Talking of well-deserved tributes ...

We've had four long years of Tessa Jowell. So what's the verdict?
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The Independent Online

Unless my memory is playing tricks, Tessa Jowell will be celebrating her fourth anniversary as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport next week and is now in line to become the longest-serving Secretary of State since the department was first created as the Department of National Heritage back in 1992.

Unless my memory is playing tricks, Tessa Jowell will be celebrating her fourth anniversary as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport next week and is now in line to become the longest-serving Secretary of State since the department was first created as the Department of National Heritage back in 1992.

In the longevity stakes beating the various Conservatives who took on the job as Secretary of State is not exactly difficult as they changed at almost yearly intervals, but the Labour Government has been more consistent. Tessa Jowell will break Chris Smith's record of four years and one month in early July and it looks as if she's got a year or so in the job still to go. So what are we to make of her tenure in charge of broadcasting?

She certainly got off to a bad start. Few of the great and the good who regularly attend the RTS Cambridge convention will forget her first appearance in 2001. After only a few months in the job she decided she knew enough not only to make a speech but also to take questions. She was unlucky because when she was answering the questions a camera was focused on media journalist Ray Snoddy whose picture was highlighted on the screen behind her. The more she said the more he put his head in his hands in disbelief.

Her performance that day rivalled Ruth Kelly's more recent appearance at the head teachers' conference when, only a couple of months after she became Secretary of State for Education, she started telling head teachers how to do their jobs. They booed her for her efforts. Quite why politicians new to their brief can't just say "I'm new to this and I'm here to listen and learn" is beyond me. Instead they have this terrible tendency to stand up before people who have spent their lives in an industry and patronise them.

Jowell's first appearance at Cambridge was not as bad as Kelly's, and television executives were much too polite to boo, but for a long time it influenced what the industry thought of her. Her reputation was not helped by her appearance, or should I say her late appearance, at Cambridge two years later. She got stuck in the traffic on the way there and her broadcasting minister Lord McIntosh had to read her keynote speech for her. She did turn up in time for the question and answer session and showed that, after two and a bit years in the job, she could now hold her own.

Early on she also got a reputation as being a bit of a "yes" woman, rushing around to do exactly what Tony Blair, in the shape of his broadcasting adviser Ed Richards, wanted. In fact, there were times when it was difficult to work out who was actually in charge of broadcasting policy.

And during the Hutton affair she didn't exactly cover herself in glory in defending the rights of broadcasters to challenge the Government. At that time she spent a lot of time doing Alastair Campbell's bidding and her later proposal that the BBC should only report the news and not try to interpret it was puerile.

But having said all that, the major broadcasting reforms she has pushed through have been pretty effective. The creation of Ofcom out of five different regulators had all the potential to be a disaster and hasn't been. Ofcom is seen as effective and well run and she has to take some of the credit for that. And her Green Paper on the future of the BBC will ensure that the organisation retains its funding for another 10 years at least. There are one or two strange ideas in the paper but overall she produced a good document at a sensitive time.

Given that she didn't get the promotion she wanted after the election, Tessa Jowell is likely to with us for a time yet, although her Blairite credentials might not endear her to Gordon Brown when he takes over as Prime Minister in the not too distant future. In the meantime, congratulations on beating Chris Smith's longevity record, assuming you last until July.

One thing that increasingly annoys me is watching news programmes putting up their claims to glory because of their latest award from Baftas or the RTS. But the funniest has to be the BBC's Breakfast News whose claim to be the best daytime programme is based on the award it won from the Television Radio and Industries Club.

Now, while there is some validity to the Bafta or RTS awards - they are at least decided by panels of so-called independent judges - the TRIC awards seem to be based more on whether your star would turn up for their annual awards lunch.

My favourite story about TRIC was when they persuaded the late Robert Maxwell to become their president. He turned up at their annual event to find it was not exactly star studded. He asked why not and was told that there was too much competition from the RTS and Bafta. Maxwell pulled his cigar out of his mouth and said: "So why don't we buy them."

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