Pension Scheme deficit
Giving to children
Take a taxi? page 9
page 3 July 2010 Number 5
With highlights from Ariel
‘Good morning, good morning, good morning’ 70th anniversary of ITMA page 6
Deficit increases As predicted the Pension Scheme deficit has increased. The credit crunch and falling bond yields are to blame.
PROSPERO July 2010 Prospero is provided free to retired BBC employees. It can also be sent to spouses or dependants who want to keep in touch with the BBC. It includes news about former colleagues, pension issues, and developments at the BBC. Prospero includes classified advertisements. To advertise in Prospero or the BBC Staff magazine, Ariel, see page 12. Subscription information for Ariel is on page 12.
Editorial contributions Write to: Prospero BBC Pension and Benefits Centre Broadcasting House Cardiff, CF5 2YQ Tel: 020 7765 1414 Email [email protected]
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• July • 2010
The latest summary funding statement issued by the BBC Pension Scheme to members last month gave the grim news that the funding deficit has increased from £470 million at 1 April 2008 to around £2 billion at 1 April 2009. In his communication to members, Jeremy Peat, Chairman of the Trustees, referred to the ‘extraordinary external pressures affecting the global economy’, which were in part to blame for the increase in the deficit. At the latest funding check on 1 April 2009, not only had the value of the scheme’s assets reduced as a result of falling investment returns, but its liabilities also increased due to a fall in the yield on index-linked gilts. The 2009 funding update, he writes, took place at time when world stock markets were at a low point. And, although they have recovered to a large extent since then, other pressures on the scheme have resulted in its liabilities increasing. This means that the full 2010 valuation, which is currently under way, is unlikely to show a marked improvement in the funding position. Jeremy will be retiring from the Board of the BBC Trust at the end of the year, when his term of office ends. However, he has agreed to stay on as Chairman of BBC Pension Trust Ltd until the 2010 valuation is complete.
Key points from the summary report were: • The trustees wanted to avoid ‘locking in losses’ by selling equities at the lowest point of the financial turmoil. As the stock markets improved, however, the scheme made more sales of equities, with more to come • During the year the trustees have continued to move to more stable long-term investments and have looked to protect the scheme against extreme currency fluctuations • In the longer term, the trustees would like to see a greater level of investment in index-linked government bonds (see box below) • The long-term aim is to create a portfolio that is much less vulnerable to sharp falls in equity markets and a better match for the scheme’s liabilities. • The scheme has a positive cash flow, which means it can withstand falling markets without being forced to sell assets As reported on page 3, the BBC has been reviewing how active members’ benefits will build up in future and what pension offering new employees will receive. The trustees will continue talking to the BBC about how it would meet any deficit costs shown up in the full valuation and are working on a plan to secure long-term funding.
It is important to highlight and emphasise that the Scheme can meet its pension commitments as they arise without having to sell assets and will continue to pay benefits in line with the Scheme rules.
The lowdown on ‘linkers’
2010 Pensioners Liaison Meeting
Pension schemes like to invest in index-linked gilts (commonly known as ‘linkers’), because they are a way of protecting the assets from being eroded by inflation. Like other gilts, index-linked gilts are basically an IOU from the Government. In return for the investor lending the Government money, it agrees to pay interest (called a coupon) until it returns the money at a future date. However, with index-linked gilts, both the interest payments on the debt and the repayment value rise and fall in line with inflation (usually measured by the Retail Price Index, or RPI). So, in effect, investors in index-linked gilts are betting on inflation rising rather than falling.
This year’s Pensioners Liaison Meeting will be held the BBC’s Mailbox Building, Royal Mail Street, Birmingham B1 1AY on Tuesday, October 5, from 1.30pm to 3.30pm. If you attend, you will have the opportunity to put questions about the Scheme to the Head of Pensions, Manager, Pensions Investments and a Trustee. There are limited spaces which will be given on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. To book call the pensions service line on 029 2032 2811 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm).
Devised and compiled by Jim Palm 2
Complete the square by using the clues; these apply only to words running across. Then take these words in numerical order and extract the letters indicated by a dot. If your answers are correct, these letters will spell out a BBC programme of yesteryear.
Please send your answers in an envelope marked Crospero to The Editor, Prospero, BBC Pension and Benefits Centre, Broadcasting House, Cardiff CF5 2YQ by July 16. Clues: 1. American award (5); 2. Middle-east Country (4); 3. Particular (4); 4. Eats (5); 5. Performing platform (5); 6. Disconcert (5); 7. Bird (5); 8. Top flier (3); 9. Fish (5); 10. Not yet (5); 11. Mine (3); 12. Christmas show (5); 13. Make euphoric (5); 14. U.S. State (5); 15. Dramatic character (5); 16. Rim (4); 17. Ready for business (4); 18. Skin inflammation (5). Solution to Crospero No. 148: Omen; Ordeal; Iron; Amy; Axes; Knurl; Elan; Long; Ceased; ashen; Enzyme; Gown; USSR; Tryst; Ibex; Ooh; Seen; Renews; Reds. The characters were NORMAN AND HENRY BONES. The winner of Crospero 148 is Mr John Dean of London.
BBC consults with active members over proposed changes Existing and prospective members of the BBC Pension Scheme received a letter last month confirming what many may have expected, following news of the Scheme’s £2bn deficit in the last interim valuation. To reduce the deficit and continue the current arrangements, without making any changes to the Scheme, would require the BBC’s contributions to rise from around 3.5% to around 10% of the licence fee. This, the BBC believes, is unaffordable and would not be acceptable to licence fee payers. Instead, it has proposed a package of changes which, it says, will both reduce the existing deficit and help ensure the Scheme remains affordable and sustainable into the future. These are: • The Scheme will be kept open to current members but will be closed to new joiners from 1 December 2010.
• Employees who are currently members of the Scheme will continue to build up benefits under the current structure. However, from 1 April 2011 future salary increases for calculating pension benefits will be limited to 1% per annum, no matter what actual salary increases an employee receives. • New joiners will be given the option to join a new, flexible, defined contribution plan. This will give employees a choice over the levels of contributions they make and the BBC will match or better these contributions up to a certain level. • Existing pension Scheme members will also be given the choice of joining the new defined contribution plan or remaining in the existing
Scheme under the changed terms outlined above. As a BBC pensioner, the proposed changes will not affect the pension you receive from the Scheme, which will continue to be paid as normal. The package of changes will only affect the future build-up of pension by active members who are still paying into the Scheme. Starting from 1 July 2010, a 90-day consultation period will give these members the opportunity to share their views on the proposed changes. During this period, the BBC is planning to run pension seminars and provide online support, to help staff understand how the changes will affect them.
BBCPA new chairman David Allen has become chairman of the BBC Pensioners’ Association. He succeeds Martin Cox, who has held the post for three years. Until his retirement from the BBC nine years ago, David was executive producer of a range of programmes and as editor of the BBC Computer Literacy Project 1982-1986 he won seven awards. He now makes documentaries for BBC R&D and for Historic Royal Palaces. He told Prospero that his aims for BBCPA were to continue as a watchdog, early-warning system and advocate for those with BBC pensions and to act as the only organised voice of Corporation pensioners. ‘As the BBC Historian, Jean Seaton, says, we as a group hold much of the ‘memory capital’ of the BBC and one of my aims is to encourage the Corporation to value and tap into this knowledge, rather than ignore us,’ he said. ‘The BBC and we as a country are entering
choppy – some say perilous, certainly unknown – waters. Our own pension fund is still pretty buoyant and long may it remain so, but the prospects for the future look uncertain for many, and we as an organisation need to stay, as ever, vigilant.’
Martin Cox, who held senior posts in news and current affairs until his retirement, will continue to serve on the association’s management committee, joining other past chairmen Brenda Horsfield and Tom Rivers.
