Birt on class, the media and daft memos

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The Independent Online
A leaked memo from the BBC has come into my hands, which is so private and personal that I have no choice but to make it public. It is a memo from John Birt himself, and I suppose that you might call it a discussion document, except that it is sent by John Birt to himself.

This would suggest one of several things: that John Birt is very fearful of finding his memos leaked, that he does not share his thoughts with anyone else much these days, or that he cannot believe anything he says until he writes it down.

However, I leave you to make up your own mind. Here it is.

From John Birt

to John Birt

Just a few ideas I've been kicking around recently, which I thought I might like me to mull over.

1. People get very cross when I suggest that radio and TV are similar animals. Of course there are a few differences, but the similarities are much greater. Both are supply systems for programmes. Their methods of supply vary slightly, that is all. Basically, all media are the same deep down, from books to CDs. A Jane Austen novel can be turned into TV, radio, or audiotape, but it is still recognisably the same old book. As we all know, radio ideas are constantly being turned into TV hits. So why do they keep saying they are different animals? People are so blind!

2. Here's a good example. Pick of the Week on Radio 4 always has lots of good radio extracts on it, but it also has excerpts from TV. See what I mean?

3. John Major promised us a classless society. I wish he had produced it, because it would make my job so much easier, especially with radio! Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 are basically just further examples of the British class system. Proletariat and unemployed in Radio 1, lower middle class in Radio 2, upper middle in Radio 4 and hardly anyone at all except a few academics and unemployed graduates in Radio 3. Nobody else has to cater for the British class system by putting out different services! You don't find commercial radio doing it.

4. Must get someone to drop John Major a memo, asking him how the classless society is getting on.

5. Must have informal lunch with Tony Blair, just in case. Put my side of things.

6. Must stop using phrases like "my side of things". This suggests that there is another side of things. The success of the Birtian revolution has been its unanimity. I am unanimous about it. Nobody else counts. I have been inspired in this by the French way of doing things. People in Britain think that the French wave their hands about a lot and get nothing done. It is the exact opposite. They issue a plan and execute it ruthlessly. No consultation, no public inquiries. That is how they had a nuclear industry up and running, and TGVs, and the Eurostar line from Calais to Paris. What have we got in Kent? Nothing, except a pile of scaffolding called Ashford International!

7. I seem to be straying from the point, don't I?

8. Yes, I do.

9. Must stop talking to myself like this. You know what they say.

10. No, what do they say?

11. First sign of madness.

12. That's a bit politically incorrect, isn't it, talking about madness? Yes, it is. Sorry about that.

13. Anyway, much safer talking to yourself. And the point is that if you have a plan and push it through, things do get done. Look at French nuclear testing. Set off bombs in the Pacific. Enormous protest. Tahiti burnt down. But the testing went on, and now there is no protesting because everyone has moved on to the next cause. French very clever. Knew people would forget.

14. Like they forgot about my tax arrangements.

15. Like they will forget about my new plans for change.

16. Haven't fired anyone this week. Might sack that executive of mine who was on Today the other day, defending my plans to "maintain and enhance" the World Service. He used the phrase so often even I thought he was lying. Then, when he said that John Birt was trying to prepare the BBC "for the 20th century", I almost suspected he was taking the mickey. If my staff can't tell the difference between this century and the next ...

22. Been nice talking to me. We must talk again soon.