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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: April 2021

10 - New Programmes and Foreign Fields

Summary

IN THE SUMMER of 1963 I was on the move once again, this time out of Monitor altogether. The BBC's new channel, BBC2, was to be launched the following April and to fulfil its expanded remit we needed many more programmes and more staff to make them. A new department entitled Documentaries and Music was hived off from Talks and housed in the recently completed Television Centre, with Huw Wheldon as its boss. Since Huw had a limited knowledge of classical music, I was promoted to be his number two and given the brand-new title of Executive Producer, Music Programmes (again without ever being asked if I wanted to do the job). The BBC's previous head of music productions, Lionel Salter, was an excellent all-round musician and administrator whose television experience went back to Alexandra Palace before the war. Although not a director himself, he had written a useful grammar concerning the televising of music performance, a style guide which is consistently ignored by today's rapid-fire practitioners. However, Lionel was unadventurous in his choice of repertoire for television and being of a somewhat combative nature he had crossed swords with rather too many high-ups in BBC Television. Indeed, I heard our abrasive new controller, Donald Baverstock, complaining caustically that after examining Salter's workload he had come to the conclusion that he had scarcely enough work to fill one afternoon a fortnight. The reshuffle of which I was part saw Salter sent to Yalding House to run opera for the Third Programme (a hefty assignment) and eventually become Assistant Controller under William Glock – not a comfortable berth, I imagine, but Lionel had great resilience and was a musician to his fingertips. Meanwhile, Huw gave up introducing Monitor, declaring later and to my mind unconvincingly that he had interviewed everybody he wanted to interview.

My main brief for BBC Television was to devise fresh ways of putting music on to the small screen. It was a good start that Michael Peacock, the newly appointed chief of programmes for BBC2, liked classical music and jazz.