Michael Ryan on what Granada was like to work for and the support he had

Did you feel it was a special company to work for?

Yes. What made it exceptional was that the people at the top cared about television. They weren’t necessarily always right but they were always up for an argument. I’m thinking particularly of Forman and Plowright. They liked an argument. You could go from an argument about whether one shot should be in a film, to something quite fundamental, like, are we in danger under the law of contempt if we go now? I remember once I did a film with Richard Belfield on fraud in the building trade and concrete. It’s too boring to go into now but essentially it was a manufacturers’ oligopoly and it was going to come up at some point before the Restrictive Practices court. There was a super-sensitivity about whether this counted as contempt, and eventually after several legal meetings with Lord Goodman they took the risk. It wasn’t a programme they involved me on, the mole in British Steel. To put it in military terms, you felt they’d got your back. They were very good like that.

They’d be supportive?

Absolutely. There was a time I was in Uganda with Gillard after the fall of Amin and there was a union row involving the cameraman George Turner and Phil Taylor the sound man, and they didn’t turn up because the union was fighting over some issue of expenses with the crews. I had to fly back with great difficulty from Kampala and with not much hope of actually rectifying it, but I did rectify it. I persuaded them so eventually we were alright. That time I was entirely on the management’s side, I have to say. There were one or two union problems. I myself was a shop steward in London. My sympathies were generally speaking with the workers. But sometimes I think the actual arrangements that they’d inherited from the film industry were really quite difficult. There is a point where if you have too many people in a room you’re not going to get the quality of the interview you hope for. It wasn’t only an issue of costs. I think the good people were aware of that but there wasn’t an easy way out.

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