On Granada’s politics

World in Action was a programme that was based on a radical and general investigation. And I think that that helped to define the personality of the company. But it was broader than that, I mean, you know, we haven’t talked conceptually about Granada, but I think it was, and its enduring image is of a brave broadcasting company that was prepared to take risks, not conform to what in those days was a rather sort of staid BBC model. Absolutely determined as one of the big five, because in those days there were basically five major ITV companies competing with each other, and particularly Granada was in competition with This Week, which was a current affairs programme. And you know, World in Action was a wonderful programme, a radical programme, and of course, from time to time, led to some confrontations. 

I mean, I don’t suppose you want me to go into great detail, and you’ll know this probably better than I will. But if I mentioned the Steel Papers implementation in 1980, or very briefly, World in Action had got hold of confidential documents about the future of the British steel industry. And it came down to the traditional thing of the reporters involved, the Government were trying to find out where the leaks had come from, and the reporters on World in Action declined to say, in the best traditions of journalism. And it then came to a real confrontation, where David Plowright was in some danger of going to prison, because they regarded that he should force his employees to disclose things. And the important point was that there was never any doubt in the minds of any journalist working for Granada that the management would not support them to the hills against the government of any particular colour. So I think that was, journalistically, the image of the programme. 

As far as Conservatives were concerned, I don’t think there was misgivings over there as so on, but I think the Conservative government, in many ways, also admired Granada for its entrepreneurial role. Because away from the journalism, you had things like major drama productions and things, which they began to sell around the world and make money from that. And as Mrs Thatcher said, aren’t Granada interested in profits? And of course that was also true. So I think there was a schizophrenic view, but I mean, politicians always regard journalists, whether it’s BBC or ITV, as being ominous. But that’s something we have to live with. That’s my general perception of it.

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