Stewart Purvis' TV Diary

Stewart Purvis' TV Diary

By Stewart Purvis,
Wednesday, 5th April 2023
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Stewart Purvis wonders whether there’s more to Linekergate than meets the eye – and runs into some relations of a woman accused of spying for the Soviet Union.

There’s a weekend call-up for the Dad’s Army of “BBC crisis” pundits. “Linekergate” is the 60th on the Wikipedia list of “BBC controversies”, and Mark Damazer, Richard Ayre, Roger Mosey, Roger Bolton and I are on parade across the nation’s various air-waves untangling “another fine mess”.

The BBC’s football pundits and most of the commentators have walked out over the suspension of Gary Lineker for allegedly breaching the BBC guidelines on tweeting.

As a pundit veteran of bigger crises, such as Hutton/WMD, Savile and Diana/Bashir – plus my regulatory involvement in the Blue Peter cat affair – I confidently predict on Sunday’s BBC Breakfast and Sky News that a formal review will be part of the solution because the guidelines are “a bit of a mess”.

Come Monday morning, I’m up early for BBC Radio services in Wales and Northern Ireland – the nations’ newsrooms don’t like to miss out on reporting about the BBC on the BBC.

When Tim Davie signals his retreat later that day, a review is part of it, but I hadn’t foreseen the full scale of the climbdown. Asking Lineker to “step back” has led to the BBC having to pull back itself. Instead of him apologising, it is the BBC’s DG doing it.

I’m curious why neither Davie’s statement nor Lineker’s includes what Davie says in an interview that, “during the review, Gary will abide by the editorial guidelines”. I wonder if there is another element to this story that we don’t know about.

Tuesday is rehearsal day for the latest spin-off from my retirement project, “the Hampstead Spies”. I have worked out from MI5 files the addresses where a dozen KGB agents lived in London NW3 during the 1930s and 1940s.

I’ve created guided walks, talks and hopefully, eventually, a book. The latest talk is “Jenifer Hart and the Oxford ‘spies’”. I arrive at Burgh House in Hampstead to discover that Mrs Hart’s son and daughter are in the audience.

We have a debate during and after the Q&A about their mother’s role, and part on friendly enough terms.

I am such a fan of good memorial services that, at ITN, I once pitched to Channel 4 for a series about them. I never got a reply. Thursday is my planning day for a memorial event in September for my old boss and mentor, Sir David Nicholas, who died aged 92 last June.

David’s son, James, and daughter, Helen, have invited me to help them create something distinctive to honour the man who developed so much of what is now the everyday in TV news and live special events.

James has some suitably innovative ideas for an event rather than a service. It is going to be a privilege to try to help him deliver them.

Broadcasting colleagues were surprised four years ago when I was appointed a non-executive director of Brentford Football Club. Then, they were in the lower reaches of the Championship, but now they are in the top 10 of the Premier League. “I always thought you were Chelsea,” said Greg Dyke. Like Greg, I had allowed my allegiance to wander (in his case to Manchester United) before returning back to base two miles from where I was born. Now, again like Greg, I’ve finished a stint on the Brentford board but remain a fan.

This Saturday, former ITN colleague Mervyn Hall is my guest and we look out in the Legends Lounge for Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy and 5 News’s political editor, Andy Bell. Add in the fans who Dawn Airey outed in her TV Diary last month and there’s now a whole hive full of “TV bees”.

Stewart Purvis is a former ITN CEO, Ofcom regulator and non-executive director of Channel 4.

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