BBCPA regional meetings Venues for this year’s regional meetings of the BBC Pensioners’ Association are: Guildhall, Guildford
Redhead room, BBC, Oxford Road, Manchester
Meeting room A, BBC, Whiteladies Road, Bristol
All meetings are at 2.15pm. Association members and anyone interested in joining are welcome.
The Coalition Government’s first Budget As this issue of Prospero was going to print, the new Chancellor George Osborne was delivering his ‘emergency budget’ to tackle the UK's budget deficit and to restore confidence in the economy. As well as an increase in VAT and changes to personal allowances and income tax affecting everyone, the Coalition Government’s Budget contains some key measures that will affect pensioners.
Basic State Pensions linked to earnings From April 2011, the link to earnings for the Basic State Pension (BSP) will be restored as part of a ‘triple guarantee’. Each year the BSP will be increased by the highest of price inflation, earnings inflation and 2.5%. The April 2011 increase to the BSP will be based on the increase in the Retail Prices Index (RPI), if higher, but in subsequent years the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) will be used in the triple guarantee as the measure of price inflation. The increase in the CPI tends to be much lower than the increase in the RPI because it excludes household costs such as mortgage payments. The CPI is also going to be used from April 2011 to increase other benefits and tax credits, rather than the RPI as now, in order to save money.
Increase in State Pension Age The Government will review the timing of the planned increase in State Pension Age (SPA) to age 66 and will quickly launch a ‘call for evidence’ in order to press ahead with these changes fairly. SPA is the age from which benefits, including the Basic State Pension, are payable. Under existing legislation, SPA will be equalised at age 65 for both men and women by 2020 and will then rise in stages to age 68 by 2046. SPA was due to increase to age 66 by 2026 and the new Government has committed not to bring forward the increase to age 66, before 2016 for men and before 2020 for women.
BBC pensions online
Abolition of the default retirement age
The BBC pensions website was relaunched last month with a new design that brings it more in line with the main bbc.co.uk style.
The Government will also consult on quickly phasing out the default retirement age of 65, which companies can use to force their staff to retire, to ensure that those who want to work past age 65 are able to do so.
‘The site was first launched six years ago, so it was in need of a refresh,’ says Jeff Webley, Pension Communications Manager. ‘Just like the main BBC website, users can see all the different sections on the homepage, so it makes it easier for them to find the information they are interested in.’ The website is updated regularly, which gives members the latest news about their pension scheme and pensions in general. You can also download back issues of Prospero online, by clicking on the ‘Pensioners’ tab on the homepage and following the links.
Compulsory ‘annuitisation’ dropped People with money purchase/defined contribution retirement savings are no longer compelled to buy an annuity with their pension pot by the age of 75.
July • 2010 •
This issue… The future of BBC local radio; Beatrice Harrison;
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BBC products BBC retired staff are entitled to a 30% discount off the RRP of most products in the BBC TV Centre shop. There is a postage charge of £2.95 per order (not per item). Pensioners must quote their BBC pension number when ordering. Contact: BBC Shop, Audience Foyer, Television Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ. Tel: 020 8225 8230. Email: [email protected]
Other ways to order (quoting your pension number when ordering): By phone: 08700 777 001 8.30am-6pm weekdays. By post: BBC Shop, PO Box 308, Sittingbourne, Kent ME9 8LW. Email: [email protected]
Or visit BBC Shops in Eastbourne, Brighton, Leicester, Birmingham or Liverpool. UK postage £2.45 for telephone, post and email orders. Overseas: £4.50 for one item and £2 for each additional product for telephone, post and email orders.
BBC PA For details of how to join the Pensioners’ Association, see panel on page 5.
• July • 2010
Going through some old papers, Barbara Martin found this newspaper cutting from 1986, which recounted the story of the Crystal Palace fire 50 years previously, as told by David Howarth, who had been a young Richard Dimbleby’s sound engineer, and the chance it gave a young Richard Dimbleby to make radio history. Barbara wrote in her letter to Prospero: ‘My family lived in South Norwood and I was 11 and remember the Crystal Palace fire well. My brother called my mother to see the sunset, but she realised it was a dreadful fire. ‘We used to travel on open top trams and attend food exhibitions there. Our annual school sports days were held there, too. The BBC built a transmitter there.’
One of a kind I was saddened to read of Joan Bratley’s death – she was one of a kind. ‘The Queen of Jamieson Street’ – MA during the early years of Radio Humberside – she ruled with a rod of iron and counted the pennies. But she was also warm-hearted and one of the proudest of what the station achieved during some tough times – the loss of the Trawler Gaul, the Flixborough Explosion, the first of Britain’s big prison riots. Joan would do anything to help out in an emergency. In the mid-70s, allegations were made about Humberside Police, which brought the national press running. A young, local, gifted, investigative reporter called John Drury was commissioned by The Sunday Times to follow-up the police stories, while at the same time doing freelance shifts in the Humberside newsroom. For months, the Radio Humberside Sunday morning bulletins were more than usually exciting. John spent those Saturday nights in London with the ST subs and lawyers, checking and rechecking explosive material. He rang me one Saturday evening asking for help. The ST lawyers were insisting that Humberside Police respond to the following day’s story – even if it was a ‘No comment.’ The Press Office had clocked off, so they suggested someone go to the Chief Constable’s home to push a note through his door asking him to ring London – his phone was ex-directory. The Chief Constable lived in a village west of Hull – as luck would have it, the same village where Joan lived, so I was persuaded to ring her and ask her to do the dirty deed – and of course she agreed. By the time the letter was copied, it was dark and Joan asked her husband to accompany her on her mission. It was cold and wet so Frank apparently put on a pair of black leather gauntlets as they set off. The Chief Constable’s house was up a long drive, with a deep porch and no lights. Whilst trying to find the letterbox, Joan dropped the letter. She and Frank were on their knees in the dark, scrabbling for it, muttering and blaming each other, when all the lights went on, the front door opened and the Chief Constable, his wife in curlers peering over his shoulder,
demanded to know what the ****** was going on. It was then that Joan uttered the immortal words – ‘Don’t worry sir, it’s only Radio Humberside.’ No Christmas cards from Humberside Police after that. Jim Latham
Losing trust in local radio Roy Corlett is right to worry about the future of BBC local radio (June Prospero) but I fear it may be closer to the tipping point than he would wish. At the point it becomes barely distinguishable from its commercial rivals it ceases to justify its existence as a genuine alternative. Roy is concerned by the threat of sharing programmes, but this is already happening by the backdoor. Much of the news output comes from the national newsroom, the rest from convenient sources like police press offices. A reporter out covering a local patch is a rare and expensive luxury. As for daytime programming, much of it is as local as my local high street shopping experience, with its transatlantic DJs and visiting celebrities. Local radio has always operated on a shoestring and been very innovative as a consequence, but there comes a point where resources are so threadbare that the uniquely local service is not sustainable. The last bastion of local radio – what makes it indispensable – is emergency information: bad weather, school closures, traffic chaos and power cuts. Fail on that, lose trust and the listener goes elsewhere. Recent experience suggests local radio is struggling to cope – traffic news outside city centres relies on listeners, the weather expert doubles up as a TV reporter; neither can provide a comprehensive service – and I, for one, have lost confidence in what I hear. I’m too out of touch to know whether the problem lies with ‘head office’ or local management, but I am sure that further economies will threaten the viability and ultimate survival of local radio. John Lavis
Connaissez-vous James Darcy?
