’t create rules, there were many rules in existence that were very costly for the company, and the company wanted to get rid of them.And it was at a time when we had new organisers working in ITV – Sandra Horne was one who wanted to chivvy the shops into saying, “If you don’t agree with this, you’ll be destroyed. Because you won’t have the muscle, you won’t be able to take people out on strike in the future in the same way.” And the companies could use…
I’ll tell you what I think… I’m trying to get all these things… it was the fact that breakfast television, TV-am, I think that was the straw that broke the trade union’s back. Up until that strike, we had held the mechanical reins of broadcasting, but at TV-am, was it Bruce Gyngell, proved that that didn’t need to be the case. You could put out some second rate television but you could keep on air. You know, he could keep his doorman and secretaries operating cameras for what they needed. So I think that was the one that broke the trade union’s back, as it were. And there was a realisation from that TV-am strike, which again was an extended, painful business, I think that had happened… that revolved around that incredible business of a crew that worked for about three weeks non-stop, and they kept breaking the 10-hour agreement, and eventually they ended up with something like two and a half years’ pay for three weeks’ work.
That wasn’t a Granada one though, was it
No, it wasn’t But that was… when TV-am got involved with…
There was the disaster, wasn’t there? The ferry disaster (The Herald of Free Enterprise 1987).
It was the Dutch ferry, and a crew had gone out there to cover it and they kept going back to the company and saying, “We’re breaking the 10-hour agreement.” They were told, “Stay there, stay there, don’t worry, we’ll pay, we’ll pay,” and then when in reality the company had to pay it was a huge amount of money. And the shop steward, I knew well, the most affable guy you could not help want to meet, kept warning the company the costs were going to be horrendous.
If you want me to recount it, the agreement was you would normally have a 12-hour break between two turns of duty. If you had a modest amount of notice, that could be cut to a10-hour break between two turns of duty. If you didn’t get a 10-hour break, when you started work again on the next turn of duty, at whatever rate you started work at, you got double for the next 10 hours that you were working. So if, for instance, you finished work at two in the morning, and you didn’t get… if you had to be back at work by midday, say 11.30, that was not a 10-hour break. So that following turn of duty, all that turn of duty, was twice the rate at which you had finished. Now, again, part of the structure was, that once you got to midnight, if you were not scheduled to work regularly on nights, for each hour you work past midnight, your rate of pay went up by a single T. So at 3am you were getting 3T, 4am you were getting 4T. And that was to dissuade the employers – it all goes back to the old days of film, pre-war, to dissuade the employers from making you keep working and working and working. I mean, it did work very well at Granada – nobody ever broke the 10-hour break; the management just didn’t risk it.
Very rarely. It happened to me once, just once.
There was a famous incident with a production assistant who was in New York with the World in Action crew, and who was due to get married on the Saturday, and they were due to finish filming on, let’s say it was the Thursday, but the crew needed to stay on, so they granted her permission to go home and they would continue without her – they must have got a union agreement on that. And they continued filming but broke the 10-hour break on a number of successive days, so that as she walked up the aisle she was earning 8T!
Well, it certainly happened worse. We were doing the by-election at Liverpool when the Liberal…
I covered that, I did that.
When… and that count went on into the early hours. And what I remember was we were due to finish at 2am, and that was all right because the following day at 12 o’clock we had to go and rig a football pitch or a church in Liverpool; because there was a by-election, Granada organised a church service there, or a football match. And ITN, who were waiting for the results, said, “We’ll pay the costs if it’s going to break the 10-hour agreement, don’t worry.” So we carried on working until 3am, 4am, it might have even been 5am virtually, by the time we got back to the hotel – so we finished work at 5T. Now, the following day, we went and rigged the football match, or the church, whatever, that turn of duty was six hours, so it was six hours at twice the rate at which we had finished – 10T. So we got 60 hours’ pay for that one afternoon – and ITN took the bill; to them it was pivotal to be there at the count and see… was it that Liberal MP?
David Alton, yes, that was what it was all about.
Yes, I covered that.
