Monday, March 29, 2010

A Good Week

All in all, it’s been a pretty good week. On Monday the controller of a TV network told me he liked one of our programme ideas so much he wanted to commission a series; then on Thursday the government announced that our consortium (led by Trinity Mirror, the owners of The Newcastle Chronicle & Journal, the Press Association and Bob Geldof’s company Ten Alps) had won the contest to make the government-funded pilot for a new regional news service. Either project could help reshape our regional media landscape.

I’m sure this double helping of good news brought out the sun, which has been shining over our house ever since. I’ve remembered to put all the clocks forward, and finally the first wild daffodils are flowering in our wood. What could be finer? Well, Newcastle United convincingly beating Nottingham Forest tonight would be a bonus. And Izzy saying her first word: that would really cap it all.

They say that good things happen in threes, and I really thought that Izzy had provided the icing on the cake yesterday when I could have sworn I heard her say “cat”. But no, it was just part of her ongoing burble, for she immediately called her building blocks “cat” as well. I think she’s doing this on purpose: keeping us in suspense and ignoring our endless attempts to make her rehearse Dada, Duck, Doggie and Do Say Anything, as if to demonstrate who’s really in control in our family. She’s probably quite fluent in human speak, but just waiting for the right moment to reveal it. Izzy also refuses to walk, except when we’re not looking. Turn your back and she’s climbing the stairs – not on her knees, but walking straight backed, like a grownup. Hold your hand out to help her and she’s back on her bum in an instant. Jo says she takes after me: the stubbornness, that is. And my extraordinary ability not to be able to hear her whenever she talks to me.

It’s certainly nice to be part of a winning team for once, and I’m delighted it includes the Newcastle Journal and Chronicle. The last time we tried to win anything together was back in 1998 when we formed a consortium to bid for an FM radio licence. We wanted a new kind of youth music station – to be called Ice FM – and our plan was to locate it on board the Tuxedo Princess, moored under the Tyne Bridge. Five thousand people signed a petition to support the bid, including Tony Blair. Our station manager was the radio industry guru Gordon McNamee, who created Kiss FM. We thought we couldn’t lose.

But in those days radio licences were awarded by a secret process without open criteria or transparency. Internal politics won the day and the licence inexplicably went to a London-based group, Galaxy FM. It was a bitter blow. If I were honest, my primary motive for winning then was that I’d have an excuse to return to my childhood home. Now I’m firmly back where I belong, I’m delighted that I might have a chance to be part of a team creating something really special for the region.

If it’s allowed to go ahead, that is. There’s many a slip, as they say, and with the Conservative Party maintaining that they want to scrap the whole regional news pilot idea, who knows what Summer might bring. Even Spring doesn’t seem quite sure of herself, with more wintry weather threatening to cloud us out next week.

At least we can look to Newcastle United to keep up the warm glow. Except that our team does have an uncanny knack of letting us down at the last moment. Now, just a few victories away from promotion and the gratitude of an entire city, even they can’t blow this one, can they?

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