In November 2011 I travelled up to the home of Peter Dimmock in Norfolk to talk to him about the pioneering Television Outside Broadcasts he oversaw in the nineteen fifties and sixties. I first met Peter Dimmock in 1969 in his office at Kensington House , Shepherds Bush. At that time he was in charge of one of the biggest departments in the BBC. Television Outside Broadcasts had three divisions, Sport, Events and Features. I had just left school and Peter Dimmock gave me some good advice about my chosen career and twelve years later I was back at Kensington House as a producer in Documentary Features.
If there was a title of Mr Outside Broadcast UK it would have to go to Peter Dimmock. He started his career at the BBC in 1947 at Alexandra Palace. One of the first jobs he had was to cue Jasmine Bligh on the steps of Alexandra Palace when she welcomed viewers back to the BBC Television Service after the Second World War. Peter Dimmock went on to direct and produce many ground-breaking outside broadcasts, eventually becoming head of the BBC’s television outside broadcast department in 1954. In 1974 he moved to BBC Enterprises and two years later to ABC in the USA.
I was a pilot in the Air Force (during the Second World War) and I was then demobilized. I either had to go to university or get a job. I felt that I’d like to be a journalist and so I managed to get a job with the Press Association.. I first applied to Reuters – they said ‘We haven’t got a job for you, but we think there’s a job at the Press Association, on the floor below, hang on.’ He rang up, got me an interview, and I got the job, but with a fortnight’s notice – ‘if you’re no bloody good – you’re out.’ I was very surprised I wasn’t chucked out – I stayed there for a year. An American friend of mine came over and said, “Peter, what on earth are you doing in the press”? And I said, ‘I want to be a journalist.’ “You’re mad, you must get into television.” And I said, ‘why?’ and he said, “Well, we’ve got it in the States,” he said, “Radio’s going to be old hat. Television’s going to be it; get in on the ground floor.”
I’ve always remembered that. I got a job in Outside Broadcast at Alexandra Palace, knowing nothing. I got the job because, of the three people on the interview board, two had been in the Air Force in the war and the third chap was the BBC administrator. Every time I couldn’t answer a question, the two air force chaps would quickly change the subject! Marvellous! And, there were two vacancies. I got one and another chap, Keith Rogers, who had also been in the Air Force, surprise surprise, he got the other one. There were six of us up for it, but the two of us who had been in the Air Force, we got the jobs. One of my first jobs was to lie on the ground and cue Jasmine Bligh on the steps of Alexandra Palace to say, “I’m sorry about the little interruption” (annoucing the start up of the Television Service after World War Two). Because we had a camera outside the entrance to Alexandra Palace it was classed as an outside broadcast.
Q: How big was the Television Service back then? (1946)
A: Oh, very small. Because we were the poor relation of the BBC. We were looked down on by Broadcasting House. They thought, “Oh, those peep show boys at Alexandra Palace”. They had no idea what was going to happen and they thought they were the top dog and therefore our budgets were restricted. Norman Collins took over television and he did his best to get more money for television, but in the end he gave up and went into commercial television.
Q: From what I’ve read – there were just two scanners.
A: Pre-war equipment! And we tried to make it do the impossible.
Q: And what sort of programmes did you try and do?
A: Oh, we did lots. We were totally under the wing of the Post Office. They wouldn’t allow us to use microwave (radio links). There was a farm, just north of Alexandra Palace, in the country, where we did a farming programme. We had to put up poles and a cable, to get to the farm, from where we could have our main input. They wouldn’t let us use microwave (links). They were very restrictive. There were so many things they didn’t allow. You couldn’t use a telephone conversation. They were very restrictive, but all in the name of maintaining very high standards and that’s why they wouldn’t let us take risks. You know, I said ‘Let’s take a risk on it’. “No no no no, (you) must have a cable, you can’t have a microwave (link)”. We were fighting the engineers all the time. There was a very nice one called Bridgewater. Bridgewater was the Engineer in Charge of Television Outside Broadcasts. Very nice man, became a great friend of mine, but I fought him tooth and nail. I mean, he really hated me work-wise, because I made his life a misery. I kept on saying, ‘Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we do that?’
Before the Coronation, I went to America to watch the American TV coverage of Eisenhower’s inauguration and I learnt a great deal from that. Silly things, like, we’d done processions sideways on. They only mounted their cameras head on. Where the procession turned, they put a camera there, because – with a zoom lens – it gave the commentators much longer to identify who was in the procession. Silly little things like that. Then of course I saw the Teleprompter – I tried to buy it, but a) the BBC hadn’t got the dollars; b) Teleprompter were very clever – and Autocue, it became Autocue – they said “No, we’re not going to franchise it to Europe until television is throughout Europe, because then we’ll get a good price and we’re not just going to sell it to the BBC”.
Then, a fellow called Parrot, an engineer …. I was telling him about this marvellous Autocue, and he said, “But I know how that works! It’s very simple. It’s just two pieces of glass. I’ll show you”. So we put a camera in the studio – I sat there. Two pieces of glass, we had a mangle, white paper, and we wrote words on the white paper… they turned the mangle, there it all was. That’s how I did Sportsview.
Doing Sportsview helped me get contracts. I used to go in contractual meetings with the Rugby Football Union and the first quarter of an hour would be talking about last week’s Sportsview. They would criticise and I would say, “Why on earth didn’t we think of that?” I was halfway to getting the contract already and I used to plead – which was true – the BBC had no money.
Q: Just getting back to the nineteen forties when you had two pre-war units …. I read that it wasn’t like a normal outside broadcast unit today..
A: Oh no, we had to stand up. I produced Wimbledon standing up and it got too dark for us to even get the picture. So it had to go on in sound only. No …. all you did was you stood in the scanner and you could only have two screens. You couldn’t have a preview of the three cameras. You could only preview one camera and you could only have one camera on transmission.
Q: So how did you know what the other camera was showing?
A: You had to guess… well you could change.. you could go, ‘Well,
I want 3 on preview’, yeah on preview. But it was quite a dicey business altogether. It was so archaic when you look back on it. Well, what we got out of those pre-war OB scanners was unreal…… really unreal. The BBC, the Corporation, wouldn’t buy us any new equipment.
Q: I think by 1948 I think you had another MCR come in for the Olympics.
A; That’s right.
Q: With a sensitive… more sensitive camera….
A: The CPS, but that peeled off. You see, the engineers…..we wanted the image-orthicon. The image-orthicon (was) American. We couldn’t afford to buy it. We hadn’t many dollars, but they said, “Don’t worry. Britain’s – marvellous technical achievements – we’ve got the CPS.” Now, the CPS was fine until the light level dropped and it peeled off – suddenly in the right hand corner of the picture, just a white sheet was poured across the screen. Gone! We used to do rugby in Twickenham and the last quarter of an hour we had to do sound only, because we couldn’t get a picture.
Q: So you didn’t use …. have any lighting….?
A: No, not at Twickenham, not at that stage.
Q: So what was your involvement in the Olympic games then, in 1948?
A: Well ….. Lobby (Seymour Jolie de Lotbiniere, Head of Television Outside Broadcasts) and I planned the whole thing. We were in the Palace of Arts, Wembley, so we were on the spot with our OB vans.
Q: You had moved from Alexandra Palace then?
A: Yes, Palace of Arts, it was called. It was empty and we made that our headquarters and we ran all the cables to the cameras from there. We produced everything from there. We did the swimming and I did quite a lot of commentating in the Olympic games as well as produci
I used Dimbleby on all my factory visits. I produced a lot of visits to factories and I had Dimbleby as my commentator and he used to charge me 15 guineas and I said, ‘Richard, you know, you’re getting 45 guineas for your radio programmes…..how can you afford, you know, to come and do it with me for 15 guineas?’ “Dear Boy”, he said, “I am going to be the number one television commentator, you know”. Very shrewd, very shrewd… you know, he did become the voice of television.
Q: I get the impression, from what I’ve read and what I’ve seen, that you were trying to really expand what was possible at the time.
A: That’s right
Q: ….. and give the audience a feeling of not being in the studio, but by being really out there.
A: Well, you see, don’t forget we used to have breakdowns quite often, but at that stage of television, the audience rather liked it. I mean they understood it. They knew this was news, it was something happening and if something broke down, they accepted it. If it was now, they’d throw bricks or something. It just wouldn’t happen, but in those days we broke down quite a bit. Now…..that was one of the miracles; the Coronation. We used every bit of OB equipment, large proportions of which was obsolescent. It was raining. We had cables running along the back of pavements, not a single camera broke down. You see, because once you got a bit of water in those cables – blurp…..that was it! I, I’m not very religious, but I just couldn’t believe it. I knew every engineer. We were all absolutely on top, because we knew how important it was, but it was remarkable how that equipment didn’t break, ‘cos it was always breaking down. Coronation day, it didn’t break down.
Norman Collins… was pushing pushing pushing pushing for more money all the time, but what changed everything, without any doubt at all was the Coronation (in 1953). If you went to a dinner party before the Coronation and you mentioned television, most people would say… well, we haven’t got it. Maybe the servants had got it. After the Coronation, all the conversation was, “Did you see that programme on television last week?” And that was the real watershed. I mean, television really came into its own then, and it changed the relationship between Broadcasting House and radio, and television. We started to be given more money. They realised that we were the thing of the future and the old die-hards of radio at Broadcasting House were gradually retiring and younger people were coming in and they were saying, “Well, yes, we’d better let television have the money. It’s really the BBC now”.
Q: I think I’d read that the Coronation was the first time that many people had watched television.
A: Yeah. that was the transformation. And that was why it was so wonderful that it all went so well.
Q: So If you hadn’t been able to get permission to televise inside Westminster Abbey, which I know you fought hard to get, do you think it would have been such a success?
A: No. No. You see, that was the other thing which Lobby (de Lotbiniere) and I… the politics we got up to… there was a fellow called George Campy. He was television correspondent for the Evening Standard. He was very much on giving permission. So I used to go up to the telephone box of Alexandra Palace and ring him up and give him all sorts of inside tips, which I thought would help our case, and he was marvellous. Well you see a lot of the press didn’t want it (televised) because they thought, “Well no. I’d much rather be able to write articles about it, and have photographs and not let television in”. We really got up to all sorts of tricks. Lobby was going to meetings with the government and I went to some of them with him and they were really stick-in-the-mud. But I was getting on very well with the Earl Marshall, Bernard Norfolk. He was a member of the ‘Turfguard’ and I was a member of the ‘Turfguard’. I think that he could see how enthusiastic I was about it and how important I thought it was, that he authorised us, in the middle of the night – nobody knew – we took a camera and a scanner down to Westminster Abbey and we put the camera below the choir screen, because I wanted it in the choir screen, on the floor by there. And the Archbishop, the Duke of Norfolk, Ministry of Works, the press secretary of Buckingham Palace, oh, about nine officials, they all came, and I was lucky enough… none of them really understood television. So I put in a two inch lens, which was the widest lens we’d got, and then got a girl to sit where the Queen would sit. She didn’t sit because the throne wasn’t up… she stood there. And of course, she looked about that size on the screen! (really small) and I said, ‘Look. It’s not going to upset the Queen.’ They were all worried, quite genuinely, about about it being too much of a strain for the Queen to know that she was on television. I said, ‘No no it won’t be a strain for her’ and then another stroke of luck happened. They complained about the lighting and I discovered that Gongman (Rank Film) had been given permission to put lighting in for a colour film camera. So I said, ‘Look here, we don’t need as much light as for a colour film camera’. So that destroyed that argument, thank God. As a result of the tests, we were on tenterhooks for about 48 hours, and then the answer came through….. “OK”.
