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John Naughton: On the Future of the BBC

17 December 1992
... had been unhorsed, however, the steam seemed to go out of the relationship. Early in the Gulf War, John Major was invited by one of his more neanderthal backbenchers to indulge in a routine spot of BBC-bashing during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons. Major pointedly declined the opportunity and went out of his way to compliment the World Service on ...

Cod on Ice

Andy Beckett: The BBC

10 July 2003
Panorama: Fifty Years of Pride And Paranoia 
by Richard Lindley.
Politico’s, 404 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 1 902301 80 3
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The Harder Path: The Autobiography 
by John Birt.
Time Warner, 532 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 316 86019 0
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... that men are sometimes wicked on purpose; Robert Kee, the hot-eyed public prosecutor … When John Birt arrived at the BBC as Deputy Director-General at the end of the 1980s, apocalyptic assessments of the programme were back in fashion. According to Birt, the BBC’s Chairman, Marmaduke Hussey, regarded Panorama ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Hind: The BBC

15 June 2016
... final version will come into effect at the beginning of next year. There had been worries about John Whittingdale, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, and the plans he might have for the BBC, but the organisation envisioned in the White Paper isn’t vastly different from the BBC as we know it. The £3.7 billion from the licence fee will ...

What are we telling the nation?

David Edgar: Thoughts about the BBC

7 July 2005
Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC 
by Georgina Born.
Vintage, 352 pp., £10.99, August 2005, 0 09 942893 8
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Building Public Value: Renewing the BBC for a Digital World 
BBC, 135 pp.Show More
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... in the 1990s was self-imposed. But as Georgina Born makes clear in her definitive analysis of the John Birt and Greg Dyke eras, the consistent impetus came from government. It’s no surprise that Margaret Thatcher wanted to take on the BBC – if anything, the surprise is how long it took her. (In her first term, Thatcher’s main concern was with BBC ...


W.G. Runciman: Dining Out

4 June 1998
... to my wife: ‘Weren’t you kind enough to ask me to a drinks party for Frank Field’s 50th birthday?’ She answers: ‘Yes, and you neither came nor replied.’ ‘Didn’t I?’ says Blair, and subsequently sends a charming letter of apology. The thought that this smiling young Scottish public schoolboy could be the next prime minister doesn’t ...


W.G. Runciman: Exit Blair

24 May 2007
... minister has come to office with so little experience of government or anything else. Fettes, St John’s College, Oxford, Lincoln’s Inn and a few years on the opposition benches in the House of Commons are a preparation of limited value for going into the ring in the world of lies and violence with the likes of Dick Cheney, Gerry Adams, Vladimir ...
22 November 1990
Friends in High Places: Who runs Britain? 
by Jeremy Paxman.
Joseph, 370 pp., £16.99, September 1990, 0 7181 3154 1
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The Sunday Times Book of the Rich 
by Philip Beresford.
Weidenfeld, 336 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 0 297 81115 0
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... his younger aristocratic relations. Not until 1988 was the contrapuntal term of art introduced by John Lloyd. ‘Britain is no longer run by an Establishment,’ he wrote in the Financial Times. ‘In its place is a Disestablishment comprising men and women whose values, assumptions and habits are those of outsiders.’ It is useful to have this glossary set ...
24 November 1988
Office without Power: Diaries 1968-72 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 562 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 09 173647 1
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... of this year Tony Benn took part in a radio discussion on the working of Parliament, together with John Biffen and Roy (Lord) Jenkins. Asked by the chairman, Peter Hennessy, if he did not think that the Lords now functioned as a ‘focus of opposition’, Benn responded that it was, instead, ‘part of an attack on democracy. After all, why bother to vote in ...

Delivering the Leadership

Nick Cohen: Get Mandy

4 March 1999
Mandy: The Authorised Biography of Peter Mandelson 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 302 pp., £17.99, January 1999, 9780684851754
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... searching for the kindness of strangers on Clapham Common. The Director-General of the BBC, Sir John Birt, was knighted by Tony Blair and worked with and befriended Mandelson at London Weekend Television in the early Eighties. LWT executives became millionaires when a share option lottery in 1993 fell well for them. (Among the lucky LWT ...


Alan Bennett: Where I was in 1993

16 December 1993
...  ...

Across the Tellyverse

Jenny Turner: Daleks v. Cybermen

22 June 2006
Doctor Who 
BBC1Show More
Doctor Who: A Critical Reading of the Series 
by Kim Newman.
BFI, 138 pp., £12, December 2005, 1 84457 090 8
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... groaning contractions of the Tardis – so wonderful, warm yet terrifying, the sound of childbirth, I always think, as heard by the baby. When I was young, though – I dimly remember – the Cybermen did seem quite scary, with their blank, square faces and cruel, insatiable appetites for human whatever-it-was. But actually, most of that mystery came not ...
19 March 2020
... soft power, and an indication that it should continue to offer free licences to the over-75s. Johnson floated the idea of a licence fee review during the campaign: it looked at the time like unsubtle intimidation, or cheap showmanship. His refusal to be interviewed by Andrew Neil, and his insistence that ministers boycott the Today programme (now ...

Last Night Fever

David Cannadine: The Proms

6 September 2007
... minutes. Here was the template for all subsequent Last Night speeches. Wood celebrated his 75th birthday in March 1944, and soon after, on the eve of the 50th season, made over the title ‘Henry Wood Promenade Concerts’ to the BBC in perpetuity. The golden jubilee Proms duly began on 10 June, but at the end of the month, the remaining concerts were ...

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