Alastair Mutch remembers ‘drifting’ along at Granada

And then at some point I became office manager, which is not the most exciting job in the world. But you know, I drift along. So I did this for a few years. Trouble with that job, you’ve got a huge number of departments under you, and every time the phone goes, it’s somebody wanting something or complaining about something. People like John Birt, who went on to greater things, wanting a huge amount of space for his programme, Nice Time. He was never satisfied with what he got, but then nobody was, because I mean, you’ve got so many square feet or even square metres now, so many desks, so many chairs, and you do your best.

So I did that for quite a while, and then continuing the theme of drifting. Bill Dickson by now had become first Chief Accountant and then Finance Director. So he invited me into his office and said, “Do you want to come work for me?” So I said, “Okay.” So I went and worked for Bill, so I was back in Accounts, and a lot of budgeting. That was the main thing. But Bill was a fairly complex character. He was a very generous man with his own money, and fiendishly concerned about controlling the expenditure that Granada got involved in. And for example, he would have the accountants day by day, go through every single petty cash claim, which I have to say, in those days, were mostly, purely notional. An electrician, for example, would get up in the morning, get into his notional taxi, go to his place at work, and have his notional lunch and his notional tea, get in his notional taxi, and come home again, much richer than he was when he left in the morning. But of course, the unions at that time were fairly strong.

But Bill, his secrecy was almost legendary. Of course, he would go to the board meetings, and all the board reports would be handed out to directors, who would be allowed to see them. And at the end of the meeting, he would collect up every written board paper. He didn’t trust the directors, or their secretaries, or assistants or whoever. It was so confidential. And I remember he tried my patience once. I was doing the annual budget. And as I say, there were no computers. And if you were lucky, you could get hold of a calculator but I didn’t have one in the early days. So the budget was hand-written on these spreadsheets, starting with the existing salaries going right across, cost of living increases, annual increase, and whatever else. So there’s a mass of figures down, a mass of figures across, grand total at the end. And it took ages to rejig if there was a change. Any rate, the one outstanding figure was the figure to be agreed with the unions for the year. And I’m going back a long time, but there were some huge increases. And I was driving home that night, and it came on the news that ITV had settled for… I think it was 16%. It was a huge figure. So I thought, “Right, a lot more work tomorrow morning.” So I went in early and started altering all the spreadsheets. And Bill came in and said, “What were you doing?” I said, “I’m altering all the spreadsheets for the increase.” “What increase?” I said, “Well it’s 16%.” “How do you know?” I mean it all been confidential discussions at the highest level. And I said, “Well Mr Dickson. It was on six o’clock news last night.” But he was very good-hearted, very generous fellow. Very talented. He was a very good pianist.

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