Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Time for post mortems at Pacific Quay

Blog By Bryan Cooney

TWITTER ye not! There’s an authentic case for adapting the old Frankie Howerd catchphrase and applying it to Stan Collymore’s ongoing battle with internet trolls.   

It seems he has directed the old elbow at his Twitter account. Well, if he’s insistent on distancing himself from an increasingly perverse society, that’s okay with me.

My preference is for Linkedin, an organisation which theoretically puts you together with kindred spirits; why, it even provides comfort for the job seeker, occasionally suggesting a position specifically tailored to your credentials. So far, so good. Until today.

Sometimes I wonder if someone is really paying attention at the hub of Linkedin. In short, do they really give a toss about you, or which juncture you are at in life? An incoming e-mail this morning would seem to support my point. The message reads: Bryan: Amazon.co.uk Limited, ChemTech Consultancy Ltd and BBC are looking for candidates like you.

Really? Well, fuck my old boots, as an old drinking colleague from England’s West Country kept saying in London’s Press Club many years ago.

So, these companies are looking for a creative director for visual journalism and they’ll consider a white-haired, occasionally dyspeptic, dinosaurian git whose maladies include a heart condition, prostate cancer and chronic neck pain that is steering him irrevocably towards distraction? The desperation of
these companies must be worse than I imagined!

But now that we’ve alighted on fantasy, let’s stay with it: let’s suppose, with the wind of David Cameron-speak behind me, that I did apply for the advertised post of BBC creative director of visual journalism (only 101 applicants at the time of writing, after all), and that political correctness persuaded them against discrimination on the grounds of ageism, how would they proceed?

For instance, would they be spoilsports and go seeking character references from various panjandrums in Glasgow’s Pacific Quay, or Inverness? In terms of the latter, would they alight on Jeff Zycinski, head of the radio division?

If so, I imagine his reply would run along these lines: “He worked for me a few times. But he’s a serial agitator, this one. Hey, he wrote a Kindle book about somebody called Gerry Rafferty and upbraided me when I couldn’t convince my producers to get him on one of our shows to publicise it! And then he had the cheek to blame me for not identifying it as being in the public interest. Upset me no end around Christmas 2012, it did. I had more important matters to think about - I was doing my blog at the time.”

Or might they have gone all Glasgow and called upon that ubiquitous commissioning editor, Ewan Angus? Once more, I fear he might have dismissed me in an unfavourable light. “The man’s a bloody nuisance. There was a time he was always suggesting various sports documentaries - but everyone knows that we don’t have money to make documentaries!”

This, belatedly (apologies, but I do tend to wander these days), brings me to the nub of this blog. BBC Scotland somehow shrugged off the yoke of prohibition and raided the Alba division of its piggy bank for Robbie Shepherd, I’ll Be Looking For You. It occupied 55 minutes of my life the other week. The possibly sounds callous, but I fervently wish it hadn’t.

It set me thinking, however. I wondered what two of my old newspaper bosses at the Daily Mail would have made of this programme, which Auntie chose to identify as a documentary.

In my time, Paul Dacre and Charlie Wilson were not so much editors as editorial enforcers. They had patents on straight talking. Their post mortems, after anything smacking of cock-up, were brutal, almost bloody, affairs. There were no appeals against their rulings - no European Court of Human Rights to which to run if their gimlet eyes locked onto you at morning conference.

This was not always popular among the journalistic hoi polloi, but there was no denying its effectiveness, and the papers were all the better for their decisiveness.

Which bring me back, this time swiftly, to Robbie Shepherd, the venerable champion of the Doric. Was there a post mortem at Pacific Quay on the whys and wherefores on what ostensibly was a filmed hagiography? Did no-one query whether this Alba offering was worth repeating on a Sunday evening? Weren’t the producers asked what the hell they were playing at?

I have nothing against the foresaid Robbie Shepherd, nor for his propensity for exporting a dialect that is dear to me (I was born in Fyvie), but I found it quite astounding that such a swathe of prime-time television should be given over to him. Granted, he has a knack of making some people happy but surely his is a limited appeal.

My surprise, however, doubled last Sunday when the documentary makers offered us a profile on the Alexander Brothers, of Nobody’s Child fame. If I found I’ll Be Looking for You rather ponderous and one dimensional, I rejoiced in this latest one. It was funny, poignant and very relevant to an age that sadly will never be replicated. It might have concentrated more on the brothers’ relationship over the years, but that is merely an observation, not an objection.

There was a major criticism, however - it was far too brief. It was 30 minutes as opposed to the 55 minutes allotted to The Robster. To my mind, here was another comprehensive error of judgment.

Media post mortems may not be everyone’s favoured option, but they tend to concentrate minds that might be experiencing complacency. It’s important that BBC Scotland employs someone who has the ability to direct shoe leather towards backsides, wherever appropriate, with unerring accuracy.