Friday 24 July 2015

Roger Bolton's CV

(h/t David Keighley):

Just as a reminder of where Roger Bolton is coming from...'s an article called CV: ROGER BOLTON Independent producer, presenter, `Right to Reply' from The Independent (Monday 18 August 1997):
I went to Liverpool University in 1964, and at the beginning of 1967, the BBC sent people round to talk about the jobs that were available. They said we could apply to be studio managers, but told us not to bother with the general trainee scheme, because only people from Oxbridge got on that. But I thought: "Bugger that - I'll have a go", and they offered me a general traineeship. 
I went first of all to Bush House, where I remember interviewing someone about the introduction of giant rabbits into Australia for food. I then worked on Late Night Line-Up, with Joan Bakewell [Ed - funny link alert! funny link alert], and on a religious programme with Malcolm Muggeridge called The Question Why?, before ending up in current affairs. 
I was first on The Money Programme, then on Panorama, and in 1978 I was asked to edit a nightly show called Tonight, which was when my troubles with Ireland began. We thought our job at the BBC was to explain to the British people what the facts were about Northern Ireland, but we ran up against Mrs Thatcher, who was just coming to power. Some months after Airey Neave was killed by the INLA, we interviewed a member of the INLA, trying to find out what they believed and why on earth they had done such an appalling thing, and Mrs Thatcher did not approve. [Ed - This came at a time when such actions were expressly forbidden by prevention of terrorism measures and sensitivities were heightened by the recent murder of Airey Neave]. 
Subsequently, when I became editor of Panorama later in 1979, I attempted to make an in-depth programme about the IRA with Jeremy Paxman, but in the course of filming there was a dreadful row and I got fired. But I was reinstated, and I had a great time editing Panorama. It was a very radical period - you could ask fundamental questions about almost anything. [Ed - his sacking provoked a protest and walk-out at Lime Grove (then the home of current affairs progs)]. 
In 1983, I moved on to Nationwide, and during that year's election period we felt it was our job was to give ordinary people the opportunity to question political leaders. We selected a lot of tough-minded people, telling them to keep at the leaders, and Mrs Thatcher, for the first and only time in the campaign was discomforted, because she'd got her facts wrong. One lady called Diana Gould asked questions about the Belgrano, which was steaming away from the Falklands when it was sunk, with the loss of more than 1,000 lives, and Mrs Thatcher maintained stoutly this wasn't the case. But Diana Gould didn't give up - so that got me into trouble again. 
I was then moved to run the BBC Network Production Centre in Manchester, where I was responsible for more than 1,000 people and a range of programmes from Michael Wood's In Search of the Trojan Wars to the snooker and cricket, and I had immense fun. But then came the Real Lives programme, in which Martin McGuinness was interviewed and which the BBC governors banned at the request of Leon Brittan. Though I wasn't directly involved with it, I put my head above the parapet and argued that this was wrong. And, in the subsequent reorganisation that occurred, in 1986, I was made redundant. 
But then, fortunately for me, David Elstein, who had been appointed director of programmes for Thames Television, asked me to edit This Week, and it was during my time there, in 1988, that the SAS shot three members of the IRA in Gibraltar. The government told everyone that there was a bomb, the IRA members were armed and that there was a shooting match, and it didn't seem much of a story to me - until we discovered there was no bomb, the IRA members had been unarmed and the shooting was all one-way. 
Before long, the propaganda of both sides took over, and I felt it was a classic situation where current affairs programmes should try and establish the truth. [Ed - Trenchant journalism or settling old anti-Tory scores? You decide!] We discovered that the government account was extremely flawed, and there was a tremendous kerfuffle about it - though, in the end, we were exonerated. But Thames then lost its franchise, and though it may have lost it anyway, I don't think the Death on the Rock episode helped. 
By now, at the age of 46, my time was running out as an executive, and no one rushed to employ me. Fortunately, there were opportunities in the independent sector, and in 1992, I managed to get the contract to make Heart of the Matter, renewing my acquaintance with Joan Bakewell. Since then, we've done a lot of documentaries - we're doing a series of three programmes about the devil and the problem of evil for BBC1 - and in 1995 we devised You Decide with Jeremy Paxman, now being presented by John Humphrys. 
Three years ago, I was asked if I would like to present Right to Reply, but I don't know how long that will last, as I've now insulted or embarrassed most commissioning editors. In other words, I've been dead lucky, but it has been a rocky road.
I don't think there's much doubt about his radicalism back then, is there?

Is that same radical, anti-Tory spirit animating him again now though?


  1. Not on the topic of Beeboid radicalism, but on the topic of the Oxbridge fast track, here are two passages from "The Pythons Autobiography by The Pythons":

    Pg. 90

    MICHAEL PALIN: "I had to have some money after I left university (Brasenose College, Oxford), especially if I was going to stay down in London, and I did odd jobs for my sister who was working at the BBC then. She got me a job as a DJ in a thing called Roundabout, a 5 to 6 o'clock programme. The first half-hour was middle of the road, young-audience orientated, then the last half-hour you could be slightly more risqué. I did that and made a bit of money, and I was also greatly helped by a man called Teddy Warrick. he got me little jobs here and there. Then a girl I'd known at Oxford called Jan Elsom put me in touch with these two writers called Joe Steeples and Michale Wale, who were looking for presenters for a new television pop show based in Bristol."

    As for the trainee gig, from Pg. 93:

    TERRY JONES (Oxford Grammar School, then St Edmund Hall, Oxford):"....Then suddenly I got a phone call from Frank Muir's secretary, who said would I come along and talk to Frank at the BBC. I'd obviously sent a letter to Frank Muir. So I went along to Frank Muir's office, and he said, 'We couldn't offer you very much, only £20 a week, but you'll come into the BBC, see what's going on, you'll have an office, and get to know television from the inside.' It was an amazing offer and so I welched on Anglia Television and took this BBC job. It was actually a very odd brief. I could just hang around, go to all the meetings and see what happened. I was there when they were discussing Till Death Do Us Part and whether to put in with Johnny Speight or not. And I was sitting in on the departmental meetings whether to have The Frost Report - 'What are we going to do with David Frost?' I was right there on the inside track really."

    The luxury of the license fee guarantee on full display. Come to think of it, both Palin and Jones are as Leftoid as any of them.

  2. Mrs Thatcher didn't have her facts wrong about the Belgrano and the loss of lives was 323, not "more than 1000 lives". Yes, he wrote that in 1997 but he probably still believes it today.

    1. A good point. "More than 1000 lives" is a very revealing factual error from Roger Bolton.


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