- Take-off delayed… - 30th March 2023
- ‘Bubble, bubble…’ - 29th March 2023
- Ill discipline part one - 28th March 2023
Here our Editor Phil Parry looks at how senior jobs are dished out by people who have just secured influential roles in major organisations, to figures he or she has worked with at previous institutions.
Earlier he described how he was assisted in breaking into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the pandemic played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.
When you have just been given a new job in charge of an organisation, it should be (although sadly isn’t) a complete no-no to appoint people from your previous institution.
Perhaps it needs to be enshrined in law.
The reason is that it gives rise to accusations (which may be completely baseless) that the process wasn’t entirely fair and above board.
Yet exactly this has happened at a number of operations.
Let me focus on BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) because (as I was there for 23 years) I can write about it with some authority.
The controller of BBC CW (and the Godmother of the present Director Rhodri Talfan Davies – family ties are also apparently important) from 2000 to 2010 was Menna Richards, who was appointed from HTV Wales.
Ms Richards was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the New Year Honours list 2010 for her services to broadcasting, and in the same year she was also named as a board member of the Welsh National Opera.
In addition, she was awarded a BAFTA in 2015 for Outstanding Contribution to Television.
In her early days in broadcasting, she had transferred to the independent sector and HTV Wales, where she rose through the ranks to become managing director in 1997.
However, eyebrows were raised at BBC CW when a number of figures from HTV Wales or ITV Wales (or had worked there) were appointed to senior roles at the corporation, after she took over as its head.
There was, for example, Toby Grosvenor, who left his post at BBC CW under a cloud as Head of Operations in 2005.
Since leaving, Mr Grosvenor has repaid the BBC a total of £315,000 after legal proceedings were issued against him. But the Crown Prosecution Service said that following consideration of files from a police inquiry, there was insufficient evidence for criminal proceedings. He was questioned as part of a South Wales Police (SWP) investigation into allegations of theft in June 2005.
Another controversial appointment was Clare Hudson, who became Head of Programmes at BBC CW. In proclaiming online the importance of her past, she has written: “I have worked in the media for most of my adult life – first as a print journalist, then as an investigative reporter and producer for ITV, and later as a programme commissioner for the BBC in Wales. This has given me an in-depth knowledge of how newsrooms and the media generally (operate)”.
There were, though, plenty of other instances.
Elis Owen was Head of Programmes then Managing Director at ITV Wales, but was chosen to become Head of Commissioning at BBC CW.
David Williams moved over to be Political Editor at BBC CW. His journalistic career was cemented by exposing the sexual mis-conduct of a senior police officer, and a television programme was made about it.
The documentary which featured him, Cam-drin Plant: Y Gwir sy’n Lladd (Child Abuse: The Truth Kills) on the Welsh-language channel S4C, told about the quest of Mr Williams with HTV, ITV Wales and BBC Wales to discover the truth about physical and sexual child abuse at care homes in North Wales.
The headline-grabbing presenter of BBC Wales Today (WT) and the consumer affairs programme X-ray, Lucy Owen, (who conducted a contentious affair with the Editor of BBC Radio Wales [RW] when she had fronted one of the station’s programmes) also possesses an intriguing background.
She had also worked at ITV Wales.
Her former colleague in the independent sector, Nicola Heywood Thomas, was made presenter of the BBC Cymru Radio Wales (RW) lunchtime show.
I was eased out of my role fronting the RW programme Wales at One to make way for her.
Ms Heywood Thomas now presents the arts show on RW.
In an article 10 years ago about her busy life, it was reported that: “…she has been meeting her commitments as a consultant with Arts and Business Cymru, an organisation which builds bridges between the arts and business”.
There are others, including the Chief Operating Officer at BBC CW, who still sits on the board, Gareth Powell, and Sian Thomas, Head of Scheduling and Presentation.
Whispering, and critical gossiping within BBC CW soon followed these appointments.
Even if the announcement of the new people in these top jobs was completely justified, and the process was entirely transparent as well as fair, this kind of gossip can be extremely corrosive for any organisation.
Phil’s memories of his extraordinary decades long award-winning career in journalism (including his years at BBC Cymru Wales) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A Good Story’. Order the book now. The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!
Another book, though, has not been published.