I am putting together a critical edition of the radio broadcasts of Philippe Henriot, who was Vichy’s Minister for Propaganda in 1944. In his broadcasts, he targeted the French at the BBC, as well as British workers in the BBC’s French Service. I’ve done a fair bit of work at the written archives at Caversham, and successfully identified most of the people Henriot mentions, but am stumped on one name in particular. This is one James Darcy (the spelling may not be correct, and it may also be a pseudonym). He was, I believe, a French Service broadcaster in 1944 (and possibly before then). I’m wondering if you have any record of him, or if I might be able to contact your readers via Prospero and see if anyone can help. Dr Kay Chadwick If anyone is able to help Kay, please get in touch with Prospero and we will pass on your details.
TFS Hog Roast Through the pages of Prospero, I would like to thank Michael Spencer and Richard Merrick for organising the ‘Hog Roast’ on May 8 at the Duke of Kent Public House in Ealing. Over 300 people who had worked at TFS attended. The weather was overcast but the rain held off. To say it was an enjoyable event would be an understatement. Everyone was chatting to everyone. I spent the afternoon talking to friends I hadn’t seen for ages, catching up with what we’d been up to since we last met. I’m still in film and film making after 47 years. Speaking I think for everyone who came along, I hope it isn’t a one-off but can be repeated next year. Neville Withers
Ty’s dream for TVC I would just like to say that I fully endorse Ty Davies’ dream as reported in Prospero. What a loss it would be if TVC was just sold off to developers. Christopher Cameron
TVC’s opening day
Is our pension plan in deep water? According to the online version of The Evening Standard, some pension pots have been severely affected by the recent oil spill chaos. I should, therefore, be grateful to learn if the BBC Pensions have been affected in any way! Arthur Lincoln Prospero asked the BBC Pension and Benefits Centre to comment. Here is their reply to Arthur’s letter. There has been widespread coverage about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the potential affect this may have on pension schemes that hold investments with BP. BP is a large constituent of the FTSE 100 stock index and therefore we have holdings through our passive equity managers and active equity managers.
1948 question Recently I have been asked to help with any information about Mrs Marie Stara, one of the first air stewardesses of the Czech Airlines who was interviewed for the BBC TV by Leslie Mitchell in January 1948. The lady concerned apparently left Czechoslovakia in that year with her mother. I should be most grateful for any detail about her so that I could pass it on to the listener, an amateur historian who is trying to put together her life story. He also sent me her picture from the interview. Milan Kocourek [email protected]
Formerly BBC Czech Section BBC World Service Bush House
As at 31 March 2009 we had an investment in BP of £68.9m. Our BP holding as at 31 March 2010 was down to £64.0m, despite the share price rising from 457.5p to 623.0p over the financial year. BP is less than 1% of the Scheme assets. The actual number of shares held is substantially lower than last year as a number of our active managers reduced their holding before the current crisis. BP’s share price at time of writing is 374.0p. However, equities rise and fall and in the short term and in the face of uncertainty the market often overreacts. There is no knowing what the final bill is for the oil spill and indeed who will be deemed responsible. Once there is clarity around the situation, our active managers will make decisions as to the long-term viability of continuing to hold BP shares.
TVC’s opening day My memory of the opening of the Television Centre is not of its studios nor programmes, but of my husband queuing up with the white-tied guests with his toolbox! He was nearly turned away, but received a round of applause when he arrived – in the BBC Club to mend the refrigerator! Mrs M Legg I CERTAINLY REMEMBER the opening show (called First Night) from TVC, as I was working on it in the role of AFM. There was an enormous last minute panic to get everything organised – especially as there had only been two days’ rehearsal prior to the day of transmission. The principal people appearing on the show were David Nixon, Arthur Askey, Richard
Hearne, Alfred Drake, Elizabeth Larner, Irving Davies, The Leslie Roberts Silhouettes, The Television Toppers and The George Mitchell Singers. However I do remember that on the day there were some additional ‘names’ suddenly added, which caused a lot of problems rehearsal wise. In fact, there was such a panic that I was asked to take these people off to another area and rehearse their material with them. I can’t recall who they all were, but I do remember that one of them was Chico Marx (one of the famous Marx brothers). The show went very well and afterwards the cast and production team went into Studio 4 for drinks and snacks. Harold Snoad
Chico Marx playing cards with himself
Nightingales I was very interested to read Robert Seatter’s article regarding the cellist and the nightingale. Although these events of 1924 were before my time, I thought you might like to know that a few years ago, I came across an original 78 recording, made in Beatrice Harrison’s garden in Oxted of the ‘duet’ between her and the bird. The music featured is ‘Chant Hindu’ and ‘The Londonderry Air’. Fortunately, I am able to play this on a machine which incorporates a facility for playing 78s, even though the playing surface is somewhat worn! John Harman
THE MENTION OF Beatrice Harrison and her cello duets with the nightingales in her garden prompted me to dig out two records of this phenomenon which were issued by HMV in 1927, B 2469 and 2470. These proved to be even more popular than the broadcasts: B 2469 remained in the catalogue until 1959! Jim Palm
Monday Night’s deliberate mistake? I am surprised that in all the correspondence about Monday Night At Eight, I have seen no reference to the one item which had my father and I glued to the radio for every show – Ronnie Waldman’s ‘deliberate mistake’. Mike Broadbent
July • 2010 •
Memories North 3 steals the show The 41-year-old colour mobile control room CMCR 9, the former North 3, which retired from BBC service in Manchester in 1982, was on display to the public at the Kelsall Steam and Vintage Vehicle Rally near Tarvin, Cheshire, on June 26. It is believed to be the first time a former BBC type-2 colour scanner has been seen in public since 1987. North 3 is one of only two surviving scanners of this type and is in remarkably original condition. The other one is in storage for the National Media Museum, but is not available to be seen by the public. The unit only just made it to the show, having been short of its radiator grille and two wheels until Thursday and only able to be road-tested late on Friday afternoon. It was displayed at the show as a ‘restoration in progress’ exhibit and was a huge success with the public, who were able to walk through the vehicle and chat with the owner, Steve Harris, a former Harlech Television Lighting Director and various former BBC staff who turned up at the event. In the production control room, visitors were able to listen in to Barney Colehan directing a rehearsal of ‘The Good Old Days’ programme back in 1972. People seemed to relish the opportunity of looking round an unusual vehicle which was unique at the show amongst hundreds of immaculately restored lorries and buses, not to mention traction engines and steam rollers. North 3, which weighs in at 14 tonnes and does about seven miles on a gallon of diesel, was driven to the show on L-plates by its owner Steve Harris, overseen by a friend who is a fully qualified LGV driver. Work continues on the restoration and Steve has hopes of returning North 3 to its former base at New Broadcasting House in Manchester for a nostalgic final visit, before the BBC moves to Salford Quays early next year. Jerry Clegg
It’s That Man Again
Brian Willey, retired Executive Producer, Radio 2, penned this article about the legendary BBC radio show ‘ITMA’, which first went on air 70 years ago. Originally published in the Evergreen magazine, and reprinted with their kind permission, it tells the tale of this ‘revolution in radio’.
