The Brownlegg Files: June 2002 

1 June 2002

There are around half-a-dozen offices on the top floor, with a betting shop at street level and “Tarts with Hearts” nightclub in the basement.

Let me take you through the smoked glass door, and walk past the receptionist as she says, “If y’want ‘im, his nibs is in a meeting. Wanna cuppa tea and a finger biscuit?” We politely decline and make our way towards the lift. It’s just been refurbished, with gold mirrors and carpets on the wall – in fact, the Man Himself told me it looks like the reception area in a high-class brothel. Apart from admiring his innate sense of taste, I found myself wondering: how did he know?

The uniformed lift operator, dressed like a character from a Firbankian farce, in his fine frockcoat, tri-cornered hat, high buckled shoes and knickerbockers places a gold key in a hidden slot, and with a cry of “oops, hope you didn’t lose your bottle” we are whisked to the very top of the building in a trice, which was quicker than using the elevator.

Brownlegg Media Group - London, New York, Bracknell

Brownlegg Media Group – proud owners of the town of Brownlegg (formerly Bracknell)

There are twin doors leading to the suite of offices, the handles of which are shaped like Adastrals – the symbol of Associated-Radiation Digital. I thought it rather peculiar that almost all of the staff have bandaged hands.

All of the office suites are hives of activity. Since the acquisition of ITV Digital in a coup d’etat that sent the Gnomes of Zurich into an ever-increasing spin (it was stolen from a wheelie bin in a caravan park), there are signs that the new Brownlegg venture is a runaway success.

It’s at this point, as I approach one of the outer office staff for further directions, that Captain T. Brownlegg RN (Retd) bursts out of his office and squares up to me in a rather menacing way. “You’re early, boy…too early. The Devil makes work for idle hands doesn’t he, boy? What about filing? Film editing? Vision mixing?” He reaches a crescendo within ten seconds: “If I take you on, remember that I OWN you, boy! Do not think what A-R can do for you, but rather what you can do for A-R, and everyone can do something!” I stammer, in reply, “B-B-But I only wanted an interview, s-sir” and he fixes me with a look of mixed feelings: hate and loathing.

Owing to an industrial dispute, we were unable to bring you the preceding programme

Industrial disputes are rife at Brownegg Communications, due to the staff not giving a damn.

His personal assistant bounces out of her office at this and says, “Tommy, love, Lord Dull of Ditchwater’s coming in at three bells and anchor’s aweigh, and I really think that you need to put that chap back on the floor.” She smiles sweetly and I feel a response coming on, and hope that the Captain doesn’t notice. “Would you like me to show him around our offices?” He grunts something like a reply, and walks away, and I’m left in the company of Miss Gloria Gaumont, his PA and secretary.

Let me describe Gloria for you. She’s 5’8″, 44-28-36, and possesses not only a desire to better herself, but to give of herself. Over a glass of lemon tea in her office-cum-playroom, decorated in shocking pink and blue, I took a look at what true success has brought to this shy, retiring individual.

While her Persian Blue cat “Cassiopeia Spandau Ballet” rolled around in her pink linen basket in the sunlight, we talked about the various projects that she’s working on for A-R. “Tommy asked me to present some of our hard-hitting documentaries, and I did one called ‘Step Into Something’ where I examine the types of doggy-do’s left on pavements. There’s ever so many, and the biggest ones aren’t always from the biggest dogs. Quiz shows are always needed, and I’m doing a cross between “Mr and Mrs” and “Jerry Springboard” where if the couple get the questions wrong about each other, they get divorced”. “And what do they win?” I asked. “Well, they get off with me for a start”.

But is controversy enough to win those television audiences? “Yeah, I think you’ve got to shock them viewers, otherwise they won’t have those water-closet moments, or whatever they calls ’em”. What happened to your film career, I asked. Gloria looked a little sad. “Well, I was getting the biggest parts, but not always in films. The last audition I went to, I was told that I had to strip off”. But you’ve done that before, I said.

“Yeah, but this time it was for ‘Here Come the Double Deckers’. I’d been very active in the porn world, but something snapped”. Jean called in from next door at this point, clapped her hands and said, “Hey Gloria, before we collect the money for His Nibs game of Blotto, just got to tell you that this month’s word is ‘portion’,” and Gloria replied, “Blimey, the last time I heard that I smelt burning Axminster”. Jean just smiled and went back to her tree house-cum-office, secure that in that moment, that she had enlightened one and all. “Silly cow”, said Gloria.

Next door is the Design department, where the smell of Mantunna tea mixes with the stale smell of sweat and Multi-Purpose Grease H. Augustus Brownlegg-Fearn BA (OU, Hatfield Borstal) greets me with a firm, bone-crushing handshake, and I find myself counting my fingers afterwards. I was fascinated by the Adastral tattoo on his left arm with the inscription “AR for ever”, and the tattoo of the station clock on the wrist of his right hand, complete with working hands. “Had that done by Mitch The Merciless when ‘e was on his five-stretch after doin’ the jewellers”, he says, “8 jewel movement, that is”.

This ident has been censored for obvious reasons

Watching All Nude Kinfolk channel ident

Augustus, or “Gus” for short, has an office decorated in scrim net and graffiti. On the carpet. His idents are all over the place, nailed to the wall, the desk and someone’s back. “TOPS” idents change almost weekly, and “Watching All Nude Kinfolk’s” idents have become more celebrated than the programmes, carrying an 18 certificate.

Independent Television for Fools and Idiots

ITV Digital’s educational remit lives on at A-R Digital, and Gus believes that their programmes especially for strange people work especially well. “I worked dead hard on the logos, y’know”, he said, fingering the spider tattoo on his neck, “but the audience never saw them – they were facing the wrong way”. What of the brief caption writers’ strike? “Well, the PC was behind a picket line, and me drawin’ board had three strikers around it, so I wrote me captions sittin’ on the bog, and sent them in by carrier pigeon”. Did it work? “Well, I got some through, but the pigeons got branded as scabs. Their union came out in sympathy and went all over me car in revenge”.

Owing to industrial action by the Captions, Legends and Plaques Union (CLAP) we are unable to bring you the advertised caption

Loss of programme captions always need to worded carefully, and Gus believes that the viewer must be kept posted. “The last time we lost the signal, it was because the bit of wet string got blown away”, he recalls, “we had to tell ’em”. What if you hadn’t told the viewer? “He’d come down with his Dad and beat me up”.

I am then ushered, after a brief coffee break (one eyedropper full, and pass it around) into the presence of John Spencer-Wells, the General Manager of Brownlegg Media Group and polyglot – he can play three musical instruments, all badly – and he also writes and presents for A-R Digital. His office is decorated in 1970’s colours (orange, tan, corduroy wallpaper) and there are many signed photos on the walls, all of Daniel Farqharson. “He’s the only famous person I’ve ever met”, says Spencer-Wells, a tall nervous man with a long chain on his arm, attached to the desk. There are many objects around, and he loves to collect things. John took a delight in showing me coloured beads, a packet of soap powder, a paving slab, a battery and a cola can. So you collect beads, then, I asked. “Well, no”, he replied. Or cola cans? “No, not them.” What do you collect then? “I told you, I collect…things”, he says finally, relieving me of my keys, pen, watch and shoes. I asked, they call stamp collectors philatelists, and coin collectors numismatists; what do they call your type of collecting, John? “Kleptomania”, he said darkly.

After parting with ten pounds (it was twenty, but I stole ten quid back), I got all of my possessions back, and continued the interview. How did you come to be involved with Brownlegg, I asked. John was hesitant at first, but finally told me that it was either National Service or work with Brownlegg – and then he wished he signed up.

“But he’s been good to me you know. I remember the time I came to work without my shoes, and he let me walk on my hands all day, and he likes me to be at his right hand in case there isn’t an ashtray handy”.

The Bogey Man campaign for “TOPS” channel was extremely successful for Associated-Radiation Digital, and was all John’s idea. “I was inspired to invent a character to scare the youth of this country into good behaviour traits, so to have a Bogey Man appear whenever necessary was essential. I’m not sure who he was based on, actually.

“The streets are now safer than they used to be, and complaints about noise are down, all you see on the street is tumbleweed”. That’s wonderful news, surely? “Well, no. The residents complain about the tumbleweed now, sitting on the wall swearing and drinking cider, so I’m going to try a test run of Wicker Bogey Man to see if that helps”.

CBoobies from the Brownlegg Bullfighting Channel

Any new ideas in the pipeline? “Yes, Gloria’s channel, CBoobies, is going interactive, and will become two new channels, to complement each other in terms of programming”. How will it work? “CBoobies 1 will feature the top half, and CBoobies 2 the lower half”, he replied. Would John ever leave? “No, I hold a position of responsibility here. As well as my A-R duties, I have to give out milk at the morning break and sweep the floor. It is a full life”.

John takes me into the studio foyer to show me the results of the Save Carlton Appeal. “A-R has always been willing to help out the weak and needy, and they are no exception, but it’s early days yet”. But, the appeal’s been going six months! “I told you”, John said, with a hint of a sneer, “it’s early days yet”.

The Save Carlton Appeal - hand over your cash or television will get better

Donate here – you won’t get better

Save Carlton Communications from financial problems by clicking here!

Total money raised so far…


towards our goal of £250million

The squawk box emits a high-pitched squea1, and that’s Gloria’s signal to us both that HE is ready to receive us.

The Captain occupies the entire mezzanine floor, a vast art-deco area with mirrored ceilings, floors and desk. It is impressive, but serves a purpose; you cannot hide from him, and he won’t let you. His desk is neat, tidy and occupies the corner, and he sits behind it, mandarin-like, barking orders through the squawk box to one of the many minions in the outer offices, and punishments when things aren’t done. After a stiff pep talk, security search, and a lie detector test to prove I wasn’t a tabloid journalist, he began to tell me the story of A-R Digital.

“It was a dream, Brownlegg’s Folly they called it. I wanted to take Associated-Radiation up a few notches on the media ladder. I realised that there are no men of vision left in the world of television – that’s why all these new companies last three weeks and fold, and I wanted this organisation to be a major player at any cost”. But surely there are still men of vision in TV? “There were, but they all gave up and joined Crapton. Wage slaves, the lot of ’em. Lew, Howard, Cecil, Sidney… they were all fierce and creative forces.” What do you think they would do if they were still around, I asked. “Probably form a boy band – there’s more money in it. And they’ve got the right names for it”.

What problems have you experienced since taking over ITV Digital? “Well”, he said, sipping from his Chivas Regal (he offered me Thirsty-Pak Cola), “The boxes had to be reclaimed from jumble sales and landfill sites so they could be adapted for our unique cabling system. That bit of wet string needed a new braid for screening, and now we use washing lines. Also, Frogsleeper Aerials, our subsidiary, needed them all back so they could install A-R Digital in all the ITV Digital homes”. Any new channels added? “Well, the customer gets all the Brownlegg Bullfighting Channels, kid’s channel TOPS (Time to Obey Parents Silently), Watching All Nude Kinfolk, CBoobies, Weird, and we hope that we can get the new sports channels on line when we negotiate with Melverley Road Primary School for their Sports Day coverage”.

Phone company H2SO4 sponsors Brownlegg

Now that Brownlegg Media Group is a reality, any plans for expansion? “Muriel, my personal assistant’s personal assistant, will be developing more youth channels, and I would like to get into mobile telecommunications”. Any progress? “Spencer-Wells took our first mobile phone out the other day, and it stopped working when the lead came out of the wall of his house, as he was driving at the time. But our company, H2SO4, will be providing not only a service with text, WAP and all of that oomska, it will also feature a medium setting so users can contact the dead”.

The squawk box goes “blurp!” and a crowd has gathered around the entrance of Gloria’s office, to watch her and Muriel having a catfight and exchanging challenging words, ostensibly over their boss. “He’s mine, you…!”, “No, I was ‘ere first!”, “Gerrout!” etc. I said to the Captain, aren’t you going to intervene? “No”, he said, “I’m flattered, for one thing, and for another, I’m getting Spencer-Wells to get a crew up here so we can put it out live on BBC-1”.

That’s the Captain – a truly creative man, in a business that needs him.

The city: London.

The time: the same as it is everywhere else, obviously.

The place: the headquarters of the newly formed broadcasting conglomerate Brownlegg Media Group.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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