What were you doing before you joined Granada Television?
Working for the BBC as a studio director. I was headhunted, or something, for the BBC2 start up. Technically I was a BBC2 trainee from Oxford in 1963, and I spent about nine months on Panorama as a sort of tea boy/researcher. Then I went into a studio directors’ course and I spent about the next between 18 months and two years as a studio director on the lower-budget educational/current affairs strand. I was mainly on the current affairs side.
This is crucial to my coming to Granada: I actually knew what the BBC was like, the good side and the bad side. Particularly the bad side being the bureaucracy. I won’t say it was any worse then than it is now, but it was not a great organisation to work for, though I thought, and still do, that there are some remarkably talented people there.
This is a minor interest, but my father was a publican in Chelsea, and I met Michael Parkinson, who at that time was a Granada producer, by accident. He was a friend of the late journalist Anthony Howard who lived just round the corner. What was funny about it was that he was going to join 24 Hours, this kind of news strand, the equivalent of Newsnight in those days in the BBC. He had no public celebrity at all at that time. He asked me a whole lot of questions and I jokingly said at the end of this, “It sounds to me as though Granada’s a better place than the BBC!” And he said, “Do you want a job? Because they’re desperate to get people. We’re very under-staffed at the moment.” And I said, “Well, I’d certainly give it a spin.”
An interview was arranged with David Plowright, who at that time was running local programmes, and we got on famously. He said the requirements for the job is that you have a sense of humour, and I said I think I have that. Anyway, I made him laugh about a few things. I think Barrie Heads wandered in at the end of the interview and that was it, I was employed as a researcher on Scene at 6:30 for six months. …
I joined in January 1966 and I had a kind of revolving door over the next couple of years with local programmes. In the autumn of that year they revived a series called The World Tomorrow, which was a rather muddled view somehow reflecting the obsession with Harold Wilson’s ‘the white heat of technology’. I went on that first as a researcher for a short period and then I was made up as a producer.