Simon Bucks’ TV diary

Simon Bucks’ TV diary

Monday, 6th January 2020
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Simon Bucks’ pre-Christmas preparations are reprioritised by the London Bridge attack and attending a funeral for a TV news luminary.

When the editor of Television calls, my phone is bag-wrapped to prevent photography. I am at a sec­ret charity dinner, supporting a military unit that I can’t name, at a location I can’t divulge. Social media is out.

The high-octane auctioneer Jonny Gould, who presented sport for me at London Tonight, alternately flatters the audience and abuses them (“Shut up in the cheap seats, with your clip-on ties and Casio watches”).

The high-rollers spend astronomically. I stay statue-still rather than risk accidentally bidding 50 grand to be a commando for a day. Gould is nicely self-deprecating.

His son alleges that he appears “on TV shows no one watches at times no one is awake on channels no one has heard of”.

Untrue, but funny.

It’s Christmas party time, but at RTS HQ Jo Sampson and Jamie O’Neill are flat out, sorting the RTS Television Journalism Awards entries.

I am delighted that our new Digital Award has got good traction. It’s for video journalism made primarily for internet-connected outlets, including YouTube and social media – an overdue innovation.

Days before the deadline, there’s a big story – the London Bridge stabbings – and an extension is requested.

I know from experience that awards entries soak up resources. Without hesitation, I agree.

Jurors get the opportunity to review the absolute best of the year’s video journalism. We will all be goggle-eyed over the holidays. By the time you read this, the judging will be well under way.

'Journalism, he says, is becoming an “adjunct of marketing, governed by algorithms”'

BFBS straddles two disparate worlds of media and military with Trustees from both. The luvvies, David Moody (BBC), Darren Long (Sky), Mark Browning (Zinc) and Vanella Jackson (Omnicom) provide hugely valuable industry knowledge and advice.

At the lunch after the Christmas Board meeting the two groups mingle, each curious and, I suspect, a little envious of the other. Moody knows both – he was a “military brat” and BFBS was his constant companion as his family travelled the world.  

The armed forces do carol services especially well. BFBS sponsors the brilliant choir at the ABF Soldiers’ Charity service at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Again, my two worlds collide.

The pipers of the London Scottish Regiment come courtesy of Major General Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, better known in TV circles as Sky News’s ceremonial and constitutional commentator, as well as the historical advisor on Downton Abbey and many other productions.

At a chilly St Martin-in-the-Fields, it’s the Admiralty service of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines ­Charity. After the carols, we belt out For Those in Peril on the Sea before charging down to the crypt for restorative refreshments.

Ten days later, I am back at the same church for a sadder occasion: the funeral of Richard Lindley, the distinguished TV foreign correspondent – at ITN and later Panorama. The order of service includes a photo of a young, dashing Lindley in the uniform of the Royal Hampshire Regiment, another military/media crossover. The overwhelming theme is Richard’s devotion to truth in journalism, which, Roger Bolton says, he stuck by regardless of the cost to him personally.

There are a few laughs. Michael Palin describes Richard as a good neighbour in north London: “We thought he was quite a catch when he moved in, especially as Lynsey de Paul had recently left.”

The vicar’s sermon text is “The truth will set you free” (John 8) but, he argues, real journalists who believe it, such as Richard, are increasingly rare. Journalism, he says, is becoming an “adjunct of marketing, governed by algorithms”. Some of us disagree, sotto voce.

Richard’s widow, Carole Stone, speaks immensely movingly of their mutual love. Her Christmas parties were legendary; media luminaries, tycoons and politicians vied for an invitation, so, unsurprisingly, the wake is packed to the gunnels.

Simon Bucks is CEO of BFBS and SSVC, and Chair of the RTS Television Journalism Awards.