Brian Blake talks about Granada as an employer

You talked about the Granada ethos, what kind of company was Granada, would you like to expand on that?

It’s difficult not to be clichéd about it. It had a genuine interest in all the people, in the early days certainly. Some moved from London to Manchester, you’ve still got the same thing now with the BBC in Salford. There’s this problem of getting people to move to the North from the South. We didn’t have that problem so much; it was only ‘World in Action’ really that had that problem. The management always lived in London of course, they came up on a Monday say and they had flats in Manchester and back on Friday. The ‘World in Action’ team was half London, half Manchester roughly speaking. Everybody was going up and down. They wanted people to move to Manchester, I remember one producer he said “I can’t afford to move to Manchester” and they paid his deposit. That’s the sort of thing they did.

People who were drunk, there was a tremendous amount of drunkenness in those days; it was the old journalists tradition of hard drinking. People were sent to sanatoriums to dry out, a lot of that went on behind the scenes, it wasn’t broadcast. So in that sense a very benevolent company.

As I said earlier they took gambles on people, like Brian Armstrong a fine documentary maker suddenly became head of comedy. How did that happen? It couldn’t happen anywhere else. They just looked at people individually, they had time to do that and they took flies.

I must say they were a very good company to work for, good fun. A few ups and downs, a few shouting matches but of course they encouraged that. They used to invite people up to the seventh floor at Granada for a dinner party. The whole idea was to get everybody drunk so that you would actually speak out what you thought of them or what you thought of Granada, a sort of bonding session.

There was one famous one with Denis Forman. We were all up there about ten ‘World in Action’ producers, all sparky individuals, all thinking we’re pretty good. He said “There’s only been two directors in the whole history of television and cinema who are great, who are famous, who are really good.”We all said “Oh yeah, who’s that then?” “Orson Welles and Ken Russell.” And we all started throwing bread rolls at him. People were picking up bread rolls from the table and throwing them.

He loved that, that’s the sort of thing they did. They wanted controversy, they wanted people to let their hair down and speak their minds. And you could speak your mind, you could say what you liked. So that was all good, no complaints there at all.

Granada as a company and employer

Granada mug

Granada had a reputation of being a paternalisitc company, in the style of other employers such as Cadburys and Unilever and took great pride in looking after its employees. There was a canteen which was open all day and half the night, a nurse who was on site and if necessary the company could quickly fix up private doctor, dentist and optician appointments. Granada was also very generous when it came to sickness and ill health, and was always prepared to give whatever assistance it could, be it in time off or booking into clinics or hospitals.

Granada also operated a share scheme so that when you qualified you received an extra one per cent of your salary as a bonus in shares. These could either be retained or sold on after a given period of time. There was a generous pension scheme as well.

The company operated a closed shop and every employee was obliged to join their respective trade union which would negotiate on their behalf. In the early days pay was not particularly lucrative but after the 1979 strike salaries improved dramatically. Expenses were always generous although you were never supposed to claim for alcohol.

Old SchoolDuring the 1960s and 70s Granada had its own amateur theatre group, known as The Stables with staff members participating in performances. In 1977 the theatre company ended and The Stables became a bar. The bar was later transferred to the Old School, across the road from the main entrance. At Christmas there was always a party for the children of employees and this is fondly remembered by many. The company also had sports facilities with the occasional cricket and football matches.

Football teamGranada was a small company employing a little over 1,000 people at its Manchester base. The management structure was similarly small so that it was effectively controlled by Lord Bernstein along with Sir Denis Forman and David Plowright. Mike Scott, who became programme controller in 1978 was also a key figure. And, unlike most companies, everyone, apart from Lord Bernstein, was known by their first name.img046