Edge of Darkness

It is a little known fact that BBC Television Centre lies in a suburb of Lagos and not London. The corporation’s grip on the news media has allowed this small detail to pass unnoticed by most of London’s population and rather like the post-war ‘Classic’ comedy, ‘A Passport to Pimlico’, Wood Lane may have a UK postcode but it’s another country, a state within a state, much like the Vatican City.

Outside of news-gathering and production duties, the domain of the Director General, (DG), I’m told, employment concessions are controlled by ‘Da Bibisi’ tribe, also known to BBC employees as the ‘Nigerian Mafia’. These extend to security, drivers, cleaners and a large proportion of the ancillary personnel.

For a lucky few, a career in television started at the airport with the magic word, ‘Asylum’ and a rolled-up copy of The Guardian media page and with a little help from ‘Da Bibisi’, anything is possible in the land of news.

Anyway, having been woken up late last night by the BBC asking if I could do a 6:40 and an 8:10 slot, I duly appeared at the stage door of ‘The Donut’, having negotiated my way through two scowling 'Bibisi' security guards at the gate who didn’t want to let me park my motorcycle, listed guest or no guest.

There was nobody at reception, a kind girl from news radio finally tracked down where BBC Breakfast was being filmed and I followed her up to the News 24 Studio.

At this point, I started to suspect the familiar BBC ‘two step’ trick. This involves booking you for one time and then calling-up and asking if you can do a much earlier slot as well. Two slots. What then happens is that the first slot,, the one you originally agreed upon at a civilised hour, when people are watching, disappears and the hapless guest is left with a sixty second ‘filler’ appearance while the rest of the nation sleeps on a Bank Holiday Monday.

True to form. The studio manager had no record of my 08:10 booking and I dutifully did my little interview along the lines of:

So tell us, why is it called Spam”
“I haven’t got a clue, Spam in a can perhaps”?
“Thank you and now for the rest of the news”.

That was it for this morning and I made my feelings clear to the producer, twice this has happened on BBC Breakfast News and once with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. What annoyed me was the hundred mile drive back to London to do the interview on the condition that it was at 8:10 and worth the effort of breaking-up my holiday weekend.

Once bitten, twice shy, says the proverb but when the BBC calls, we all jump to attention. It’s a vanity problem I’m afraid and they know it.


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