So the crew ended up with 60 hours pay! Now, the history of that, as I said, was to stop people, back in the early days of film production, you get a new director coming in and a crew in the film studio, would work like mad, and then a new director would come in and, whoa, work like mad again. “Because it’s my film. It’s my film.” And that was the basis of it, people had to have a reasonable amount of rest between turns of duty. So that was how that particular thing… but of course it went on and on and on, and they were due something like six or seven months’ pay for… and I think then that employers, even though I think TV-am were not on a day by day, hand in hand, basis with the ITV employers, there was just a point where they were saying, “This is enough – this cannot continue.
And also, if I am correct, it was round about that time where there was this major decision by the new MD – was it Charles Allen and the other guy who came in, Gerry Robinson? They came in and they were not going to kowtow to this sort of bloody nonsense. I think one of the stories I was told was that when Robinson came in he wanted to see every CV, every post detail, of anyone on more than £20,000. He wanted to see what was £20,000 – that was his benchmark. And every line manager had to review, did they need people earning more than £20,000 – and I remember what happened was a number of line managers who were earning £40,000 or £50,000 also got the elbow themselves. Because at the end of the day, I suspect the place was bloated. It probably was.
Yes – well there was a company that was a bit of an inverted – well, not an inverted – triangle… there wasn’t a great deal of management in the early days.
No, there wasn’t. And you did talk quite interestingly about… people would go up the ladder and then they would hit a ceiling. Once you had become an executive producer there was nowhere to go except to become programme controller, so they bloated all these executive producers…
A bit like the British Army, I believe, these day.
And the sort of thing that would have happened… there was a guy who had been a…this job of being a controller, working on… he was a transmission controller – those were the people who used to earn big, big bucks. £50,000 – £60,000 a year. They were earning big money. And one of them, because they were deemed to have a reasonably important job, they could be siphoned off into management. And there was some of them, I forget his name, he used to be known as the keeper of the zoom lenses. When zoom lenses were very costly, and moved from one programme to another…
I know who you mean, yes.
And he was the sort… he was an instance of how there was a management figure, who really was probably earning a ludicrous amount of money, he was known as… it was like some sort of 18th century sinecure, he was the keeper of the zoom lenses, and he would plot where the zoom lenses… and they were expensive items. I think there was a time when they were £50,000 or £60,000 a piece, and there were half a dozen of them that had to be logged and moved around. It was important they were in the right place at the right time – a football match couldn’t go ahead or you couldn’t cover certain things. So Gordon was the keeper of the zoom lenses. I remember there were people who had all sorts of jobs, tucked away in offices. Jack Smith – was the head of education programmes? People like that. And there were senior producers…
Granada didn’t sack people.
And people didn’t leave.
So you did get this…
Yes, and I suspect that’s where Robinson and Allen came in, Gerry Robinson and Allen came in, and they saw a huge… Granada had started getting involved with other companies, and they saw a hugely bloated management structure and trade union structure that kept people in good jobs with good money. So by late 1989-1991, that was when they were starting to talk about the clear-out.
And in a way, I was slightly isolated, because in 1988, the same time as partly being involved with some shop steward work in Manchester, I’d been on asked by my line manager would I like to go and work on this new programme in Liverpool, This Morning. He said, “You like working on live programmes, don’t you?” I said, “Yes.” “Well, this will be all right, you can go and do that. You finish at lunch time and you can come back and do your shop steward duties then.” So that started me working on This Morning in 1988 for the first 15 years of it. And that’s what happened actually; it was quite convenient to work on This Morning, and unusually, and quite a few of the crew were rotating on it, myself and one or two others stayed on it. It was quite convenient to say as a shop steward to say I worked mornings and I was free in the afternoon to come back to Manchester and do shop steward work. So that sort of rolled on like that. I did enjoy This Morning, I did enjoy it, it was a live production, it was good fun, it was good fun. People say to me now, what was work like at Granada? I said, “Particularly when I got to This Morning, it was much better than work.” I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the same.
Did you enjoy Granada as a company?