To hide the camera, the Ministry of Works had the brilliant idea of taking up the floorboards (so we could get a camera up in the choir area). We put Bud Flannigan in. He was the smallest cameraman we had got and we had the camera there – hid it with a cloth – and it was marvellous. And the other bit of sheer luck was, I’d managed to bully Broadcasting House to give us enough money to buy the image-orthicon zoom camera from Marconis, because Marconis had a tie-up with America (RCA) and that (made all the difference). I had that over the West Door for when she (The Queen) proceded out and I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in Britain – it was marvellous – because I was able to hold her in close up. We changed the music as well because Arthur Bliss had written a special bit of music – it was bloody awful. Princess Margaret helped me there. We were having a meeting; John Snagge, me, Bernard…. Duke of Norfolk, Ministry of Works chap, and McKie – who was the orchestra leader – he said “well we’ve got this marvellous bit of music”. And I said, “please, please. We want something dramatic, something really stirring. I mean this is a great occasion and this music; I’ve listened to it and with respect, it really is pretty, pretty ordinary”.
Princess Margaret said, “Uncle. I think Peter Dimmock’s right. I think that you do need a stronger thing”, and John Snagge said, “I agree”. And so, in the end, Bernard Norfolk sort of saw the thing and McKie then sort of sensed that Bernard was going to say to him, “What about it?” So he nipped in quickly to make it look as though it was his decision. So he said, “Yes I think we’ll go with one of the Pomp and Circumstances”. Now you see, that made a hell of a difference. It was …. so many hurdles to overcome and I was thrilled..…when it all came off because,
if that camera had broken down for example, that would have ruined it.
Q; Well I’ve always thought there are certain moments in a broadcast that people will remember .
A: Well, you see the other thing is I had a very good relationship with the Palace and they tipped me off about Prince Charles coming to see his mother crowned and I was able to be ready for that and get a close-up of him. So once we got permission I had a great, great deal of help. I mean the Palace were wonderful. And the Queen – all this rubbish that was talked about, “the Queen’s against it” – the Queen from the word go, said, “I’ll leave it to my advisers”. Now that’s the sort of woman she is.
Q: You actually directed that from um a control room.
A: Yes, what we did was we took all the gear out of the mobile unit and put it into a control hut, next door to Edward VII chapel. We always had to have an engineer doing the camera mixing and I managed to persuade Bridgewater. I said, ‘look Bridgie, would you mind terribly if I had Johnny Vernon’ – who was one of my good producers – I said, ‘would you mind terribly if he did the vision mixing?’ Because he and I were working absolutely together on the script, on the movements and the – ‘What do we want to do here? – and it’s terribly important that the mixing – and he, you know, – will be in it from the beginning’ and to my utter astonishment, he said “Yes”. I was – God, I was thrilled. It made all the difference.
Q: Is this the first time that happened?
A: Yes, we’d never been allowed to do it before. Well it made all the difference because Johnny and I, you know, we literally lived the Coronation the three months before it. We went over the service, over and over, to decide what would be the best shots and an engineer just wouldn’t… it wouldn’t have worked. Well it would, I mean it wouldn’t have worked as well. Johnny deserved as much credit you know, for the coverage of the Coronation in Westminster Abbey, as me. Now if I’d
said ‘Go to camera 2’, he knew – exactly – the moment to do it, ‘cos we’d been through it together. So I’d sort of say, ‘Right, stand by 2, Johnny.’ And then I’d say, ‘Right’ ….‘mix’… And Johnny would do the mixing in a lovely way. He’d either do it quickly, depending on the pace at the time, or slowly, if it (was) some kind of religious moment or something. There was quite a lot of subtlety in the way we produced it, but that was purely because we’d spent hours and hours together working it all out.