Brian Willey The restorers: former Audio Supervisor Jerry Clegg (left) with the owner Steve Harris
Posing in front of North 3 are former Audio Supervisor Jerry Clegg (left), with retired BBC cameramen John Chester (centre) and Con Jones (right), with an EMI 2001 camera
Veteran cameraman Con Jones renews his acquaintance with an EMI 2001 camera
• July • 2010
Last year was the seventieth anniversary of It’s That Man Again (ITMA). It was the brainchild of Liverpudlian comedian Tommy Handley, who together with scriptwriter Ted Kavanagh and BBC radio producer Francis Worsley, came up with an idea for a new comedy show with a title inspired by media references to the ranting of Adolf Hitler. It was a revolution in radio and would soon be known forever more as ITMA. Tommy Handley, already a popular radio entertainer from the late 1920s, became a national treasure and overnight institution and, for an all-too-brief time I had the great privilege of sharing in the fun as one of the backroom staff. The first show opened with Tommy’s words, spoken on the telephone: ‘Hello, is that Turner, Turner and Turtle? It is? Then good morning, good morning, good morning. It’s that man again – that’s right it’s Tommy Handley.’ Performed in Studio 1 at the BBC Maida Vale complex in London and transmitted on the BBC National Programme on Wednesday July
12, 1939, it was originally scheduled to run fortnightly from 8.15 to 9.00pm for six programmes – but the outbreak of war brought it to an abrupt end after only four editions. The rebirth of ITMA was broadcast on the BBC Home Service on Tuesday September 19, 1939. By then the BBC Variety Department had been evacuated to Bristol, where the new shows would be staged in the Clifton Parish Hall. With a revised duration of 30 minutes and a scheduled run of 21 weeks they had no fixed time slot, being transmitted at varying times between 6.30 and 9pm. It was this series that introduced Jack Train as FUNF the German Spy, and also the inimitable sound of its famous door with the rattly doorknob. That series ended on February 6, 1940 and by then Tommy & Co. were firmly established in the hearts of the British public – but it was to be nearly 17 months before the fun factory would once more be back in business. Having received devastating attention from the Luftwaffe, Bristol was no longer a safe haven, so the Variety Department had moved its entire operation to Bangor, North Wales, some 240 miles from London where the third series began at 8.30pm on Friday June 20, 1941. Initially broadcast from the Penrhyn Hall, it was strangely titled It’s That Sand Again, with Tommy’s character being the Mayor of Foaming-at-the-Mouth. The name change did not find favour and after only six weeks a rethink was undertaken and thankfully the next series reverted to the original title. It recommenced on Friday September 26,1941 for 32 weeks, during which time it transferred to the County Theatre.
Series five commenced on Friday September 18, 1942, finishing in February 1943. Such was the public demand for its homely quick-fire comedy that, after only a two-month gap, the sixth series appeared on Thursday April 15, 1943 for 16 weeks – and the change of day to Thursdays at 8.30pm became its fixed placing right through to the bitter end. The BBC Variety Department returned to London during the Autumn of 1943 and established itself in Aeolian Hall in New Bond Street where series seven was conceived. Broadcast from the Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly Circus, the new show commenced a 36-week run on Thursday 7 October. Series eight ran for 39 weeks, beginning on September 21, 1944 through to June 14, 1945 and the ninth commenced a similar run on September 20, 1945, not only by introducing a new format featuring Tommy as the Mayor of Tomtopia, but also coming from its new permanent studio, The Paris, a converted newsreel cinema in Lower Regent Street. I had a lifetime career with the BBC, beginning as a ‘Sound Effects Boy’. Part of my initiation had been a visit to one of the shows in the Criterion Theatre during 1944, but it was at The Paris in 1945 that I joined the ITMA team as part of the technical crew – the producer’s brother, Bill Worsley, was on sound control, and I and colleague Bill Flanagan were on stage to provide the sound of the all-important rattly doorknob, plus whistles, crashes and bangs, ringing telephones, horses hooves, the diver’s bubbles and any other noises that might be required. Actress Joan Harben, who played ‘Mona Lott’, also played a character
Memories who appeared to be nameless. She was a ‘do-gooder’ who seemed to speak without pausing except to occasionally say ‘Down Upsey!’ to her pretend pekinese dog. I did the yapping for him! Being in my late teens, my world was centred on the show, only ever missing working on one of them. It was the day I had to attend my National Service ‘Medical’ – but I did get a sort of mention on the transmission. The character named Ali Oop was asked where he had been and, after his long-winded explanation, Tommy commented, ‘Oh and I thought you’d been for your medical.’ Having previously received a
copy of the script I knew it was an ad-lib! edition contained a lively Each orchestral interlude and it was during the ninth series that the conductor, Charles Shadwell, retired (who could forget his infectious laugh?) and the baton for the BBC Variety Orchestra was taken over by Rae Jenkins, a brilliant musician who later became Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. On his first rehearsal of the ITMA signature tune, in the excitement he took the tempo so fast that the cast was barely able to sing the words:
It’s that man again, yes that man again, Yes sir, Tommy Handley is here. You know the guy, he plays ‘I Spy’ With furtive Funf, here’s mud in his eye. Mother’s pride and joy, Mrs Handley’s boy, Oh it’s useless to complain. When trouble’s brewing it’s his doing, That man, that man again. Sadly for me it was the only series I dealt with – for I was called-up for National Service in early September 1946 just before the tenth series commenced on September 19. My job, dealing with the sound effects and the essential door, was taken over by Johnny Ammonds who,
in later years, became the TV producer for the Morecambe & Wise shows. He and I have often exchanged recollections of the fun we had in our younger days, and those memories still give us great joy. Series eleven ran for 39 weeks from September 25, 1947 and series twelve took us from September 23, 1948 to January 6, 1949. It was the sixth episode of this run that the 300th edition was celebrated on October 28, 1948. Comedy has undoubtedly changed a great deal since those days and to present-day listeners it may all seem very corny – but I guarantee that, if you were around during the war years, you would have been hooked on the fun, laughter and characters with their catch-phrase trademarks and voices becoming as familiar in the house as those of your own family.
ITMA’s catch-phrases Jack Train as Funf, ‘Dis is Funf speaking’, and ‘I don’t mind if I do’ as tipsy Colonel Chinstrap. Horace Percival’s ‘Don’t forget the diver Sir’ and ‘I go, I come back’ as Ali Oop. Hattie Jacques was also there as greedy Sophie Tuckshop: ‘But I’m alright now’; Sydney Keith’s ‘Say Boss, sompin’ terrible’s happened’; Clarence Wright’s ‘Good morning, nice day’; and dear Dorothy Summers as Mrs Mopp with ‘Can I do yer now Sir?’ and her farewell ‘TTFN, ta-ta for now’.
On Sunday January 9, 1949 ITMA was brought to an untimely end with Tommy’s sudden death. He had dropped a collar-stud while dressing and, bending down to pick it up, he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage brought on by high blood pressure. He died only three days after the last transmission and just eight days before his 57th birthday. The news came immediately after the Sunday afternoon repeat broadcast and, seen as a national tragedy, it was the main item of all news bulletins that night. Memorial services were held in Liverpool Cathedral and in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, where thousands of mourners crowded in. The service was broadcast and also relayed to some 2,000 mourners outside the cathedral. Such was the affection in which Tommy Handley was held that, on the day of his cremation at Golders Green Crematorium, there were an estimated 10,000 mourners lining the streets six deep. Tommy was a delight to work with, totally sincere and self-effacing. When praised for his humour he would modestly say, ‘My success is the show and everybody taking part.’ As a morale-booster it was claimed it helped to win the war, for it certainly gave enormous cheer to a war-weary and long-suffering British populace. It was even jokingly said that, if a German invasion had started between 8.30 and 9pm on a Thursday night, there would have been no opposition because everybody was listening to ITMA. One cannot say fairer than that!
