Granada and the world of politics

Occasionally I was asked to sort of step out of my role as political editor, particularly when the franchise round came up in, I think it was ‘89 or ‘90. And trying to find out what the government were going to do when they launched that extraordinary auction of franchises, and to try and get some political intelligence. But I always felt that David Plowright’s political connections made my contribution to some extent superfluous, because he did know most of the major players in politics and conducted that operation himself. And so, I didn’t have much of a much of a role in that. But it was, I think, an important component. 

Relating back to what we were just talking about, where you were saying about Granada was sort of beyond the pale as a left-wing organisation. I think Plowright managed to show us and be informed about what was going on, to a large extent. And you’re absolutely right. The sixth floor was the place where the ministers went. I always thought that was a huge contrast with the BBC in the north west, which in those days, when I was at Granada, I always thought the BBC north west was a pale shadow of the Granada operation. But it was very much part of a national BBC operation where all that sort of thing, liaison with government and things like that, was done in London. And that the BBC people in Manchester were relatively impotent compared to the power that Plowright and Denis Forman and people like that had, with back lines into the government. It was quite an interesting contrast. But that was the model, of course, up until, that it was a regionally based, powerful regional companies, having their own PR connections into government, putting in the policy ideas and all that sort of thing on broadcasting policy. Whereas the BBC was much more centralised and therefore the Manchester operation of the BBC then was much less. Of course, things have transformed to some extent now.

ITV has gone in a different direction because the big change, of course, that took place towards the end of my time at Granada was the arrival of Charles Allen. And that wasn’t then a major change because the philosophy, and this is just my opinion, but as you say, that regionally based but powerful structure of ITV was something that Charles Allen did not agree with. He took the view that he wanted to make one ITV. The argument was that sooner or later, if the ITV network remained in that regional pattern, that the individual companies would be no match for American predators and they’d be picked off, and Charles felt that he would need a one ITV, and with, in my opinion serious… the company that now exists is not recognisable in terms of its motivations and so on. That was a major cultural shock when that happened in 1992. One wants to try and not be nostalgic for the past, the old Granada was in a different time where there was huge amounts of money around. I think spending was not cared for that much, and Charles Allen wanting a much more rigorous regime. I think we ended up with soup and bread in the canteen in Manchester rather than the full scale breakfast, lunches, and dinners

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