Sidney Bernstein (1899-1993) was undoubtedly the inspiration and driving force behind Granada Television. Before the Second World War he created the London Film Society and was responsible for bringing all the Eisenstein classics to the UK for the first time. He formed a close friendship with Alfred Hitchcock and at the end of the war filmed the liberation of the German concentration camps. With his brother Cecil he built up an empire of more than 60 cinemas and in 1954 was successful in winning the franchise for commercial television in the north of England. He was a towering presence within Granada and famous for his ‘walks’ around the Manchester studios when he would issue orders about posters being taken down from office walls and offices that needed tidying, etc. He was also a huge presence in the canteen, regularly appearing with Sir Denis Forman before dispersing to go and sit with some terrified innocent staff member. Sir Denis, usually in shirt and braces would similarly descend on someone and grill them about their role at Granada. In 1969 Sidney Bernstein was made a life peer and took the Labour whip in the House of Lords. In 1979 he retired as chairman of the company and died in 1993. While Sidney Bernstein was active principally in the operations of the TV company, his brother Cecil devoted himself to other parts of the growing Granada empire which included the motorway service stations and theatres. Sidney was particularly interested in art and help fund a major collection of paintings which adorned the walls of Granada, including one of Francis Bacon’s screaming Pope works which was in the reception area. His nephew Alex Bernstein who also became involved in the company later administered the collection. He too would become a life peer taking the Labour whip. He died in 2010.
Sir Denis Forman (1917-2013) was educated at Cambridge and during the Second World War lost a leg in the battle of Monte Cassino. After the war he joined the British Film Institute and in 1955 was recruited by the Bernsteins to head up Granada’s new TV company. He subsequently became chairman and was later also Deputy Chairman of The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. Forman was famed for his loyalty and integrity, always supporting his producers and ready to defend their programmes against any criticism.David Plowright (1930-2006) was born in Scunthope and began his career in journalism on the Scunthorpe Star, leaving in 1957 to join Granada Television as a Researcher. He later became News Editor and then a Producer on World In Action. In 1969 he was appointed Programme Controller, a post he held for ten years until he was appointed Managing Director. In 1990 he left the company following a bitter dispute with Gerry Robinson over the future of Granada.
Sidney Bernstein, Denis Forman and David Plowright formed a triumvarate that not only ran Granada but set an ethos and standards that have rarely been surpassed in British television.