Brian the ‘Sound Effects Boy’
July • 2010 •
Back at the BBC
MONEY MATTERS Giving to children By Kay Ingram Today’s pensioners have benefited from growth in house prices and generous pensions. This appears unlikely to be shared by their children and grandchildren who face increasing levels of personal debt and less generous pension schemes. How then can you help future generations to overcome these financial obstacles without leaving yourself short of capital or paying too much tax when you eventually pass on your estate? A financial plan will allow you to take a realistic look at your own income needs now and in the future so you know how much you can afford to give away now. Making larger gifts during your lifetime can eventually reduce your estate on death and the tax paid on it, which is levied at 40%. The following gifts are exempt from inheritance tax: • £3,000 per year per donor and £250 per donee • Up to £325,000 per person or £650,000 per married couple/civil partner per lifetime • Outright capital gifts made seven years before death • Regular payments made from surplus income. To qualify for exemption, gifts must be outright and with no strings attached. Gifts made to minor children and young adults can be especially tax efficient on a regular basis. Each child has their own personal income tax and capital gains allowances (£6,475 and £10,100 respectively). By skipping a generation, you can help grandchildren save for their future, and little tax may be paid on the gift or on the accrued savings. The drawback with this type of direct gift is that at 18 the child can spend the money as they wish. A trust can give more control. Trusts, however, pay income tax at a rate of between 42.5% and 50% and only have a £5,050 capital gains tax allowance (but less if more than one trust is established). Some investments though are exempt from this. Gifts of regular smaller amounts can be useful. These are exempt from inheritance tax immediately and do not use up any of the allowances. They also enable grandparents to time payments to grandchildren and to stop or suspend them if need be, and certain savings vehicles can be established which do not require any personal tax to be paid by the grandparent or child. (N.B. Please note that tax rates, allowances and exemptions are subject to change and that the FSA does not regulate some forms of inheritance tax planning.)
Kay Ingram is a Chartered Financial Planner at LEBC Group Ltd, one of a panel of independent financial advisers selected by the BBC. Further details can be found on www.bbc.co.uk/mypension. LEBC Group Ltd is an appointed representative of Sesame Ltd, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Telephone: 0203 036 0515.
• July • 2010
Glastonbury Archive online As Glastonbury celebrated its 40th anniversary, a new website depicting the history of the festival and the BBC’s involvement with it was launched. Each of the 26 festivals held since 1970 has its own webpage on Glastonbury – Established 1970, which showcase the BBC’s presence in Pilton, Somerset. Visitors to the site can now access BBC archive footage of interviews with founder Michael Eavis, Radio 1 coverage from 1985 to 1997 and BBC Two programmes spanning the past decade. Each year features a list of that festival’s key events and the musical line up. Visitors can input their festival experiences and upload photos. Senior content producer Tim Clarke says this was the ideal time to launch the site: ‘It is the 40th anniversary, so there’s a lot of work in tv and radio around the history and it made perfect sense to join up these activities.’ ‘We also have new technical systems, like iBroadcast, which allow us to future proof and easily reuse the video we upload. We’ve got really early stuff from 1970 with Michael Eavis saying he’s running the festival to pay off his overdraft. And we’ve mined the audio archive, which goes back to 1985. Andy Kershaw’s description of the message wall, which people used to find each other before mobile phones, is a reminder of how technology changes culture.’
BBC independence concerns over plans for audit oversight The new coalition’s plan to give ‘full access’ to the BBC’s accounts to the National Audit Office would be an unprecedented move, and one that the BBC Trust has flagged in the past as a potential threat to BBC independence. The determination to ‘give the NAO full access to the BBC’s accounts to ensure transparency’ – alongside maintaining the independence of the BBC – heads up the Conservative-Liberal Democrat legislative programme. The agenda makes no mention of the trust itself, but leaves the door open to using licence fee switchover money to fund roll out of superfast broadband to remote areas. The trust said it ‘looked forward’ to discussing that with the new government. The move to open the BBC’s books was no surprise. It was a pledge in both parties’ election manifestos and the Public Accounts Committee said last month that not allowing the NAO full access was ‘anomalous and untenable’. But it could profoundly alter the longstanding relationship the BBC has had with the NAO, which is overseen by the PAC. The trust has regularly asked the NAO to complete value for money (VFM) studies on significant areas of BBC spending – most recently the BBC major estates projects, including the Broadcasting House development, and big sporting events. The NAO has been given free access to all
accounts relevant to those areas and reported back to the trust. It is still unclear exactly what the coalition means by ‘full access’, but to stick to the terms of the charter, any auditor of the BBC accounts would have to report to the trust, which is responsible for VFM and the BBC’s independence from parliament. Any other arrangement would need a change to the charter and that has never happened during a ten-year charter period. Could ‘full access’, for instance, mean automatic disclosure of star salaries? Trustees aren’t talking specifics. Last week, they supported the government’s emphasis on transparency, but said only: ‘We will continue to work with the NAO to ensure they have full access to BBC information so they can carry out their work for us on securing value for money for licence fee payers.’ However, the NAO has had access to details of presenter pay before, as when it reported on major events in February, revealing then that 20 percent of one event’s budget had been spent on presenters. Only the aggregated amount was published. Ultimately, concerns about independence are more likely to be about public perception that the BBC’s separation from government – and so its ability to scrutinise what government does – is being challenged.
Share the moment The latest ‘evolution’ of the BBC iPlayer has launched with fanfare, offering a host of new features, including the ability to customise the page, access social media and connect to other broadcasters’ sites. Initially available only in beta, the new look enables users to do things like select one episode of a favourite programme and have the iPlayer automatically download the next available episode, while links to Facebook and Twitter mean you can comment on what you are watching and recommend output to your friends online. In the coming months the BBC will experiment further with social media by adding Windows Live messenger so users can log in through iPlayer and chat while they watch. Radio and tv now have separate sections making it easier to channel hop and browse for content and, from the summer, the iPlayer will provide links to rival channels such as ITV Player, 4oD, Clic, Demand Five and Seesaw. So viewers can search for any programme and iPlayer will link to it, helping drive up traffic to external sites.
Back at the BBC
More money to spend on rent The BBC Trust has raised the cash allowed for property rental this financial year by £23m, to reflect an expected rise in those costs as the BBC moves from buildings it owns to leased property. In the longer term the BBC will free up capital from the buildings it owned, and the Trust says this is ‘a much more cost effective approach, giving the BBC cash to invest and greater flexibility’. The extra money for rent comes in a review by the Trust of the service licences of the BBC’s 28 services. Service licences are an account of each service’s remit, scope, budget, aims and objectives and essential activities. They also show how the Trust assesses performance and are reviewed every five years. As part of this review the Trust has decided on accounting changes, using new methodology to reallocate existing
costs. There are also a number of one-off revisions to licences, including an £8.5m increase in the budget for children’s services. Local radio gets an extra £2m, after a change to the nations and regions tv and radio services licences. The money will come from cutting non-content costs. The Trust has also asked 6 Music to ‘articulate better’ its brand identity, and to safeguard existing levels of live music. The service licences for both 6 and Radio 2 will be amended to try to minimise song overlap between the two stations, and with Radio 1 and commercial radio. The Trust acknowledges that the executive has proposed closing 6 Music, but, noting its own review of the idea, says: ‘We feel it is appropriate to action the existing recommendations now.’
New move to increase number Taxi bills on generous side of managers with disabilities BBC expenses policy on taxis is ‘particularly BBC open to criticism if scrutinised by the ‘man generous’, compared with other organisations, a on the Clapham omnibus’, who might not A pilot scheme is aiming to increase the numbers of people with disabilities at management level in the BBC. From November, eight placements for disabled managers with the potential to take their careers further within the organisation are being offered in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Bristol. A sister scheme to the long running Extend programme, BBC ManageAble is seeking people with a proven track record, qualified to take on eight-month paid placements across journalism, technology, finance, project and business management. The vacancies – open to external candidates and internal applicants as an attachment – range from a project development producer in entertainment to a local radio business manager and senior commercial manager.
