My Mentor: Peter Salmon on Alan Yentob

'On occasion his elusive behaviour called for desperate measures'

Alan Yentob, for all his infuriating ways, including his chronic lateness, name-dropping and often intimidating manner, has been quite simply a beacon of inspiration. During his time as controller he reinvented and reinvigorated BBC2.

I was then running BBC Bristol's factual department. Initially when I worked in BBC2 it had seemed a stuffy place. But then this young tyro swept into the channel, with a fearsome reputation as an innovative programme-maker, and began to change everything. Commissioning sessions could start as much as three hours late. Pitching was like a firework display, colourful, vibrant and with several loud bangs. He could be a tough critic but also an unstinting supporter if he felt you got it. He could also be dictatorial, sometimes a bit bombastic. But you felt that was because he seemed to have such a grasp of what he wanted.

He commissioned strange and exotic tastes such as Small Objects of Desire. He committed to several hours of Russian documentaries called The Last Days of Leningrad, got behind our big pop history series Dancing in the Street, but also knew ratings winners when he saw them in series such as Secret World of Sex.

On occasion his elusive behaviour called for desperate measures. When I was intent on stealing a young student animator from Channel 4 called Nick Park I couldn't get a meeting with Alan to secure the development money, so I climbed into his chauffeur-driven car and waited two hours for him to finish lunch. When Alan got in he didn't seem surprised and coughed up before we got back to TV Centre.

Peter Salmon is a former BBC1 controller. Alan Yentob is the BBC's creative director

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Sauce Recruitment: Financial Accountant -Home Entertainment

£200 - £250 per day: Sauce Recruitment: 6 month contract (Initially)A global e...

Sauce Recruitment: Financial Accountant -Home Entertainment

£200 - £250 per day: Sauce Recruitment: 6 month contract (Initially)A global e...

Sauce Recruitment: Financial Analyst -International TV Production

£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: 6 month contract (Initially)A global e...

Guru Careers: IT Support Assistant / Technical Support Assistant

£20 - 22k: Guru Careers: A hands-on IT Support Assistant / Technical Support A...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project