Friday, July 7, 2017

Eric Bowman

One of my former BBC bosses, who became a good mate, Eric Bowman, has died.

He signed up with the BBC in 1969, in his mid-twenties, after service in the Army as a paratrooper - he may just have caught the end of conscription. Somewhere along the line he learnt Arabic, and became a current affairs talks writer with the (radio) Arabic Service. Within two years he was posted to Beirut as operations organiser. The Beirut office was closed in a hurry at the end of 1975, when factional fighting turned into civil war. Eric moved on to Singapore, as the BBC's South East Asia representative. In 1979 he returned to London to be Assistant to the Managing Director of the BBC External Services, and in 1981 was promoted to Head of the Arabic Service.

In April 1986, aged 43, he became General Manager Monitoring, based at Caversham Park near Reading, and saw the start of a major computerisation project - the first of many.  In 1989 he was asked by DG Michael Checkland, who was investing heavily in John Birt's news ambitions, to join News - most thought it was to keep an eye on how the cash was being used. He went on to serve under four Directors of News - Birt, Ron Neil, Ian Hargreaves (now on the Board) and Tony Hall, now Lord Hall, DG. On retirement from the BBC he became Head of International Business for ENPS, the Associated Press company that had supplied BBC News with its first Windows-based newsroom computer system.

My working time with Eric was on a "News Centre" for White City; a rare Bowman project, in that it was never completed - factional in-fighting, perhaps not on the physical violence scale seen in Beirut, but vicious, nonetheless, saw a switch of funding just as we were ready to break ground. All that was constructed was a temporary car-park fronting South Africa Road. Tarmac-ed vestiges can still be seen.

This was in the early 90s. I was based at Broadcasting House, and Eric with the rest of News Management in a marvellous crinkly-tin set of offices on the roof of Television Centre, aptly named The Periphery. I was too lowly to be issued with a brick mobile phone, but Eric used to keep tabs on me with a pager... vital for summoning me to Friday panics to re-write business cases, and then, perhaps, relax with a glass of dry white. I managed never to tell Eric that sometimes I told fibs about broken pagers; I left his service with over ten of the infuriating bleepers, which he just kept issuing and issuing....

1 comment:

  1. "Paging Bill Rogers! Paging Mr Bill Rogers!" I can hear it even now. ^_^


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