Private Eye’s take on the 1979 ITV strike 

25 October 2018

Reginald Bosanquet says: “We regret that, owing to an industrial dishpute involving members of ANUS (The Amalgamated Union of Satirists), BUM (Bubble-makers Union Membership), CRAP (Cover Researchers Artists And Photographers) and PISS (Private Eye Satirists Staff), we are unable to provide readers with the normal bubble caption photo cover. We regret any inconvenience to our readers. Normal covers will be resumed after the break.


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Euphoria among short-sighted moguls at the Beeb over the blank screens of ITV is likely to be as short-lived as the silly season, unless Thames Television, the fat cat among the 16 commercial companies, decides against all the odds to “do a Times” on Alan Sapper of ACTT and brazen it out.

At their headquarters in Brompton Road, directors of the IBA are said to be nursing the hope that such a confrontation may yet come, if only to justify Thames’s retention of its highly lucrative concession. Of all the commercial companies, only Thames with its estimated £10 million profit (after tax) is capable of standing up against the absurd and uneconomic over-manning practices endemic in the place and on the network since the birth of ITV. The Thames fleet of specially-equipped cars and converted taxis in which, as a workaday rule, seven or even eight technicians sally forth at leisure to cover a necessarily limited number of often excruciatingly trivial happenings for programmes like Thames At Six goes far towards explaining why so few filmed news reports can be seen on that channel; why most reporters are underworked and frustrated; and perhaps why (in a similar context) the ambitious “Ginger” Cowgill wanted recently to “take on” rule-bound editors in industrial dispute for the sake of honest working.

On that occasion, Cowgill’s fellow directors overruled him, not least perhaps because the hard-pressed EMI interest preferred assured profits to a possibly protracted struggle for a reasonable settlement. If, as is not improbable, EMI stick boldly to their pop-guns again and Sapper is given his three pounds of rich, red meat, the victims will be the viewing public,

ITV employees who want a fair return for a fair day’s work, the few IBA directors who genuinely believe in programme standards, and the impoverished Beeb, which will be faced shortly with its own union demands for bridging the differentials’ gap.

Small wonder that unkind cynics inside Thames Television occasionally recite this conundrum: “What’s the difference between EMI and the Titanic? Well, the Titanic had a good band.”

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