I had to have standing at the back – (Francis) House, lovely man who was Head of Religion at the BBC, because the BBC wanted him standing there, in case I did something that was irreligious. [laughs] Perfectly true story. And after the rehearsal – that was another funny thing – Johnny and I were at the rehearsal, and we tried all kinds of different things, we were changing camera lenses all the time, to see which would be better and then making a note of what… worked. When it was over, Francis House and I – Johnny had to go off somewhere – Francis House and I went to the RAF club for lunch and a chap came, gave me a piece of paper, and said, “would I urgently ring Cecil and the Gibbon,” – George Barnes , George Barnes was Director of Television, knew bugger all about it, he’d come from Head of Talks-Radio. I said to Francis, ‘Look, let’s enjoy our lunch’. We went back at about half past three and there was Barnes and Gibbon (Cecil McGivern) and they said: “Peter, this is desperate. Do you think you ought to be producing it? I mean, what can we do.” And I said, “What are you talking about?” (He said) “The cameras were all over the place.” I said: ‘Dear Cecil, you don’t understand even now what television’s about’. I was really quite cross. I said, ‘We were rehearsing ourselves, to try and improve it……not buggering about like that. You wait till the transmission’..…Oh, I was furious. I was really furious. I went home that night and I said to Polly, ‘Grr, this is … I can’t believe what happened.’ Oh, it was funny….
Q: What about Richard Dimbleby’s commentary …..?
A: Dimbleby was a wonderful commentator, because Princess Margaret’s procession came under the choir screen fifteen seconds before it was due, because everything was timed. She must have walked a bit too fast and she was coming through at that moment. We were going in close-up along the ambassadors, saying who they all were. Dimbleby, I screamed at him, “Richard, Richard! Princess Margaret’s procession is coming, it’s coming now.” ….. and the ambassadors stood up as the front of her procession came…..and Richard Dimbleby said, “And well might they stand to welcome Princess Margaret” and so all I had to do was to pan the camera. I mean, that’s where he was a brilliant commentator, because he was intelligent. Lobby did a great deal of Richard’s commentary. He sat with Richard before the Coronation, on several occasions, and wrote a great deal of Richard’s commentary.
Q: I think he (de Lotbiniere) wrote a guide for television commentators.
A: He was wonderful, because in the early days of television….the great thing Lobby used to say was “If in doubt, say nowt”. Because television commentators would try and talk too much and he had a meeting, a regular meeting every six months with all the main commentators and we re-ran a lot of their stuff and he said to them, “Look, I’m, not wishing to get at any of you: you’re all doing your best, but we can all learn from our mistakes”. And we’d go through, and he’d say, “Look: why did you keep on talking there?…. didn’t need to”. The picture was telling its own story and that was brilliant ….. he did an enormous amount. Although he wasn’t a television man, he was influencing (them by) his mental agility and he was a barrister. He was brilliant. Oh, I owed him a great deal and I used to drive him mad, because I was a young tiger all the time. He was very calm and he said, “Peter, calm down, calm down!” [laughs].
Q: So he didn’t come from radio….?
A: Oh, he’d been round radio and that’s why, after the Coronation, instead of making me Head of Television (Outside Broadcasts) – I was only 33 – they said “He’s much too young“ so (they) made Lobby Head of Outside Broadcasts, Radio and Television, and they made me Assistant Head of Outside Broadcasts (Television). So I ran television and Lobby more or less went back to Radio.
Q: But perhaps we could move on to when ITV started
.A: Well, the BBC salaries were pathetic anyway, but when ITV came on we all got more money ‘cos they didn’t want us to defect to them. They made me a very big offer to go to ITV. I said I’d only go if I had control of their outside broadcast units in all the independent companies. I’d run it because, you know, I would need access to equipment on demand and if you’re not prepared to do that, I’m not interested. So I didn’t go, because the companies didn’t agree to that. I don’t blame them, I mean, they wouldn’t have been happy. So I never went.