Yes, it was a knockout. I do think it was very good. There was a time where sometimes… look, Granada was a good company – it was driven by a number of people who had really good, charitable, ideals. One of the things, for instance, you may not remember it, I don’t know if it was still going, Gerry Hagan, who was the librarian…
I remember the library.
Well, it was run by a guy called Gerry Hagan who also really had the air of Forman and Plowright because he used to organise the book reading for suitable dramas, and he had two or three people who used to read books and who would come back to Gerry and say, “We think this might make a nice play.” So The Raj Quartet – that came through Gerry Hagan, who, I believe, suggested it to Plowright and Forman as being a good idea, a possible idea. But he was all part of that ethos of, you know ‘What can we do? What can we do? How can we make a really wonderful programme?”
There was this series that was made in the studios, partly with Sir Lawrence Olivier, and that was because Plowright as married to an Olivier, Joan Plowright – that was the way Granada was, and that meant that we did make remarkable programmes to go and work on, and see and watch and say, “Yes, we were a part of it.” They also made some dreary stuff – A Family at War. Do you remember that?
Christ, that was miserable. But it was a big sort of epic production – a lot of money, big series… another ghastly series called Judge Dee, do you remember that?
I vaguely remember that!
Some of that stuff! Christ knows why it was ever taken seriously. But it was! Crown Court, which actually had a sort of… Clarissa (Hyman) worked on that, didn’t she?
I think she did, yes.
But that actually, in a way, was a Granada ideal, because they could have a set studio – you didn’t have a lot of sort of running expense. But it wasn’t a bad idea by any means. Denis Wolfe. I think Denis Wolfe exemplified the sort of people you had at Granada in a way. Leftie, very interested, always had good ideas, and always had the air of the senior production people, and could get programmes off the ground, even if they weren’t going to get a big audience. I think that was again a part of Granada – they didn’t necessarily say, “This is going to be a hugely successful, big production, big number in terms of viewing figures, but it would be a good thing to do.” But again, Denis Wolfe was one of those people who was always lurking around with interesting ideas that Granada took on. So yes, I do think they were… a shadow of its former self, obviously.
When, in 1993, This Morning transferred to London – or was it 1996? – when it transferred to London (it was 1996) I went down there, and of course Granada had taken over LWT, but LWT was still pretty independent, running itself the way they wanted to. But once Robinson started looking at their books, I think he probably even had a worse heart attack than when he saw what was going on at Granada – because they were incredibly bloated, and huge salaries were being paid there for management figures.
And the whole freelancing of the business in a way made it easier, just so they could offer them nice payoffs, and there were jobs to go to initially.
What happened to me was the classic example, because – and I think it was 1993 – there was the big clear-out. We were told, “You can volunteer, and we can give you a slightly enhanced redundancy, if not, people will have to go.” So in fact I calculated that it would probably be better to leave, and take the chance.
Along the way, I think after 1988, when I had seen what was happening in America and realising it was going to happen over here, I had always spent a lot of my time around antique fairs, so I decided around 1989-1990 to get myself an antiques stall. So for a number of years I was doing antique fairs at the weekends. I particularly sold antique linen, I was always interested in really nice… I was sort of influenced by my mother, I think, as a kid, we always had fine table linen at home, so at weekends I used to be doing antique fairs as well. So in 1993, when the options of volunteering for redundancy came up, I volunteered, and I always remember we had… there was a woman manager, I can’t think of her name now, she was an accountant…
Jane Lucas? Philippa Gregory?
No… she… there was… sorry, it escapes me. Anyway, she was a hard-headed accountant (Brenda Smith) who had been auditing the books of Granada for PWC, I think, and she was pulled in to be part of the management team. And she was of that mould, you know ” I don’t need all these people on the payroll, and £20,000-£30,000 a year… I can get them in freelance much cheaper and much easier.” And it was certainly said, you know, of course we might… “Bruce, you have enjoyed working on This Morning, and maybe there could be some freelance work regularly on that.” So I thought, “Fuck this for a game of soldiers, I’ll take the money and run.”
