Steve Morrison talks about leaving Granada – and its legacy

I left in 2002. So I was at Granada for 27 and a half years, 21 in Manchester and the rest in London, and my reflection on all of this is that Granada went through two golden eras. The first golden era was up to 1987, when it had guaranteed programmes of a relatively small collection, but it included Coronation Street , which was the most popular programme on the network, which gave Granada the clout to make reputational programmes as well, and of course the famous days of Brideshead and Jewel in the Crown and World in Action and a great documentary tradition which you will have heard from Ray and Lesley Woodhead, and a drama documentary tradition – I was very proud of us making Who Bombed Birmingham? (1990) and the whole 7 Up series during my time there, when I was responsible for 28 Up and the director of programmes at theWho Bombed Birmingham? stage, although I didn’t make the programme, I was very proud of it. So, during that guaranteed period, Granada concentrated on the top commercial programme on the network, and loved it, which was Coronation Street, but also made some of the most reputational BBC-type programmes.

When the guarantees got reduced, and the takeovers and consolidation took place, Granada changed gear and expanded. It took the changed circumstances not from a defensive position, but asserted the strength of its programme making and won many more programmes – there was a point where we were making the majority of the programmes of the whole network; we were making more than 60% of the entire output of ITV which, given that 25% was an independent quota, was a pretty incredible achievement. And occasionally, those two eras, cultures, would clash, so I would come back from the controllers’ group and say to the Managing Director – or as it was then, the Chairman, David Plowright – “I’m going to expand Coronation Street, and this will give us more influence to make what we really want, because both episodes are in the Thames part of the week, and if we introduce a third episode in the LWT part of the week, so that it will not go out Monday and Wednesday, but it will go out Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and even one day Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, then both London companies will want our programmes more because we’ve got the thing that makes their business work.” And David went white, and he said, “Look, Steve – we’ve made Coronation Street for 28 years, and we’ve maintained the quality at twice a week. Are you now threatening that?” I said, “No – we’re going to invigorate and reinvigorate it, and we’re going to give it a jolt which will make it ever better and more important to the network, and more important for itself, and give us more room for more characters and more things to do.” And I’ll say this of David Plowright – when he heard the story, he backed you. So he took this young guy who was jeopardising the tradition and history of Granada to make Granada stronger; he was going to expand Granada’s most dear programme, most important programme, and he let me do it. And we ended up with five or six episodes a week with no strength ebbing – quite the opposite. The programme got more vigorous than before.

So you come back to the ability of Granada to back you to be as bold as possible, but caution you to be conservative about how much you expected people to pay for it, and combining those commercial and creative instincts into entrepreneurship on a bigger stage than we’d had before, so I think the second period was as glorious as the first.

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