THATCHER AND ME
n 3 June
1990 Margaret Thatcher, then
Prime Minister, took part in a phone-in for the BBC World Service,
answering questions from phoners-in from all over the world. I was
allocated as the Studio Manager (operating the mixing desk) for this
event. As you can imagine we all took it very seriously - I spent all
morning checking every connection, phone line and microphone, and we
had the full police presence and sniffer dogs routine before she came
in, and so on.
Some years later the producer
wrote in the Guardian newspaper that 'we in the cubicle' could see the
realisation dawning on her that the whole world was listening to her
every word: he concluded that the boost that this gave to her ego
resulted in her leaving the World Service alone at a time when she was
attacking other parts of the BBC. I wouldn't know about that - and I
had my hands full just keeping the programme running smoothly, so I
hardly heard a word she said.
I should explain
that World Service programmes run to a very tight schedule because of
some transmitters joining and leaving as the peak listening hours move
round the planet: transmissions start and finish to the second, and
over-running is impossible. I don't know whether anyone explained this
to her: possibly not. Or possibly they did and she didn't listen.
programme was supposed to finish at 45 seconds to 4 p.m.: five seconds
before this Oliver Scott, the presenter, wrapped up neatly - and then
the wretched woman tried to get the last word ('..and might I just
say...' or something like that). This left me with three seconds to
decide what to do: so I fell back on Engineering training and the rule
book and took her off the air, mid-sentence, at the exact finish time.
in the cubicle looked a bit worried, and she looked a bit thunderous
just for a moment, but it passed over: and to be fair no-one ever
suggested that I should have done something different. (Had I let her
go on some transmitters would have cut her anyway: and there might have
been an automated signature tune crashing over her a few seconds later
for all I knew, so things could have got a lot messier.)
had to write a log, of course ('Prime Minister pot-cut to prevent an
over-run' - standard formula: 'pot-cut' means shutting the fader
rapidly): where it said 'What action should be taken to prevent this
happening again?' I wrote 'General Election'. (I didn't anticipate a
palace revolution - and evidently neither did she).
I may be the only person ever to silence Margaret Thatcher.
Links: The Margaret
Thatcher Foundation have published a transcript of the phone-in (the questions are
summarised but her answers are
Posted by Roger Wilmut June 12th 2006 at 08:25 AM | |
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