I had a suspicion, that having been an active trade unionist, I could find myself on the receiving end of, “Thank you very much Bruce, but you are one of the chosen few – hop it.” So I decided I would jump rather than be pushed. So I left, went down to London, did two big antique fairs, took a lot of money, thought, “This is all right,” got back to Manchester and got a telephone call “Could I come in for a couple of days next week?” And then before long I was regularly earning £1,000 a week, on a freelance basis, working on This Morning. £150 in the morning and “Could I come in and help in the studio doing the news in the afternoon?” – £250 a day, three or four days a week as a freelance.
Considerably more than you were earning.
Yes when I left I think I was earning £23,000; I was virtually doubling my money. If I was still on the books, probably they could have said, “We are paying his pension contributions,” and all the rest of it. But at the end of the first year of doing that, I was asked if I would like to take on an annual contract just to do This Morning. So being the hard-headed person I was, it was agreed that I would work from, say, 7.30am, I would get myself to Liverpool, I would work in Liverpool from 7.30am – 1pm, Monday to Friday, and I would have the holidays off that the programme had, and I would be paid, I think an annual rate of £600 a week, I think. I was in heaven! I had my weekends off, I had Christmas off, I had Easter off, and eight weeks in the summer – I thought it was bloody marvellous! I couldn’t believe my luck. And I did that until it went to London, so I did about three years like that.
When they went to London they asked me if I wanted to do the job in London, and they offered me not a bad rate, it turned out to be nothing like London rates were, but it was enough, so I did that for about six months,. And then I realised that they were short-changing me, and I said, “That’s it – I’ve had enough. I’m not going to carry on doing this any more.” There was a bit of umming and ahhing, and they eventually agreed to increase my money somewhat to be more in line with the London rate – and they did it. They needn’t have done, but I got on very well with Liam, who was the executive producer, and when I said I was going to pack it in, he said, “We can’t lose you, you’re important – we need you! Richard and Judy rely on you!” Because I used to do the camera that covered those two. I’m sure you know what their reputation was like… I think they had an unfair reputation. They were very, very good at what they were doing, and if there was a weak production team they could spot it immediately. The technical team was very sound, and they valued that enormously. If I said, “I don’t think we can do this,” they would say to the producer, “Bruce has said he doesn’t think we can do it. I don’t think we can either. So what are you going to do about it?” And that was true; if we had doubts about… because again, it was part of what was happening. The company were sometimes taking on, in London, people who didn’t; have a lot of experience at running the show, and some of the producers were terribly weak – day producers – and the story is it was very difficult to hire good people because everyone was frightened of Richard and Judy.
Yes – I worked with Richard on Scramble, and Judy, and Richard was always very, very professional. If you gave him briefing notes, he would read them, and he would be on top of his subject. I found him fine to work with, absolutely no problem. And Judy also was okay.
I think what happened was, there were weak researchers – some were very good, there were one or two outstanding people, there were one or two very good producers and one or two very good directors, who alternated. And then the moment there was anyone weak, Richard and Judy would be down on them like a ton of bricks, you know, they would say, “You can’t do that! You’ve got that wrong! Now, where is the producer? Why isn’t the producer…?” and the producer would disappear, you know, and
So I think, going back to what I saw happening then, the Granada influence became more and more apparent at LWT. And they got rid of some of the line managers, who were on huge salaries, and they were sending people down from Manchester to ‘sort out’ London, and London still had a bar and a club for the staff, overlooking the Thames – it was wonderful. It was absolutely wonderful. And when Granada sent down one of their senior line managers to sort a few problems out, the first thing he said was, “We’ll close this down – this is far too valuable a space, we can’t give this to the [staff].” And there was a lot of upset, but that was management, that was Granada management, they weren’t going to have that sort of nonsense.
That’s fine as far as I’m concerned, is there anything you feel that you’ve not said?
