I was going to headline this: “BBC NI ex News trainee becomes Director General. ” But then nearly all the bright young things in London HQ in the 1970s were blooded (figuratively) in the Belfast newsroom at the height of the Troubles. BBC News and current Affairs was the forcing ground for familiar luminaries Jeremy Paxman, Gavin Esler and Bill Neely ( Spotlight). Among those who enhanced their reputation outside the BBC later were Chris Graham, former head the Advertising Standards Authority now UK Information Commissioner and Lance Price deputy to Alastair Campbell in Blair’s No 10 ( both Newsroom) and Nick Ross (Radio Current Affairs) formerly of Crimewatch but now probably best known for selling his Notting Hill ( London!) home for £35 million.
Probably the two most influential are the back room boys Richard Ayre , once deputy head of BBC News and head of editorial policy, now a compulsive regulator, former Ofcom member and now a member of the BBC Trust. And finally Tony Hall himself now hailed as Director General designate. Along with me, both of them were Scene Around Six journalists, BBC Newsline’s distinguished predecessor.
Last week I speculate that Richard Ayre leaned over to Chris Patten the beleaguered Chairman of the Trust (himself blooded in Northern Ireland as a junior minister on the early 1980s and lead author of the Patten report on policing reform ) and said to him: “I know just the guy for DG. I used to work with him in Belfast.” And behold, it came to pass. it might just have been a bit more complicated than that, but the two go back a long way. And no, before you ask: regrettably I was not consulted. However I predict that that the bubble of the BBC internal crisis will now burst as quickly as it blew up.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London