The true cost 

8 October 2003

Croner news release

“Some day a sympathetic writer will have to analyse the effect of mergers – and there are hundreds of them – and the impact they have upon the people concerned” – Howard Thomas, With An Independent Air (1977, ISBN 0 297 77278 3).

ABC/Thames’s head Howard Thomas was talking about the sudden death of Sir Phillip Warter, who lost his job when EMI bought ABPC in 1969. He was also alluding to Robert Clark, another ABPC board member, who was effectively broken by the ‘merger’ of the two media giants.

Any autobiography will remember only the big players around the board table; and modern capitalism insists we care about their fate alone. The individual workers will find, or fail to find, employment elsewhere, and worry about putting food on the table.

The bigwigs will get a golden handshake and worry about that 4th BMW they ordered. Who you feel sorry for is now a given: the BMW driver, not the guy suddenly on Jobseeker’s Allowance.

So the newspapers – even the ‘right on’ ones like the Grauniad – worry in the leader columns about the poor, poor executives who might be down to their last million, forced to choose between 4 months in Barbados and 4 months in the south of France because of “job insecurity”.

This makes me sick.

The people who make television – and made television great – are generally not the rich executives.

The people who make anything – and thus any company great as a by-product – are the first ones to be sacrificed and the last ones to be remembered.

I don’t care if Granada make all of the senior management of Carlton redundant tomorrow. The world won’t end for any of them (though they may be vexed for a few minutes).

But, despite Carlton’s woefully poor manning levels (reflected in its woefully poor output), a single job lost amongst the real workers of the company is a single job too many.

The workers of ITV deserve better – and I hope that BECTU and the other unions still have enough muscle to prove it.

I may sound suddenly very “Old Labour”, but it’s a truism: the working man deserves better. Or certainly better than this merger seems likely to offer him.

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