Captain Moonlight: Mr and Mrs Birt's final appearance

Click to follow
The Independent Online
BERT, the Captain's man at the BBC, telephones in some excitement. He has it, on excellent authority, that John Birt will be attending the World Cup final today and that Mrs Birt will be with him, all at the BBC's expense. Why, I wonder, can't they watch it on the television like everybody else? So I telephone the BBC press office. After some time, it produces a statement: 'John Birt has been on business in the United States for the past week. It would be surprising if he did not take the opportunity to attend the Final of one of the world's major sporting occasions as the Chief Executive of one of the world's major broadcasting organisations.' And Mrs Birt? The press office goes away again, and returns a little later: 'The information I have for you is yes, his wife is around at the moment. She's American, she's been staying with her family . . . she joined him (Birt) for a dinner which was given by the British Embassy in Washington for the BBC. He (Birt) is beginning a holiday in America at the end of the week.' Mr Birt's trip was being paid for by the BBC, then? 'Yes, it's an official BBC trip.' And Mrs Birt? Will she be at the game? Is the BBC paying for her trip? 'I have no specific details on that.' I report back to Bert, who laughs uproariously and confides that it is also confidently believed Birt is in America to find a new, yet more richly rewarding job, having convinced a gullible media that he saved the BBC. Bert also hopes that Birt can find the stadium. On the day of the franchise renewal, he got lost in Broadcasting House trying to find his way to Radio 5 Live for an interview. This after initially declining a request to speak to 5 Live on the grounds that he was speaking only to 'major news networks'. No wonder he is such a remarkably popular figure at the BBC.