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Diary

John​ Naughton: On the Future of the BBC

17 December 1992
... venting of pique will become clear when the new franchises start up in January. Once the lady 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 ...

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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... artistic, faintly raffish melancholy; James Mossman, the ardent Galahad who will never take for granted that men are sometimes wicked on purpose; Robert Kee, the hot-eyed public prosecutor … When JohnBirt 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 ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Hind: The BBC

15 June 2016
... out its proposals. A draft of the new charter will be published and debated in Parliament and the 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 ...
25 August 2011
... language services as he originally proposed as a way of managing the cuts. Such tensions are not new. ‘We would have extended our broadcasts in a number of ways to different languages,’ recalls John Tusa, who ran the World Service from 1986 to 1992, ‘but because the FCO had this ludicrous power of prescription they’d say no. And we’d say there’s an audience there, there’s a need there ...

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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... by abolishing the licence fee – people have tended to assume that the transformation which occurred in the 1990s was self-imposed. But as Georgina Born makes clear in her definitive analysis of the JohnBirt 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 ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Dining Out

4 June 1998
... subsequently sends a charming letter of apology. The thought that this smiling young Scottish public schoolboy could be the next prime minister doesn’t cross either of our minds. On the other hand, JohnBirt is suitably impressed when I tell him that I actually met the great Lord Reith on the day of his extraordinary speech in the House of Lords likening commercial broadcasting to the Black Death ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Exit Blair

24 May 2007
... outside Parliament and the Labour Party actually works. As was widely remarked at the time, no prime 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 ...
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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... Macmillan presided, surrounded by his old friends, who were usually old Etonians, leavened only by 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 ...

Off with her head

John​ Lloyd

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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... In June 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 ...

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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... Are you gay?’ at Ron Davies, the Secretary of State for Wales, who had resigned after being caught searching for the kindness of strangers on Clapham Common. The Director-General of the BBC, Sir JohnBirt, 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 ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Where I was in 1993

16 December 1993
... respectable. By his side and pressed as firmly into the seam of his trousers as the thumb of a Guards sergeant major is a can of McEwens lager. 10 March. The Independent pursues its campaign against JohnBirt over his tax arrangements. On another page it boasts its acquisition of Jim Slater as its Stock Exchange commentator. 13 March. To Weston to see Mam, who is dulleyed, expressionless, absent. The ...

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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... to be admired from every side. The only way a writer could do more with a Dalek would be to unite him with Basil Fawlty. Except that the dying Dennis Potter went further, maybe, when he called JohnBirt, the BBC’s then director-general, ‘a croak-voiced Dalek’ in 1993. Much expectation surrounded Doctor Who’s return last year, into an industry that has changed vastly since he went away. Mark ...

Last Night Fever

David Cannadine: The Proms

6 September 2007
... Gulf War was about to be waged, at a time when ‘the public would be better disposed than ever to bellow their way through “Land of Hope and Glory”’. By then, Ponsonby had been succeeded by John Drummond, who saw the Proms through its centenary season of 1994 and its 100th anniversary the following year. Drummond shared Ponsonby’s ‘distaste’ for the Last Night: he regretted that it ...

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