I already suffer from very high blood pressure but I think the BBC may be out to finish me off!
For seven decades I have supported the BBC – I even listened to The Clitheroe Kid and Family Favourites on the radio back in the early 60s instead of Radio Luxembourg. Now I view it as the media equivalent of the Titanic, with only one end in sight. It has too many overpaid managers, some of whom I suspect could not hold down a real job but can waste our licence money with ease.
A long time ago I told you the BBC were considering selling off their BBC Elstree Studios for £70 million price tag but would lease back the acres where EastEnders is based. I was told by insiders it was the reason they cancelled Holby City as it occupied a building on site that was costly to repair and could be sold off.
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At the same the BBC went ten of millions of pounds over budget and years behind schedule rebuilding and relocating the EastEnders exterior set away from the part of the site they want to sell off. It even provoked a Government enquiry, but did any heads roll? I am not aware of anybody being sacked but after all it is only licence payers’ money. Alas, some may feel the BBC has become a gravy train over the years but I could not possibly comment.
I was invited to visit the new exterior EastEnders set a few months ago with my old pal Keith Clement, a 90-year-old BBC veteran who was in charge of the studio when they took it over in 1983. It is a wonderful set but what a cost! We also visited the then-empty original Albert Square, now presumbably demolished, where Keith and I were first photographed together in I think 1985 when this new soap opera was being launched. I know I am supposed to nowadays to call them continuing drama series but that is what we called them in the old days. I believe that term derives from American television of the 1950s when such series were sponsored by soap manufacturers.
Personally I think the BBC must now be investigated by an outside body and good old fashioned ‘time and motion’ people to ensure the ever-decreasing number of us willing to pay for a licence get value for money before they hit the iceberg.
I also expect Hertsmere Borough Council, as our local planning authority, to tell the BBC they must keep the whole site for film and television production and not more high rise flats.
From a heritage point of view this is, albeit much changed, one of the oldest studios in Europe, dating back to 1914. That should be celebrated, not carved up to give the BBC more money to waste. If that puts me on their ‘blacklist’ then so be it. I had the same problem from Cannon and Brent Walker saving Elstree Studios in the 1990s, but look at the sucess of Elstree today, so who had the last laugh? Over and out from me.
- Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios