David Liddiment on the strengths and weaknesses of GTV


Okay. Granada Television – strengths and weaknesses, looking back, as a company.

Well, I think it’s great strength was its singularity as a company, its willingness to go out on a limb for programmes – legally and creatively – famously over British Steel and so on… and also singular because of the way it thought about recruitment and the range of people it hired into television, and the philosophy it had, which is basically… the kind of people we want are the kind of people who can pretty much turn their hands at any way we want to turn them. So at any other company, Mike Scott, who grew up at Granada, whatever Joyce Wooller might have said to him, would not in a million years have asked a guy who had just been directing for seven years and produced a children’s programme and little else, to take over a fading soap – it just wouldn’t have happened. It happened at Granada because Mike grew up in that philosophy that basically said, “We entrust the people we believe in, and we will believe that they will deliver.” And I think that is a philosophy I have continued in my entire career – that you back the person, not the CV. And I think Granada is a case study for people who do work in business schools and elsewhere on how to run a creative organisation. How to get the best out of people, how to get the best creative output out of companies.


The commercial pressures can’t have been as ferocious as they are right now, so it was easier for that philosophy to take root.

Of course that’s true, it didn’t feel like it at the time, but the commercial pressures were growing, we had come out of the duopoly, we had Channel 4 and the indies, multichannel satellite was launched, and I can’t remember a year at Granada beyond my years as a director when there wasn’t some kind of heavy presentation about the threats, and we have to change, we have to think differently and so on, I mean, we’re doing it today, it’s the same stuff, but… nothing stays the same; your life tells you that. Nothing stays the same. You think you stay the same, but you don’t. You think your view is the same, but it isn’t – it’s changing all the time. Look at London – it’s completely a different place than it was 15 years ago. And you have to embrace that in organisations, and organisations need to change. I think in the 70s, Granada was a bit slow to change. It was, as most ITV companies were, it was caught up in the model of union… abuse of union power, but it didn’t entirely stultify the creative process. It was a rather closed shop about what other people did, which mean that it missed the boat slightly when the indie revolution happened, and on Channel 4 in particular it kind of took its bat and ball home over Channel 4. London Weekend said, “Channel 4 – yeah! Let’s do Network 7! Let’s do this, let’s do the other.” And London Weekend did brilliant work for Channel 4 that they couldn’t have done for ITV – and we were in a really strong position to do the same, and all we could manage was Union World – and that did not reflect well on Granada.

What other shows?

Gardener’s… Rod did gardening on a Thursday night and Gus did Union World… and actually this rich seam of creativity at Granada did not get its fair share of early Channel 4. I mean, it got righted later on, but early Channel 4, we took our bat and ball home.


Because don’t forget, Channel 4 was to some degree a kind of creature of Granada and the ITV companies, they wanted the fourth channel to be owned by all the ITV companies, and whatever commission it was decided… came up with the rather brilliant idea that it should not make its own shows, it should commission from the indies.


Why was that? A failure of management, do you think?

You know, David Plowright was a genius man, but he was… you know, he was a stubborn man, and so was Denis, you know, if Granada didn’t get its way, he could be quite… sulky. It was a sulky company. That’s part of its character, you know? We kind of resent… we were the Man united, weren’t we, as well, we kind of resented all the other companies, we thought they were terrible compared to us. It had that arrogance. That’s a strength and a weakness. And you can’t have the perfect entity. I mean, thank God we had a character, he had a point of view, and we took our bat and ball home from time to time – good on us, I say. I mean, I wouldn’t worry too much about it, but I think we missed the boat on early Channel 4, and I think that meant we missed out on developing a stream of programming that, you know, when you think about your pilot Teenage, there was more to be done… the design show which Trish (Kinane) did… you know, there was more to be done in this, that we were young, we were contemporary, we were living in the same world as everybody else. It’s a crass thing to say, but we were living our audience’s life to some degree, and we want it to reflect our experience of the world – and Channel 4 allowed you to reflect some experience of our lives that ITV couldn’t easily accommodate.



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