Sunday, April 20, 2014


A couple of odds and ends on Derek Cooper. A correspondent shares an anecdote from the late Robert Robinson, who also went to Raynes Park Grammar before he went up to Oxford University, though he was a couple of years older than Mr Cooper - and studied at Exeter College, whilst Cooper was at Wadham. . 

"Bob used to delight in telling the story that as Derek Cooper was about to flunk his degree, he fell off his bicycle and got himself awarded a degree aegrotat, as he was so injured that he couldn’t hold a pen."

And, on the gestation of The Food Programme, as well as a 1971 pilot, there was a precursor. A Radio 4 series called A La Carte, produced in Birmingham by Jock Gallagher.


The Mail has spotted former BBC DG George Entwistle doing a bit of mike holding at the Tate Modern, capturing the words of Nicholas Serota for a short video about the Matisse exhibition. That's not necessarily against union rules in these straitened times, though Mail claims he's the executive producer; he told an onlooker "I'm supervising a film for a friend of mine".

The video was made for the charity ArtFund, and is fronted by art historian Jacky Klein, sister of Suzy. See for yourself whether or not George still has it...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Derek Cooper

Most listeners will remember Derek Cooper, who has died aged 88, for his radio programmes on food and drink.

But for tv viewers, he was an (often uncredited) voice on early programmes in the Granada series, World In Action, and then, from the start, on Tomorrow's World. His authoritative, gravelly style suited both; the accent was London, but with hints of the Western Isles on his mother's side, and Kent on his father's, and probably deepened by an enduring interest in good whisky. 

Cooper (Raynes Park County Grammar School, Portree High School and Wadham College, Oxford) joined Radio Malaya in 1950, after service with the Royal Navy. For a time he and his wife Janet lived in Mount Pleasant, Singapore, and entertained guests like James Michener and Louis MacNeice to dinner - but the station began a re-location to Kuala Lumpur, and, by 1960, Derek was back in the UK looking for work. He produced a series of 15-minute "Roving Reports" for ITN, on topics such as Kenya, Malaysia and the Royal Tour to India and Pakistan of 1961. And he took a few chances to be the narrator as well, deciding that production was not a long-term ambition.

The move to food journalism followed a package as a freelance reporter on Radio 4's Today in 1966 - he talked to foreign visitors to the UK on their response to finding menus stuffed with ersatz versions of their own national dishes, like coq au vin and lasagne, rather than good British staples. It created a buzz, and he soon followed up with an article for The Listener, and a book, The Bad Food Guide, which became a bestseller.

He first mooted the idea of a regular radio show on the food "industry" in the early seventies; there was a pilot, but it was 1979 before The Food Programme was finally commissioned.


Taking stock

We find Lord Patten of Barnes in reflective mood as he approaches his 70th birthday next month. At a recent lecture on universities in the 21st century, he claimed to be the holder of more Chancellorships than anyone in history, and reckoned he also held the record for most degrees handed out.

This, he said, was largely due to his appointment to the role in almost every university in Hong Kong during his governorship, but is helped by his ten years at Newcastle, and the fact that his role as Chancellor of Oxford University is for life.

The first of May will be the third anniversary of his arrival at the BBC Trust, for a four-year term; so the new Culture Secretary will soon begin the hunt for a successor, doubtless with some suggestions from Chris himself. I reckon someone will be identified before Christmas comes.

In other anniversaries, it's ten years since Lord Patten invested in his holiday home in the Tarn area of the Midi-Pyrenees - a rather shambling 17th century farmbuilding, but complete with ageing tennis court, small pool and frog ponds. Next year he'll have more chance to visit.

Cultural archive

Here's an idea for a season: a selection of the plays produced by Richard Broke for the BBC. Richard died this week at the age of 70.  His catalogue is immense, and reminds you how different drama was at the BBC before it became a "brand". I'm not sure it's necessarily remarkable because Richard did his job from a wheelchair, after a car crash while working as a BBC trainee. Here are a fewer nuggets...

In 1979 he produced The Serpent Son, an adaptation of Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy (translated by Frederic Raphael and Kenneth McLeish). The three parts ran at 9.25 on BBC1 on successive Wednesdays - a tad more cultural than a four-parter, say, about car parking. The cast included Diana Rigg, Helen Mirren, Flora Robson, Denis Quilley, Claire Bloom, Billie Whitelaw and Sian Phillips. Costumes were by Barbara Kidd, taking a break from Dr Who. There was also a follow-up mickey-take, as was a tradition in Greek drama, from Raphael and McLeish, starring Diana Dors as Helen, Freddie Jones as Menelaus, and Bob Hoskins as the servant Mr Taramasalatatopoulos.

In 1986 he produced The Monocled Mutineer, a four-part dramatisation by Alan Bleasdale of a book about the Etaples Mutiny, and the story of deserter Percy Toplis. No-one disagreed about the fact that there were mutinies in the 1914-18 war, but they did about the scale of them, and whether they mattered - particularly at the Telegraph and Mail. Here's also an early example of the BBC getting into trouble over marketing - in newspaper ads, this drama was branded a "true life story". DG Alasdair Milne blamed the agency - but it added to his woes, and he was forced out the next year.

In 1991, Richard produced a tv version of A Question of Attribution, originally a one-act stage play by Alan Bennett, starring James Fox and Prunella Scales, and directed by John Schlesinger. Schedulers can pick from more than 20 plays produced by Richard in the Screen One series that ran from 1989 to 1993 - one of the more recent attempts to bring back the great days of The Wednesday Play and Play for Today.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dragging out your part

If you're thinking of "getting into" EastEnders from tonight, as the producers hope, be aware that there's going to be at least nine months before the death is cleared up. This from EE boss Dominic Treadwell-Collins this morning..

Number 2

We're not yet informed what sort of wedge the BBC's new Company Secretary, Phil Harrold, is getting. But we find he already needs a deputy, who will be paid between £50k and £70k, on the new-not-quite-senior-management grade, 11.

Deputy, of course, is not a title favoured by McKinsey, so the post is called Head of Executive Business. The "ideal candidate" ?

An experienced policy adviser, you will be highly strategic, able to think creatively and possess experience in governance or secretariat functions. Ideally you’ll have experience across strategy, planning and operational functions. 

Combined with effective communication and interpersonal skills, you will be well-versed in analysing and summarising large volumes of information, writing board papers, presenting and/or briefing to board level, and leading meetings with senior stakeholders.

Part of a team created to work on what, and what not, to tell the non-executive directors ?


Gremlins at The Times this morning, with the website offering news from 28 September 2011, if anything. I only spotted it because I think I know Alex Ferguson is no longer manager at Manchester United.

Later, via other routes, this appeared...

Saints alive !

Spare some religious fervour for next weekend as well.

The ceremony at which Pope Francis will raise predecessors Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII to sainthood will be transmitted live in 3D (and Ultra HD) - and the Vatican has turned to (the) Sky for some three-dimensional expertise.

Sky Italia is flying out a range of news hands from Osterley to help with calling the shots, with pictures provided by six stereo pairs of HD cameras and three HDCam cameras converted on the fly, supported by UK firm Telegenic. Sky News has previously seen Catholic ceremonial as a potential audience winner - internally, a proposal to offer a 24-hour "Pope Channel" during the 2010 visit by Benedict to England and Scotland got as far as working out whether it would be possible to leave a camera on windows of buildings where Il Papa was sleeping before someone saw sense.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Browsing had a record month for unique users in March - and BBC Worldwide have written about that and other new media highs. But the figures for are not reported, so we can't judge if, together, they're catching up with the runaway MailOnline.

I got 2,336.

Other people who read this.......