The problem it faced us with, of course, was money. But what I had been able to do, knowing ITV was going to come, I did a lot of leap-frogging of contracts. What I did was, I would take a contract for three years, with, say, Rugby, or whatever, and I would say, after the first year, I’d go (to) them, and I’d say: ‘Look. For another three-year contract I’ll give you another 20%, 25%’. So in that way, it meant that ITV couldn’t get hold of anything for two years. And that stood us in very good stead until, eventually, ITV had so much money that they began to get some contracts away from us. Not many, but they got the show jumping contract away from me, and again, luck was on our side. Harry Llewellyn had a jump-off. If he had a clear jump …. he won it. Just as he was about to start and because they were computerized, ITV went straight from the OB straight into the news! Immediately the boss of the show-jumping rang me up and said: “Peter. The most disgraceful thing’s happened that I’ve had to deal with so far” – “Oh yes, uh, we’ll come back to the BBC as soon as the contract runs out”. So we were very lucky because that was, very popular. We got a good audience figure for that (show jumping) and it wasn’t very expensive.”
Q: Sports were popular?
A: Well soccer, you see I fought and fought and fought the soccer people – my bugbear there was the secretary of the Football League……. Hardacre. I mean, I could not get him to see how the live television – I was trying to copy something that I’d seen in America – it was Monday Night football. They took one match. It had a huge audience. So I said, ‘Look, we take one match – do it on Monday evening – we’ll televise it. We’ll pay you a reasonable fee – he won’t think it’s anything – just reasonable. But I tell you, it’ll do more for soccer, and eventually for soccer’s income, because you then start escalating the fees’ – and no, he wouldn’t listen. Not interested.
Q: That never happened, then?
A:Never happened: I fought and fought and fought – eventually got the Cup Final. Managed to get that. And they agreed that. But it was a real uphill battle. That was with the FA, you see. FA had control of the Final, not Football League. The Football League were very anti-television: Football League was all the league football, and the FA was all International Football and the Cup Final. Stanley Reiss was the secretary of the Football Association. He became a very great friend of mine. He was very helpful. He was very shrewd. We did a deal that he would give the BBC the television rights to the World Cup here, in England, if we would film the World Cup in Chile two years before. So it would cost us quite a bit of money, but it was quite a good idea because we didn’t have to fight ITV for the World Cup.
Q: How did you cover the matches in Chile?
A: We sent film cameras to Chile, so we could do the World Cup when it came here. And then we lost half – of Mexico – because I was negotiating by then. I wore so many different hats – I was liaising between the BBC and the Royal Family and I was also chairman of the Sports Committee of the European Broadcasting Unit, so I used to do all the contracts for BBC and Europe, the EU. And I’d done a deal with the Mexicans out in Mexico to do a World Cup out in Mexico. Escaraga (Head of Soccer Mexico) came over and I’d got Kenneth Adam, who was Director of Television Programmes to host a lunch for him. Escaraga was the guest of honour and Kenneth Adam, who couldn’t hold his drink, drank too much and quite palpably was getting drunk and sensibly, sensibly for him, said, “Will you excuse me? I must go back to the office”, but Escaraga, being a Mexican, thought it was the biggest insult ever. He thought, “Here am I, Guest of Honour, and the host buggers off.” Afterwards, I was in bed with flu – and the EBU lawyer, who was acting with me over Mexican contracts, went out to Paris, to sign it, and rang me up, and I said, ‘All well? Contract signed?’ And he said, “Peter, I’m afraid I have bad news for you. Escaraga couldn’t sign it. He’d broken his hand. It was all bandaged up. He’ll sign it later”. And I said: ‘Hang about. I know the Mexicans. There’s something funny here’ and sure enough, it was. He then signed with ITV. And I went to war over it in a big way, because, there was a hell of a big press stink and in the end, we had to accept a compromise; they got half and we got half. And we had to have a toss-up over who got which match. But it’s funny, isn’t it? The Mexicans are very tricky. And I liked Escaraga. I got on with him very well. And I said, ‘You are a shit.’ And he said: “Dear boy. You tell that boss of yours never to behave like that again.”
Q.You had to share quite a lot with ITV?
