Tuesday 9 February 2016


From April 1985. DOCTOR WHO is saved for a generation. Phew.


Maybe not.

This is actually a pretty ridiculous headline. Not only does it manipulate what BBC boss Michael Grade actually said (he only, as the piece below reveals, wanted it to run another 21 years. Easy to say, harder to be called to account over) but it also demonstrates scant grasp of how the BBC, or indeed, any big business functions. Times change. Schedules change. Competitors change. Structures and working practices change (it's unlikely anyone realised it yet but we were only a few years away from the wholesale decimation of the 'everything inhouse' BBC way of working, swept away by John Birt, Producer's Choice and internal markets), Audience tastes changes and - perhaps most importantly of all - managements change and few incumbents want to be saddled with the decisions of their predecessors. Unless, of course, its an already-in-the-pipeline hit that they can claim credit for.  

We now know that the disdain for the programme was endemic throughout the ranks of BBC management with no one (except, DWB take note, your soon-to-be arch nemesis JNT) willing to champion the show. The sands had shifted and the show was exceptionally vulnerable. 

The headline does, however, give a good insight as to how those inside TV regarded their most fervent viewers. Most people in TV love their jobs (its not, for the most part, a license to print money and the long hours and demanding deadlines take their toll) but, at the end of the (long) day, its just a job. They don't have the distance to see the charm... or the finish product. And TV types watch, and appreciate, TV differently than the hardcore fans. So they're not pondering how the Doctor felt as be stepped into the desolate alien world for the first time. They're thinking of the hardships of the quarry location, the logistics of location catering and the number of script pages that have to be shot between the intermittent showers and the fading daylight. 

This was not a generation of BBC decision makers with any great fondness for the show. Nor was it a commercially minded corporation which saw the monetary value of a hit show at home and abroad. BBC ENTERPRISES was to be kept at arms length (under the Westway, tucked away at the sprawling Woodlands campus) with its income and absorbed into the Corporation's coffers. Money making was a little sideline, not core to the business of being a Public Service broadcaster with the only competition of note being other Public Service broadcasters. 

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