My Mentor: Graham Smith on Paul Jackson

'He gives you freedom, trusts you and if there is a problem he's very supportive'
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The Independent Online

Paul was already a bit of a legend when I went to work for him at Noel Gay TV in the early Nineties.

Having come up through the ranks of BBC light entertainment, he'd boldly thrown his lot in with oiks and brought alternative comedy to our screens with The Young Ones, and so, for my crowd, he was the epitome of the cool executive.

My old mucker, Dave Morley, had recommended me to Paul when Noel Gay got a fat contract with the fledgling BSB and we had a happy year tearing up the rulebook and reinventing entertainment, making shows such as The Happening.

Paul is everything you would wish for in a boss. He gives you freedom and he trusts you and demonstrates belief. If there are any problems he's incredibly supportive. I remember a particularly incendiary spat between Paul and Janet Street-Porter, when we were making Juke Box Jury for the BBC - Paul defended my production decisions to the hilt. When Dave Morley and I decided to leave to start our production company, TV21, again Paul was completely supportive. Some bosses would have been very possessive with their producers but Paul was the opposite, advising us in setting it up.

I was only at Noel Gay for 15 months but it was an incredible experience and gave me the launch pad to later become a commissioning editor at Channel 4. If ever I've had any issues over programmes or my career, Paul has always found time. Everyone's career goes up and down, and Paul has been there for me, on the end of a phone or willing to meet up. He has been in America for the last three years and every time I've been over there I've hooked up with him for another entertaining and gossipy lunch. Now he's gone to ITV and that's fantastic.

Graham Smith is Controller of Comedy at Five and Paramount Comedy Channel.

Paul Jackson is Director of Entertainment and Comedy at ITV

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