A: Well, there was a thing called Classified Events. There’s a list. Olympic games… could not be taken exclusively by ITV. We had to share it. Grand National’s one, but I got the Grand National exclusively – because I eventually persuaded Mrs Topham (Owner of Aintree) to let us televise it. One thing I am proud of is that all the camera positions that I chose are still there today. They haven’t moved a single camera position and I was rather proud of that, because, I only had a limited number of cameras and where I put them – they’ve not been able to improve them – gives very very good coverage…. very good coverage. And we had the Roving Eye then, which went alongside them quite a long way. That was good. Oh no, they were wonderful days because they were all pioneering days – we were always doing things for the first time.
Q There was quite a lot of competition between the BBC and ITV
A: Well I remember doing Churchill’s funeral. That was for Johnny Vernon – he was a producer. I was tipped off quietly: “You know where they’re going to bury him?” I knew that way before other people did. I went up, saw where the grave was going to be and saw the cottage overlooking it. So I went into the cottage that was nearest. Think her name was Mrs. Hennesson – charming woman! And I said, um, ‘You know, this sounds quite extraordinary, we’re going to do a series on country churches. And from your window, it’s a lovely side-view, and we shall have a front view – lying through my teeth, and therefore we’d love to have the the sole right – to your house to use the room with this window’. She said: “Fine.” And we paid, I can’t remember, not a lot of money. We did the show – had an absolute scoop with that camera position. We did Churchill’s funeral very well. But again, it was all a question of contracts and they tended to trust us, they were always – funnily enough, these organisations, always a bit wary – in early days, about ITV. Because ITV was so split with all the different companies.
The BBC the good old BBC ….. they said it was reliable, which wasn’t strictly true, but it did help us a lot.
Q. How was the BBC Television Outside Broadcast Department organised?
A: Sport came under OB’s. I had a fellow called Cowgill come and run Sport. I had Singer run Features and I had another chap (Alan Chivers) who ran Events. I had all three under me. That all came under us at Kensington House. (Bryan) Cowgill then, almost immediately, he became Controller of Television Programmes and Aubrey Singer, who was another of my right-hand men, he became Managing Director of Radio. Then I left OB’s… Cliff Morgan took over from me, and I went and ran the commercial side (BBC Enterprises) for two years. Then I was headhunted by ABC in America. ABC and CBS were both after me. I was very lucky, because I just left it to an American lawyer to decide where I went. American lawyers are as hot as mustard.
Oh yes, I worked in the States… I was with ABC for six, seven years? I ran worldwide sales and marketing. I joined ABC sports, as a director, and then was promoted to vice-president and then I left sports and I went to worldwide sales and marketing right across the board. I was terribly lucky, because I made masses of money. Not because I was clever. Because they were number one network and because they had – not bothered – to drive very hard contracts because they were so rich. They didn’t really care. So I was able to re-negotiate these contracts, which made it look as if I was very clever. Just because I was sort of reasonably intelligent. They stood me in good stead. .
Q. Did you miss the early days?
A. But you see, there was that, and we went down a mine, the first time: we did a whole lot of firsts, that were really exciting. Really exciting. Well you see, we’d done most of them before ITV was what it is now. And ITV, you see were never really interested enough in that kind of outside broadcast. I mean, the viewer, remember, in those days – it was all new, and if we had a breakdown, viewers didn’t mind. It was all part of the fun. Doing something new. If something went wrong, they rather felt they were part of it. You know, it was a totally different approach. We did a live OB of the fleet near the Isle of Wight. I thought I’d pull their leg, so I’d rented a low-wing monoplane. I took my bowler hat, briefcase and rolled up umbrella. I rang up the captain of the ship and I said, ‘Could I please come at sea because I’m doing a rehearsal’. He said, “Yes. How are you coming?”. I said ‘I’m flying myself. Can you please make sure the boat’s into wind’. He said: “fine.” So I went, and they got the boat going pretty fast and all I did in this low-wing monoplane, I just throttled back like a lift, and I just went and landed on the strip on the carrier and I got out [laughs] in my bowler hat, with my umbrella and briefcase and I took my jacket off and it brought the house down! They would do anything for me on that boat afterwards. They were absolutely hilarious. It was such fun. But you see that’s how it was being in outside broadcasts. You know, we had quite a bit of fun as well as work. It was lovely.