Finally, just the final thing I suppose… in 2003, I… by 2002 I had become the joint works council secretary at LWT, it was a sort of thing that floated back about 20 years to how things were, and along the way, I became aware that LWT were getting ready to be cleaned up by Granada to the extent that they wanted to get rid of staff. And they were doing it. I mean, there were people who were getting big payoffs, and Granada were stopping that, so I put it to my then line manager that perhaps they didn’t really need me. There were two senior cameramen on This Morning, which we did not need. And I just said, “Well, I think I can put forward a good case for me to be made redundant,” and because I was working on contract, and had continued to work on contract, rolling contracts, in 2003 they offered me a redundancy package which was virtually the same that I had had 10 years earlier. EU legislation meant that people on contract had to be given the same terms as staff, and they had to make my payment go back to when they had made me redundant 10 years earlier, in 1993. And because in that time my salary had doubled, in London, when I finished working, I was on about £43,000, my redundancy pay then was virtually the same as it was when I had left Granada on the payroll.
And the final thing was this: that they said “Yes, that’s all agreed, we’ll sort it out, we’ll put it in writing for you, Bruce” – and that was round about April. And in May, I said, “What’s happening?” And they said, “There’s a bit of a hiccup. You might have to wait another month before we can do anything.” And my contract was due to end on July 1, and we got to the beginning of June and I said, “Look, you’re going to have to give me a month’s notice of my redundancy, otherwise we’ll be rolling into the holiday period.” “Oh, don’t worry, don’t worry.” So it rolled on, and then at the very end of July, the very end of June, the line manager called me up and said, “Ever so sorry about this, Bruce – we’ve had an embargo on all redundancies for another month. So what we’ll do is, although you will be at home, you will be on holiday, we will pay you until the end of July, and then your redundancy will go through. I know the reason behind it, they don’t want any big redundancy payments… they don’t want a whole batch of redundancy payments, it will spoil the six-month figures.” So at the end of June I was told that I would get my money, it will be in the bank, and it will all be settled. Well, come August 1, I rang up and said, “Can I be put through to HR?” I spoke to one of the secretaries I knew very well and said, “Look – I was supposed to be made redundant yesterday. Where’s my money? Where’s the paperwork?” “Oh, Bruce – I’m ever so sorry, I don’t know what’s happened. There’s a big meeting today, all the HR people are away. I’ll see if I can get in touch with one of them on the phone.” She rang me back three hours later. “Bruce, I’m ever so sorry about this, it’ll be in your bank by 3pm. Don’t worry, it’s all sorted out.” At 3pm I opened my bank account, and there was £10,000 more than I expected. “What the fuck is going on here?” I had £33,000 instead of £23,000 – and that was for 10 years. I had that 10 years earlier. I thought, “What do I do? I don’t have any paperwork.” And I then rang the accounts department, and said, “That money…” “Oh, yes,” she said. “That was what we were authorised by HR in London – it’s all correct, don’t worry. Is it not enough, then?” I said, “No, it’s fine. Don’t worry. I’m fine, you’ve told me that’s what… because I’ve not had the paperwork.” “No,” she said. “That’ll be in the post next week.” So I thought, “I’ll sit back and wait for the post next week.”
A friend of mine – again, part of my history with being involved in the trade union, I was very involved with Thompsons, industrial relations lawyers. They used to take me to heir knees-ups in Manchester. And I rang one of them and said… and they said, “Oh, Bruce. I’ll tell you what’s happened – it’s called a cock-up. It happens all the time. You’ve got the money in the bank, wait until you get the paperwork. If there’s any flaw with the paperwork get in touch with us and we’ll see what can be done, we’ll see what the score is.” Well, a week later, no paperwork. I rang my line manager. “I haven’t got any paperwork.” “Oh, it should be in the post. Don’t worry, don’t worry about it, it’ all sorted out.” Well, a month went by then another month, and I talked to my colleague, the trade union guy at Thompsons, and he said, “Sit on it. It’s a cock-up.” I said, “But surely, they’ve paid all that money out, surely they would want to monitor it?” “No,” he said. “They don’t monitor it. They’ve paid you off, you’re off the payroll, there’s not going to be any audit of whether they have saved the money, they’ve got rid of you – that’s what they wanted to do. You won’t hear anything more about it, I bet you.” And I’ve never had any paperwork, and I never heard any more.