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The Fun Factory: A Life in the BBC [Hardcover]

Will Wyatt


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Book Description

16 Jun 2003
A natural and indispensable second in command at the BBC for 35 years, Will Wyatt has none of the public profile or flamboyance of some media household names whose memoirs have appeared in recent years. None the less we should know about him because he had a shaping influence on BBC programmes throughout the 1990s - first as managing director of television and later as chief executive, broadcast. And he played a crucial backroom role in implementing the controversial reforms of that most revolutionary of BBC directors general, John Birt. From night shifts in the radio newsroom to pitching a programme to the Queen, Wyatt gives a frank, insider's account of the way the BBC worked and didn't work, changed and didn't change during his time within the corporation.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (16 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1854109154
  • ISBN-13: 978-1854109156
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.6 x 4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 453,713 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

" Fascinating. The book is a master class in the politics of management and organisational behaviour." -- Financial Times, July 3, 2003

"An absorbing read, rich in anecdotes...and waspish asides about the people who made and starred in (the programmes). -- The Guardian, July 5, 2003

"Glorious and rude anecdotes ...and an overview of the corporation’s attitudes towards sex, religion and freedom of speech." -- The Observer. July 7, 2003

"Judicious, funny, acute, occasionally waspish." -- Television, June 2003

From the Inside Flap

Too often, books by people who have run great institutions give us what has been described as the ‘dignified version’ of their history, frequently leavened with a generous measure of self-regard on the author’s part. Will Wyatt’s account of his thirty-five years at the BBC could not be more different. Whether he is describing an early attempt to blow the whistle to Private Eye – ‘Our garbled account of the likely immolation of radio news made Richard Ingrams’ eyes glaze over’ – or pitching the idea of a royal documentary to the Queen in his capacity as ‘royal liaison officer’ - ‘a kind of White City Herald Extraordinary’ – he is always alert to the comedy inherent in the Corporation’s affairs. Which is not to say that he does not take those affairs seriously: on the contrary, when writing of the BBC’s efforts to defend its independence and public service values, and when making the case for the reforms that he and others implemented under John Birt’s leadership, he does so with persuasive passion and conviction.

Beginning his television career in Presentation Programmes, where he produced Late Night Line Up, Wyatt became, in succession, Head of Documentary Features, Assistant and then Managing Director of Network Television, before retiring as Chief Executive, Broadcast and deputy to the Director General. His book is a first-hand account of the passions and pains, the triumphs and the cock-ups that are inseparable from the process of commissioning and making programmes and of the political battles that engulfed the BBC over, for example, the Real Lives affair. When we get to the 1990s, the struggles at the top and the fears on the ground as Britain’s greatest cultural institution struggled to modernize itself are seen through the eyes of one of the principal players, and, by way of a prologue, there is a frank and detailed description of his efforts to prevent the appointment of Greg Dyke as Director General.

But, above all, The Fun Factory is true to its title, for Wyatt succeeds brilliantly in convincing us that, for all the crises and all the heartache, it was fun. The anecdotes, of negotiating the rights to major sporting events with Sam Chisholm of Sky TV – ‘We’re brainstorming. You’ve got the brain. I’ll do the fucking storming’ - or discussing Janet Street-Porter’s career prospects – ‘[she] came to tell me, in case I didn’t know, "I’m ambitious, Will"’ - are sharp and witty and the portraits of personalities, many of them familiar from our television screens, are perceptive and revealing. This is a vivid picture of one of our most important institutions during a period when it underwent unprecedented change; those who like and admire the BBC will find it both engaging and reassuring, those who question its status or its integrity will find them vigorously defended.


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