Funded by the BBC diversity centre and involving the BBC Academy’s college of leadership, the scheme offers training and development opportunities, with an emphasis on transferrable skills. As with the entry level Extend scheme, people can compete for permanent jobs at the end of the eight months. Almost 70% of disabled people in Extend placements have gone on to further BBC employment. The BBC now has a senior manager disability target of 4.5%, to be reached by 2012. Currently 3.4% of senior managers declare a disability. The BBC Disabled Staff Forum has criticised the first ever senior manager target as unambitious, but deputy chairman Geoff Adams-Spink said the BBC ManageAble pilot was to be commended.
new study has found. But most of the rules around BBC expenses are in line with best practice in the private and public sector, the benchmarking review by accountants KPMG concludes. The BBC-commissioned report draws special attention to the late night/early morning transport policy which allows staff to book minicabs from preferred suppliers for journeys of up to 40 miles. KPMG admits that it had been difficult to get detailed comparable information from other companies in order to comment accurately. But they judged that the BBC was ‘particularly generous to employees when compared to other employers’. Comparator organisations included other media companies and the Treasury. ‘The nature of these expenses could leave the
Review crazy? As the BBC Trust chews over public and industry responses to the strategy review proposals, it has launched its seventh service licence review, to find out if Radios 3, 4 and 7 could serve licence payers better. All three networks have increased listening figures and their value and distinctiveness were strongly endorsed in Mark Thompson’s strategy review proposals, which suggest closer alignment of Radio 4 and 7, and a rebranding of the digital station as Radio 4 Extra. The trust’s latest 12-week consultation, which closes in August – when trustees also could be delivering their interim conclusions on the much broader BBC-wide review – would take Thompson’s proposals into account, said David Liddiment, who is leading the new service licence study. ‘For instance, the rebranding of Radio 7 gets only a brief mention, so we will ask what licence payers think about the idea and ask management to flesh it out. ‘In that sense, the service review can act as a support to the BBC’s broader thinking,’ he told Ariel. A former head of BBC tv entertainment, who commissioned Pop Idol while at ITV and exec produced Coronation Street, Liddiment admits that there may be a sense of review fatigue, given the number the trust undertakes.
‘There is a perception that we’re review crazy, but each has a distinct purpose; they’re not reviews for reviews’ sake,’ he said. With more than 20 services funded by a compulsory fee, the BBC had to be accountable, he added, and five yearly service licence reviews are stipulated in the BBC charter. ‘It’s a price worth paying for the extraordinary privilege of having £3.4bn in public funding. We make no apology for what is a right and proper process which, on outcomes to date, has proved to be constructive and positive. It’s no Spanish Inquisition.’ The new service review would also involve ‘extensive discussions with management’, so staff wishing to raise issues for consideration can do so through their line managers or, as licence payers, via the consultation. A final report will be published early next year, after the final strategy review conclusions, due this autumn. The findings of an earlier service review, into BBC One, Two, Four and the Red Button, are due soon.
readily appreciate the operational need for such expenses,’ the review says, recommending an analysis of journeys above 25 miles. The senior executive taxi bill for the last quarter of 2009 was £39,000, according to the last BBC expenses disclosure. A BBC spokeswoman said: ‘As a 24-hour broadcaster, the BBC has a late night/early morning transport policy to enable staff to travel to and from work at hours when public transport is not available. The value of this was recognised in the report.’ On 12 other areas reviewed, including business travel, entertainment and overseas expenses, the BBC was broadly in line with best practice, and had lower limits on overnight accommodation than some companies.
United in support of 6 Music and Asian Network It was, perhaps, the most polite demonstration of recent times, with cakes, music and banner slogans such as ‘Would you mind awfully if we kept 6Music, we’re rather fond of it’. Some 1,000 people rallied outside Broadcasting House to hear presenter Jon Holmes read out messages of support for the digital station from musicians, speeches from Cerys Matthews, Liz Kershaw and Shaun Keaveny among others and a ‘rant’ from comedian Ed Byrne. Nor was 6 the only digital station being supported, with a ‘flash mob’ for the Asian Network adding to the numbers in Portland Place and bringing bhangra dancing to the stage. After the rally protestors headed to a free ‘Save 6 Music’ gig nearby.
July • 2010 •
From BBC critic to Head of Publicity George Campey OBE was the gamekeeper turned poacher. He started a distinguished career on The Hull Daily Mail followed by The Daily Telegraph, Manchester Guardian and finally as television editor of The London Evening Standard where he became the sternest critic of the BBC. One of his biggest journalistic scoops came in 1953, the year before he joined the BBC. The establishment was hotly debating the merits of televising the Coronation of the Queen live on television. The Churchill Government was not keen and George reported on every twist and turn in the controversy on whether cameras would be allowed in Westminster Abbey. One morning a caller, muffling his voice with a handkerchief, tipped off George to ‘get down to the Abbey now!’ Breathless, he arrived to see the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshall, and Peter Dimmock, then BBC assistant head of Outside Broadcasts, picking out the camera positions. George had his story and was the first to report on the plans for a televised Coronation which was to transform the image of British television and BBC television. A year later from fierce critic, he switched to become television publicity, challenged to bring BBC television publicity up to date and succeeding Huw Wheldon. His task was formidable. BBC television facing a new challenge in 1955, ITV. He had to change the BBC from an organisation dominated by radio into a new force to stand up to and compete with the brash newcomer, commercial (independent) television. He succeeded in helping the BBC become a more competitive force and became head of Information Division in 1958. Drawing on his journalistic background, he forged an efficient department. At his headquarters in Cavendish Place, he established a pressroom where Fleet Street’s broadcasting correspondents waited for the latest word from George. It was there they camped each day, not at ITV. With his wry Yorkshire humour and strong journalistic background, he dealt with every controversy for 22 years from That Was The Week That Was and Mary Whitehouse, to the great broadcasting enquiries, serving and advising three Directors General – Sir Ian Jacob, Hugh Carlton Green and Charles Curran. Even as he retired in 1976, he was still at the centre of BBC events. As he handed over the keys of his office to his successor, another journalist Peter Woon, the BBC faced another barrage of press enquiries as viewers blocked the switchboards with complaints that a newsreader was slurring his words so he sent the BBC spokesmen and women back to man the phones. Peter Rosier
• July • 2010
Parliamentary correspondent who covered the last years of Churchill’s premiership
Roland Fox MBE, who died at the age of 97 on May 12, was a BBC Parliamentary Correspondent throughout the fifties – only the second in the post. With ER Thompson, whom he succeeded in 1955, and with Conrad Voss Bark, he covered the last years of Churchill’s premiership, the heated Suez debates, the first televised State Opening of Parliament in 1958, toured Africa with Harold Macmillan, and made important breakthroughs in coverage of party conferences. During the war he spent most of his six years in the army on the staff of General Montgomery at 21st Army Group Headquarters, where his knowledge of
Pioneering television reporter David Allen was one of the original band of pioneering television reporters on the BBC Wales nightly news programme Wales Today – now the world’s longest running news programme. He was one of a generation of journalists who began their careers straight out of grammar school and learned the craft of grassroots newsgathering still in their teens on the streets of their communities and in the newsrooms of local and regional newspapers. David’s first job was at 12/6d a week (62.5p) on the local paper in Narberth, Pembrokeshire – a salary which equated exactly with the 12/6d it cost him to get to work each week by bus. The editor promised him an extra half-a-crown a week (12.5p) if he learned shorthand. There was one snag. The shorthand lessons would cost him half a crown a week – but once he’d finished the course he could keep the extra. No one ever learned shorthand faster than David. David made the move from newspapers to radio in the late fifties at a time when hot metal men tended to look down on broadcast news as not ‘real’ journalism. But the launch of regional television news magazines including Wales Today in 1962 began to change old attitudes and David took to the new medium as a natural. In those days television reporting was new. There were no rules, no precedents. Nobody had done it before. It was David Allen and his generation who, by trial and error, developed many of the techniques still in use today. David’s talent didn’t go unnoticed in London.
