The Media Column: 'Panorama was a place from which talent would arise'

All professions have their own gods. Everyone from lawyers to Kleinian psychoanalysts will possess legendary leaders, well known to insiders – but almost entirely obscure to the rest of us. Their sayings will be repeated, their minor eccentricities recounted, and their career moves will be the subject of intense debate. They are the people too grand to appear in the gossip columns of glossy trade magazines.

All professions have their own gods. Everyone from lawyers to Kleinian psychoanalysts will possess legendary leaders, well known to insiders – but almost entirely obscure to the rest of us. Their sayings will be repeated, their minor eccentricities recounted, and their career moves will be the subject of intense debate. They are the people too grand to appear in the gossip columns of glossy trade magazines.

Such deities should, as with the ancient Egyptians, be given the head of an appropriate animal. Then they and their defining characteristic could easily be identified without the necessity of wading through acres of print.

For some reason you can only really ever understand the religion that you were born into, and despite having been a print worker for eight years now, I still don't get the hierarchy in newspapers. Television, however, where I spent my professional adolescence, I can do. So the god of incorporation would be Greg Dyke, half man, half octopus, reaching his tentacles into every corner of broadcasting creation. Next in the pantheon would be Mark Thompson, the god of movement, with his butterfly antennae and gorgeous wings.

And then comes Dawn Airey, goddess of miracles and household deity of Channel 5, holding in her three hands a clapperboard, a football and a phallus. Accompanied by cries of lamentation from her own people, whom she is about to leave; and by shouts of terror from the folk of ITV, whom she is not about to join, Dawn is now to go to Sky. It is a coup. It is a remarkable thing. The world has been reworked, and nothing will ever be the same.

In a healthy, dynamic culture, new gods would be invented whenever they were needed. Dawn's non-appearance at ITV should merely be the catalyst for the promotion of a keen young thing from within the ranks of the regional companies or, at a pinch, a high flyer lifted from the competitive frenzy of BBC middle management. But no, there is no one available. It's a disaster.

This is strange, and I'll tell you why. I have not yet read Richard Lindley's new history of Panorama, nor was I invited to the Panorama 50th anniversary party, nor indeed was my partner, who put in several years as a producer on the show. But, Bad Fairy-ing through the coverage, I did find a number of reviews.One remarked that the BBC had destroyed Panorama partly by never letting any editor stay in post for more than two years. This gave the misleading impression to the reader that editors had been shuffled off sideways or demoted in short order for exercising too much journalistic initiative.

The opposite was true. Panorama was understood by the BBC to be a place from which managerial talent would arise and be promoted. And it was also seen that way by the risers and promotees. They didn't stay long because their arcs of ascent through the firmament were too rapid. Thompson himself, Tim Gardam at Channel 4, Steve Hewlett at Carlton and the BBC factual chief Glenwyn Benson were all Panorama editors within the last 13 years. I tried to be one myself, but they wouldn't have me.

Then the schedulers (with heads of jackals) took over. Tricky film-based journalism, with its strange combination of politics, controversy, economics and overweening egos, became unfashionable. And therefore has ceased to be a provider, every 18 months or so, of yet another superbly honed, rapidly seasoned broadcasting god.

Though the qualifications and interests that you need to be an industry chief may be slightly different now, it strikes me that the qualities are much the same. And if there is truly a lack of top-class executive material in television (and all this wailing is not, rather, a sign of a lack of imagination), then the thing to do is for everyone to combine to put Panorama centre-stage again. Lots of money, a terrific place in the schedules, kudos to the editor, and the sense that the octopus god actually watches the programme should do it.

david.aaronovitch@btinternet.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape