'EastEnders' writer wins pounds 68,000 from BBC

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The Independent Online
DAVID YALLOP, the scriptwriter who lost his job on the television drama series EastEnders after he proposed killing off several members of the cast in an IRA bombing, yesterday won pounds 68,195 High Court damages plus interest in his breach of contract claim against the BBC.

The BBC also faces a legal costs bill unofficially estimated at pounds 250,000.

Mr Yallop, 55, told Judge Sir Gervase Sheldon during a nine-day hearing that he was robbed of the chance to mastermind the soap opera's storyline. He felt he was treated in the 'most appalling' manner. He smiled and made a one-fingered gesture at the BBC lawyers as the judge ruled the BBC had repudiated its September 1989 contract with him - to write 104 storylines at pounds 750 each - by a letter sent in November 1989.

The judge rejected the BBC's claim that Mr Yallop had already repudiated the agreement in a conversation he had with Michael Ferguson, the executive producer of EastEnders, in October.

Mr Yallop, who was given the assignment by Mike Gibbon, Mr Ferguson's predecessor, had told the court he was convinced the BBC had accepted his work. But the show took a different direction and he found himself unwanted when Mr Gibbon resigned and Mr Ferguson took over.

One of his storylines which bit the dust involved an IRA bomb explosion at the Albert Square community centre.

His counsel, Andrew Clarke, said Mr Yallop, who in a 20-year career has also written scripts for ITV's Minder and the book In God's Name, which claims Pope John Paul I was assassinated, was brought in to inject more humour into EastEnders and to cut down the cast.

Mr Yallop, of Hornsey, north London, who sued through his company, Poetic Products, received a pounds 7,500 initial payment, but claimed he was still owed more than pounds 70,000. The award represents that amount, minus a sum deducted for secretarial services. With interest, the award will amount to more than pounds 93,000.

After the judgment, Mr Yallop said: 'Large corporations constantly exploit the individual - in the world of print, in television and in the film industry. Just occasionally, if you stand up and say 'You can't do it all the time' it's a very useful signal to all of them.' He called for an inquiry at a senior level in the BBC to discover why executives involved in his case had been allowed to behave like 'Apaches running wild' for three years.

Mr Yallop said he had had to consider the financial implications for himself and his family at every stage of the case. 'It's been three years. It's very difficult to understand what it has been like unless you have been through it. I'm a reasonable man . . . But I have been confronted with the most obdurate behaviour.' He claimed the BBC had 'blacklisted' him for three years. 'I'm sad because there was a time within my own writing life when people in senior positions of power, to a man and a woman, were men and women of honour. That time is clearly past.'

The BBC said later: 'We are considering the judgment before deciding whether to appeal.'

Speaking before the High Court verdict had been announced, Mr Yallop said: 'There is a total lack of balls at the top of the BBC. They lack the courage to look at the real world.'

He dismissed the current EastEnders. 'It is created by middle-class people with a middle-class view of the working class which is patronising, idealistic and untruthful. It is a dreary show run by dreary people. We live in incredible times, thousands of workers losing their job each week, homeless people on the streets . . . where is that reflected in BBC drama? Where are the Cathy Come Homes of the 1990s?

'What they come up with is Eldorado. It should have been strangled at birth. I would gladly write the BBC some story ideas to get rid of the cast of Eldorado.'