shorthand was regarded by his superiors as more important than his training as a Sergeant gunner. He was appointed MBE (Mil.) for his services. Edward Roland Ruthven Fox (known to his friends as ‘Roly’) was born in Derby in 1913, the son of an insurance manager. He left Derby Municipal Secondary School at 14 and started in a coal office at 10/- a week. He went to night school to learn shorthand, which was regarded by colleagues as impeccable, and became a copytaker on the Derby Evening Telegraph, then moved as a reporter to the Stoke Evening Sentinel until the outbreak of war. When he was demobbed, he joined the Press Association, moving on to the BBC. He became assistant to ‘Teddy’ Thompson, who had reported the whole of the ‘45 Labour government from Parliament single-handed, and soon found himself on the air, although he had never been voice-tested, and was never told he would be required to broadcast. The BBC operated from a small telephone booth in the Central Lobby – once, the eccentric right-winger Sir Waldron Smithers wrenched open the door as Fox was phoning copy through, and shouted ‘Tell them they’re all a lot of Commies!’ After some ‘craft resistance’ from newspaper journalists, he and Thompson were allocated two seats in the press gallery and a small office; in 1958 he was the first broadcaster to be elected Chairman of the Gallery. Fox also joined the Lobby, for which his discreet and friendly manner fitted him admirably, and he got to know Churchill, Attlee, Eden and Macmillan. He was once sent to Hyde Park Gate to interview Churchill at
He was soon offered a regular role on the BBC1 nightly magazine programme Tonight, which then regularly drew audiences of over seven million. But after a year in TV Centre the pull of his native Pembrokeshire proved too strong and he returned to work for BBC Wales and to set up his is own magazine publishing company. At the age of 77 David has now left us. He was one of the first – and one of the best – but his legacy, his lilting cultured Welsh voice, his film reports and his unique way with words live on, archived, digitised, and now part of the very warp and weft of 20th century Welsh history. David Morris Jones
Master TV/OB Golf Planner At the funeral of Sam Branter (TV/OBS Engineering Manager), over 200 colleagues, golfing friends and neighbours paid farewell to a much loved friend. Sam joined the BBC in Londonderry in 1944 as a Youth in Training. He was involved in all kinds of outside broadcasts including the planning for the football World Cup in Mexico, royal state events and other major events. In his latter years, he specialised in making the complex technical arrangements for all the major golf tournaments including the Masters in Atlanta, Georgia. He was an excellent golfer himself and a great sportsman. Sam was a very popular man with a great sense of humour. Our condolences go to his wife Joan, sons Martin and Richard, daughter Beverley and grandchildren. Bert Robinson
home (thinking the meeting there with constituency chairmen might lead to a resignation announcement) but when the PM spotted the recording box and microphone he courteously told Fox: ‘I am sorry you have been troubled – but thank you for coming!’ Churchill eventually resigned during a newspaper strike, so the news of this and of Eden’s succession came from the BBC and its parliamentary staff. When TV news began, it often meant a long journey by cab up to Alexandra Palace in north London – they learned their lines by heart on the way. Later the Westminster studio was adapted for TV, and Fox did the first ever live TV broadcast fed in by remote control. On one occasion the studio lights failed suddenly in the middle of his piece, but he knew what he wanted to say and gamely continued to the end of his live report in total darkness. He never had any editorial supervision – all that was required, he said, was that he come out on time! In 1960 Fox left Parliament, where he was always supportive and kind to younger correspondents, and went on to perform several behind-the-scenes roles for the BBC, as deputy to the Head of Publicity (see George Campey’s obituary, left), and to the Editor of News and Current Affairs, retiring in 1974. Roland Fox was first married to Josephine Johnson, who died in 1992, by whom he had a daughter and a son. He later moved to Norfolk. In 2000 he married a long-time friend, Joan Auders, when they were both in their eighties. She died in 2008. Peter Hill
Making a difference
Robin Woodbridge died at St Albans on March 8, 2010, at the age of 75, having spent his entire career with the BBC. After an engineering degree at Peterhouse, Cambridge, he joined as a sound engineer, following the advice of his tutor to choose a career ‘where he could make a difference’. He later moved into human resources, and became Head of Personnel for Central Services, retiring in 1992. In his younger days Robin was a noted sportsman, playing rugby for his county, but his greatest love was for early music. He was an accomplished amateur musician on the viol, recorders and flute, and in retirement many happy hours were spent playing in viol consorts and chamber music groups. His first wife, Ann, predeceased him, and he married Margaret in 2004. He leaves two sons, Mike and Mark, and five grandchildren. Dr Margaret Woodbridge
Voice of the nation Tom Fleming, the BBC’s voice of the nation on great occasions, has died aged 82. He was a man of extraordinary talent; an actor (stage, television and film) and a theatre director who founded both the Lyceum Theatre Company of Edinburgh and the Scottish Theatre Company. He was a writer and poet but was best known and loved by the public as a broadcaster – the voice of the BBC on state occasions for more than 50 years. His rich voice, unique style and poetic way with words brought as much to our national occasions as did the live pictures over which he spoke. Tom’s first major commentary was on the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 and the final one on the Edinburgh Military Tattoo of 2008. In
Come Dancing To some, Peter Wheeler was the host of Call My Bluff or Come Dancing, to others The Sun rottweiler on What The Papers Say, or a familiar voice on countless television and radio productions. Peter’s career in broadcasting spanned over 50 years, and it is a measure of his devotion to work that he was in a business meeting on the day of his sudden death from a heart attack at the age of 75 on May 18. Peter started out in radio as a teenager when he and his brother Geoffrey – who went on to host Songs of Praise for many years – were introduced to a junior drama group in Manchester that included Judith and Sandra Chalmers, Brian Trueman and Billie Whitelaw. They performed in radio plays and were regular contributors to Children’s Hour. Peter was known for his range of accents (honed to some extent from a childhood spent
55 years, among others, he covered the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, the Royal Weddings of Princess Anne and Prince Charles, the Enthronements of Popes and Archbishops, the Bafta and RTS award winning VE and VJ Day commemorations in 1995, the funerals of the Duke of Windsor, Diana Princess of Wales and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Tom’s words, which were particularly poignant on solemn occasions, set the mood and tone of the event for the viewer. He cared deeply about Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph. He particularly liked to bring out stories of individual people to contrast with the anonymity of Whitehall. He was a man of great professionalism and integrity, meticulous in all his preparation for a moving around the country because his father ran city centre hotels), mischievous wit and an ability to give those around him in the studio fits of the giggles. He was also famous for his ability to arrive just in time to start recording, and give a near faultless performance even though there was little opportunity to prepare or read through the script. It did not always go smoothly as another colleague, Peter Harrison, recalled. He said: ‘Peter was a seat-of-your-pants-last-minute-let’s wing-it-it’s bound to be more fun-that-way broadcaster. And I remember he himself told me the story that made the point. ‘He breezes in late to rehearse a Radio 4 play in New Broadcasting House with, I think, Tony Cliffe directing and starts to apologise. Tony waves him to his chair and carries on with the rehearsal. ‘Peter settles down and studies the script, waiting for his cue. But there is something about the script he finds unsettling. He starts to say something but Tony raises a hand to silence him. The read-through proceeds right through to the end but Peter is never called upon for his contribution. He has got the wrong time, the wrong day – and the wrong play!’ A career freelance, Peter also worked for ITV and became a familiar voice on Granada in the north of England as a newscaster, reporter and interviewer. More recently, Peter worked in the commercial and corporate sector, providing media training and guidance for clients around the world. Peter’s family were delighted to see so many old BBC colleagues and friends at his thanksgiving service at the United Reformed Church in Wilmslow on June 1. Anyone who wishes to leave a message of condolence can do so at www.p-w-a.co.uk/remembering.asp Chris Wheeler
commentary, determined to be accurate, doing his own research. He would arrive at the commentary box with sheaves of beautifully hand written notes, short and eloquent phrases which were the core of his live commentary, while adding well chosen words off the cuff as the event unfolded. Paradoxically, Tom was a very private person. He believed passionately that the commentator should be heard as an anonymous voice and should not be seen. It was a privilege to know such a remarkable broadcaster, a warm and funny man, who was held in great affection by all of us who worked with him. We will be forever grateful for all that he brought to us and to the BBC’s coverage of great national events. Philip Gilbert
A designer with an operatic vision The set designer David Myerscough Jones joined the BBC Design department in 1965, having worked in the theatre, most notably at Glasgow Citizens and at The Mermaid in London. David was at the BBC at a time of great expansion following the creation of BBC2. Early productions included episodes of Dr Who and the Paul Temple crime series. Major recognition of David’s considerable talent came when he was asked to design the sets for a television production of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes in 1969. This was followed by the world premiere of the Britten opera commissioned by the BBC, Owen Wingrave. During the 1970s several more opera projects took place at Television Centre either directed by Jonathan Miller (The Beggar's Opera and Cosi Van Tutti) or Brian Large (La Traviata, Macbeth and The Flying Dutchman). As well as opera, David was a leading figure in the design of TV drama, particularly where his theatrical style was appropriate. Among many awards, David received a BAFTA for Therese Raquin and an RTS award for The Flying Dutchman. David left the BBC in 1990, and the last years of his life were spent living in France. His house was filled with pictures, books and a vast collection of recordings which included many Wagner Ring cycles for which he had a great passion. David was immensely generous and warm hearted and everyone who worked with him remembers him with affection. All his many friends offer his wife Pelo and the four children our deepest sympathy. A memorial service celebrating David’s life will be held at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden at mid-day on Saturday 9 October. Graham Lough
We were unfortunately inundated with obituaries for this issue of Prospero. Among the many that we have been unable to publish due to space constraints are Radost Pridham, Maurice Everitt, Robert Hudson, Robert Milne-Tyte, Stephen Hearst, Ronald Johnson, Bernie Andrews, Laurie Mason, Ted Clark and Anthony Quaddy. We hope to publish these in the August issue.
