Michael Ryan compares Granada to the BBC

The BBC responds to competition, so the BBC in one period will be different to the BBC or Granada in another period. Perhaps I’ve tilted it more in terms of the Sixties and Seventies, but I do think that the central model is rather like putting on play, you only need a producer, a director and a writer, and a cast. You’ve got to get all those things right, and the design. You’ve got to be there at the time you said you were going to be there. Everything else is small change. These constant labels, you almost can’t invent it, ‘Head of External Relations’. The disastrous pattern in the BBC seems to be that people who should be fired are not fired, but promoted. That becomes very irritating to those who are doing the work. The most famous case recently was the Jimmy Saville business. I don’t think Granada was like that ever, though it started to move a bit in that direction. Who is in charge of this, you know? It’s rather like successful newspapers, really, you need an editor and you need a reported and a columnist. These are clear functions; you fill the paper, that’s it. I think it was really the triumph of Gerry Robinson for all kinds of other reasons, like the rest of the Granada group and taking over all that. There is this nuisance called television. “Well, I suppose we need Coronation Street.” “I suppose we need this and that.”

What I will say is that everybody plays by the same rules, i.e. we’re in a free market where people sign contracts to do things, that’s what we call television now. In a way, that’s the source of the BBC’s difficulties, because they have a structure, which in essence is out of date. Remember people who are employed in senior management positions who are not really required are going to be holding meetings. It’s brilliantly satirised in that Hugh Bonneville thing West One (W1A). So while it’s still the greatest broadcasting organisation in the world and it’s still producing so much good stuff, it’s going to be so easily out-flanked unless they get themselves back to that basic model, which is where we started. Somebody has to be in charge. Somebody has to be there to say, “We’re going to court on this if necessary and we’ll fight it.” That’s the bit the accountants never like because you never know how much it’s going to cost. It particularly affects obviously investigative programmes, but it can affect others. You need rumbustious management. And we certainly had it and I think we were grateful for it.

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