Steve remembers the Channel4 programme Union World

Yes, I think probably Union World. I was always doing the party conferences every year when they were in Blackpool, so we would have the TUC, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. You wouldn’t get all three at the same time, you would get one or two in Blackpool, so I was working on the coverage with that. That was great. Really enjoyed doing that. Because we actually did total coverage. Nowadays they don’t do anything, but we were doing it from when it started at nine o’clock in the morning to when it finished, day after day. When we did Union Power with Gus, we got into discussions about the possibility of doing a current affairs programme devoted to the trade unions. There’d been nothing like it. No programme like that had ever been done. Incidentally, Gus had worked for Tribune as well, and he’d worked in the shipyard like me. So we had similar backgrounds in many ways. And we both felt that trade unions got a bad deal on British television. And we thought maybe we could have a programme that would be devoted to news, stories, etc. to do with trade unions. So it would be their programme. In the same way as you have a programme that deals with the countryside, or a programme that deals with business. I mean, Business World used to go out on the BBC. But this was going to be focused solely on the trade unions, and would not take a critical point of view but would treat them seriously. We kind of worked on this idea, and we had a meeting at the TUC, we met with the general secretary at the time, Len Murray, we had meetings with a number of other TUC people, we got them on our side, and we were invited to the TUC general council to put our ideas over, because we needed their cooperation. That was the big thing. We couldn’t do it without the cooperation of the trade unions. So we had to persuade them that we were good guys, and we wouldn’t be out to get them. So Gus and I had worked on this idea. And it initially went out as a local programme on a trial run. And it went out on a Friday night in the 10:30 slot after ITN News. David Mills produced it, David Mills who was on World in Action, there were a couple of World in Action on it. In a way it was kind of an adjunct of World in Action, because it had all those World in Action people involved. David Boulton was involved as an executive producer, Gus MacDonald was an executive producer, David Mills was producer, and Michael Walsh, who I had worked with at the Tribune as well and was now Granada. So we finished up with all these Tribune people! David Boulton had worked at Tribune, I’d worked at Tribune, Gus had worked at Tribune and Mike Walsh had worked at Tribune. So there were four Tribune people involved. So Mike was a reporter. And the presenters, interestingly, were Gus MacDonald and Anna Ford. Anna had worked for Granada during the 1970s before she had gone off to ITN and become a mega star. And she came and did Union World with us. So it was a half-hour programme. It started in the September of ‘82. We did it to coincide with the week of the TUC conference in Blackpool. And they went out on Friday night as the conference finished. I remember the first programme, I was left in Blackpool on Friday lunchtime by the team and told, “Get us a scoop, Steve.” Which I did manage to do, actually, and I think three of the items we did were all really my items. And we’ve got quite a bit of publicity from them. But… it was okay, it wasn’t bad, it was quite well done. It wasn’t a bad programme.Once Channel Four started up, Gus was heavily involved on the fringes of Channel 4, in setting it up. And Gus presented a right to reply programme on Channel 4. And he’d discussions with Channel 4 about doing a trade union programme. And it fitted into the new ethos of Channel 4, doing things that weren’t normally done in television like a right to reply, like a trade union programme, like Brookside, which was just very, very different to Coronation Street. So it fitted. Channel 4 wanted to be a more democratic channel than the BBC, or even ITV, and do things differently. To look at minorities, do programmes to minority, be that ethnic minorities or disability, there were quite a few disability programmes I did. And Union World was seen as fitting into that category. So I worked on Union World from when it started in October 1982 to the June of 1985. It went through a few different series.

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