Respected Skelton engineer Bob Kingscote died suddenly at his home in Penrith on Tuesday 27 April, aged 91. Bob, who was born in Gloucestershire and educated at Weston Super Mare, joined the Corporation at Daventry in 1938 as a Junior Maintenance Engineer. After the war, he rejoined the Corporation at Skelton Transmitter, working in the Day Maintenance Workshop. Bob was duly promoted to SME in charge of day maintenance, a role in which he developed his skills and oversaw many large projects. He was highly respected among his fellow engineers as well as those from Head Office.
Bob was a gentleman of the old school – holding open doors and stopping his car to help old people across the road – even though they were much younger than him! His funeral took place at the crematorium at Carlisle and was attended by many friends and by ex colleagues. We extend our sympathies to his wife Hilda and to his daughter Sallyann and her children. Ken Shepherdson
A giant of a man It was the autumn of 1979 when I met John Merrick, and goodness what a surprise! Anyone who thought that people in Personnel were demure women in pearls, pen pushers or faceless bureaucrats had not reckoned with Mr John Charles Merrick. A veritable giant of a man; hale, hearty and as direct and rumbustious a fellow as you could imagine. John joined the Grading department at the BBC after a long and distinguished naval career. This job gave him a great introduction to the work of the Corporation. With assignments to every part of the country, John’s understanding and fascination with the BBC grew, and so did his love of the place. He took to his new world with relish, tackling personal cases, reorganisations and Industrial Relations with vigour – and a refreshing northern candour. To say John’s approach to Personnel was non-traditional would be quite an understatement. He found many of the regulations and procedures in force at the time to be petty and unnecessary, he hated pomposity and he did not suffer fools gladly. But he had a great appetite to get real problems sorted and he was fearless! Staff, managers, union reps and colleagues – well most of them! – loved his straightforward, no-nonsense and decent approach. When he finally retired John loved to travel, and he gave his time freely to others as an active member and then chair of the BBC’s Pensioners Association and a CAB adviser. John’s happiness seemed to grow as he got older; he was fulfilled in his professional life, respected and appreciated by friends and colleagues and loved by his family. John was a wonderful man and a tremendous colleague who will be greatly missed. His unmatched capacity for friendship and ability to enjoy life are rare qualities indeed. Those of us who spent so many happy hours with him will do our very best to carry on his fine tradition. Kate Smith
July • 2010 •
Does it have a golden future after all? Television Centre has had its day; long live Television Centre. That is the message this week for the iconic building, symbol of a golden age of programme making, as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The plan is to sell the landmark premises, parts of which are listed, by 2013, but at a Creative London conference on June 21, hosted by the BBC at White City, chief operating officer Caroline Thomson painted a picture of a future in which the ‘concrete doughnut’ figured prominently. Even after its disposal by the corporation, it could continue to ‘live on’, she suggested, as the centrepiece of a new creative hub of media organisations, arts groups, facility providers and even fashion houses. ‘Our vision is to turn this area [W12] into a global centre for London’s creative industries with the BBC at its heart,’
Helios, the iconic statue at Television Centre
she said. ‘In doing so, we shall be shaping an entire community, replacing the buzz of Television Centre with the buzz of an entire neighbourhood.’ A fresh approach was needed, she explained, because although TVC, which opened on June 29 1960, ‘was brilliantly future-proofed’ for its time, it had outlived its usefulness. ‘It is clear that a building that was envisaged as a self-sufficient island for public service broadcasting cannot fulfil everything the BBC needs in today’s media environment,’ she said. ’Now that the UK is home to a thriving independent production sector, the ‘Fortress Beeb’ mentality is rightly consigned to history.’ The inward-facing circle, which gave TVC its distinctive look, was also wrong in terms of broadcasters’ relationship with the audience, Thomson believed. ‘Modern audiences not only expect to be able to watch whenever and wherever they want –they want to be involved, to engage with producers and see what is going on. That wasn’t the way it was supposed to work in 1960.’ Echoing this view, Chris Kane, head of Workplace, told Monday’s conference that the world’s most famous tv complex was ‘no longer fit for purpose’, and that something ‘more open and outward-facing’ was required. ‘Television Centre served a broadcasting age but this is a digital age,’ he said. He added that the BBC had ‘learned a lot’ from its experiences of establishing ‘creative clusters’ in other parts of the UK such as Glasgow and Cardiff and he hoped that the event, which was attended by around 150 business and creative industry representatives, would be ‘the start of a big conversation’ about the regeneration of W12.
So why is it called the ‘doughnut’? Television Centre is known for its unusual shape aka the ‘Doughnut’ centre. How did it end up looking the way it does?
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Well, there is a bit of a story attached to its appearance. Architect Graham Dawbarn, who was commissioned to design the building in 1949, was given a 50-page brief but was stuck for ideas. Hoping for inspiration, he went to a local pub, pulled out an old envelope and drew the triangular shape of the west London site on the back. He then drew a question mark in the middle of the triangle. How could he design a centre with eight studios, production galleries, dressing rooms, camera workshops, recording areas and offices to support them, he wondered.
The complex also needed an area to bring in trucks with sets and a separate space to bring in audiences and guests. He looked at the question mark and in a flash of inspiration realised that it would make the perfect design.
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Design & Scenic Services Group
The 30th annual reunion lunch for ex-members of BBC Television Design & Scenic Services Group, spouses, partners and friends will take place at noon on Friday October 1 at Ealing Golf Club, Greenford, Middlesex. For further information please contact Hilary Worrall (Tel: 020 8677 3067).
There will be a BBC Pebble Mill Camera Department Reunion on Wednesday August 11 from noon onwards, to be held at Ye Olde Saracens Head, Balsall Common, West Midlands CV7 7AS. All ex-Pebble Mill staff are very welcome. For more details contact Keith Salmon (Tel: 01564776747; [email protected]
• July • 2010