David Highet on how Granada’s coverage of the Toxteth riots was never screened

Several things happened around that story. One was that because we were a studio set-up, we had no cameras to take out so a news team was sent from Manchester for the riots but John Toker and Mike Short went out into the streets with the crew and they were short-crewed but it was what we could get together in the circumstances, which were extraordinary because in Upper Parliament Street a Gentleman’s Club, known as the Racquet Club because it stood there for a hundred years, was burnt down which indicated the great anger of the population of the people of that part of Liverpool. And as an aside I will say that (let me find it, where’s the bit of paper when you need it?) it was a day of great ignominy, I thought, for Granada that the wonderful footage that the Manchester crew got together with the reporting of John Toker and Shorty and so on was never seen. (If you give me a moment I’ll find what I am looking for. It’s a little cutting from The Times. I would like to be able to read the cutting if I could because it says it all in a way. Ah ha, here it is!) So we resume. It was, I think, probably one of the darkest days for Granada journalists and news managers. I’ll read what The Times Diary had to say:

‘The weekend riots in Toxteth in Liverpool was arguably the biggest local story in Granada’s catchment area since commercial television started. But what were viewers of its local news programme, Granada Reports, offered on Monday evening? A half-hour Flintstones cartoon! The reason for the lack of coverage was indeed stone-age farce. A crew was sent to Liverpool to shoot a half-hour Special. Unfortunately someone overlooked an agreement with the Film Technicians’ Union, the ACTT, which forbids local news crews to shoot more than 800 feet of film, roughly 7 minutes on screen, without the aid of a bigger unit. The crew got the programme together only for the ACTT, which in this instance might stand for the Association of Cretinous and Triassic Technicians to show its fossilised attitude by pulling the switch. The next idea was to mount a studio discussion but then the Neanderthal Union for the Preservation of the Jurassic, the NUJ, said that if the ACTT were not going to play ball, they wouldn’t play either and there would be no programme at all about the riots. Not really so different from the average Flintstones plot.’

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