Tag Archives: P T Barnum

An anti-Semitic and possibly sexist story – unless it’s true, in which case it’s just very quirky

When I was working at Granada TV in Manchester in the 1980s, there was a story I was told by more than one person which was supposedly true, though who knows if it was?

It could well have been true.

Relevant to this story is the fact that the owner/boss at Granada was Sidney Bernstein, who was Jewish and who, though very liberal in his political and social outlook, could also sometimes be slightly strait-laced morally.

Granada, like all TV companies, had people working through the night in various parts of the building, doing all sorts of things. ‘Mr Sidney’ had an apartment on the roof of the Granada building in Manchester and it was not unknown for him to wander round the office building at night in his slippers.

But, on the night in question, it was a security man who was wandering amiably about the building, making sure that everything which should be locked was locked and that everything was generally safe and secure.

This particular night, in one office, the security man found a couple having sex over a desk.

He was duty bound to report it, which he did the following morning.

Discussions were had about what to do because, clearly, this was not behaviour to be encouraged; for one thing, the couple should have been working, not making the beast with two backs.

But what to do about it?

The decision went all the way up to Sidney Bernstein – literally “up”, as he lived on the roof.

“Sack the man!” Sidney said. “We can’t have this sort of thing going on!”

However, it was then explained to him that the man was a key member of staff in a very complicated on-going production and he could not easily be replaced. If he were sacked, it would stall the production process and it would cost a fortune.

“So, if we can’t sack him, sack the girl!” Sidney countered.

But it was pointed out to him that this might be seen as sexist.

“Well, sell the desk!” said Sidney.

And they did.

Granada sold the desk.

At a profit.

It was told to me as true by more than one person.

You’re right.

It can’t be true, can it?

Sometimes I’m just too innocent for my own good.

In the early years of Granada TV, every office had one – and only one – picture on the wall. It was of P.T.Barnum, to remind everyone employed by the company that – even if they were working on a serious programme – they were in showbusiness.

That is true.

Granada nourished myths.

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POSTSCRIPT

Blog reader Mike Taylor tells me:

“I’ve often heard a similar story about Lord Reith at the BBC, however in that story it was a high profile presenter they couldn’t sack. In this story though Lord Reith had the desk burnt.”

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Filed under Racism, Sex, Television