PROFILE: David Dimbleby

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In the world of news and current affairs, past and present, there has always been one man who presides over national events – jubilees, funerals, weddings, general elections and so on. That man is David Dimbleby.

Born in 1938, Dimbleby was born into a family of journalists and broadcasters. His father, Richard, was one of the most recognisable figures in the broadcasting industry. Today, David, and brother, Jonathan, remain at the centre of national events.

David joined the BBC as a news reporter in Bristol during the 1960’s. Some of the programmes and films that he was a part of became the heart of intense debate between the BBC and the political parties, in particular the Labour Party, during a documentary which is claimed to have ridiculed the opposition. He later became the presenter of Panorama – one of the BBC’s longest running programmes, using the best investigative journalism to uncover truth and investigations into many a topic, including governments, economies, war crisis’ and famine on a global scale. David’s father had previously presented the programme.

Since 1979, David Dimbleby has been the face of one the most exciting nights in broadcasting – Election Night. The long running, overnight coverage, often broadcasting well into the following day has been presented by Dimbleby successfully over the past seven General Elections. His knowledge, passion and interest certainly comes across in his stark interviews with political leaders and journalists bringing the results. Dimbleby has lived through many previous elections and governments and uses his own experiences of leaders and parties gone by to provide a very personal yet professional approach in the huge 12+ hour broadcast.

David Dimbleby stands over the BBC's Election Night studio.

David Dimbleby stands over the BBC’s Election Night studio.

As well as the famous Election Night coverage, David Dimbleby is also known as a national broadcaster, presenting and commentating on national events. In the past these have included The Trooping the Colour, State Opening of Parliament, Funerals of Princess Diana and The Queen Mother and anchoring the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002. He will return in providing coverage of the funeral of Baroness Thatcher on Wednesday 17th April 2013. His knowledge of royalty, governments and the changes society has undergone makes him the ideal choice for covering the events which bring viewers to a collective halt and broadcasting to the millions of viewers in the UK and accross the globe.

Today, he is best known for his role as the anchor, presenter and chairman of the BBC’s flagship debate programme, Question Time. He has been in this role since 1994 and 19 years on, his command is still apparent on the panel and feared by many politicians. Dimbleby’s nature as a political broadcaster and as a man of outstanding knowledge allows him to question the politicians, often using evidence to contradict what a member of the panel has said. David describes himself as the “chairman” and often reminds the panel that he is in charge. He presents himself as supportive to the audience who ask the question through his further interrogation. One thing which is admirable in this role is the balance that Dimbleby provides. His attitude of respecting the speaker in turn for respect of him is what makes the show flow so well. “Dimblebot”, as he is known to many fans on Twitter, allows the speaker to have their say and prevent other panel members from interrupting or breaking the ‘house rules’. It is Dimbleby’s comradeship which has made Question Time one of the most watched and recognisable political programmes on television.

Bouncing off his extraordinary relationship with British politics, he hosted the BBC’s first ever live Election TV Debate in 2010 where the three main party leaders stood shoulder to shoulder in persuading the public why they should vote for them. It was an exciting month on the election campaign, and as chief anchor, Dimbleby once again proved why he is one of the most recognisable and respectable faces in British Broadcasting.

David Dimbleby has been at the centre of historic events for over fifty years. His intellect, knowledge and passion for journalism and broadcasting is what comes across most in his respectable and professional presentation. In recent years, there has been a shunt of Dimbleby, in particular The Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. David, however, will remain at the heart of future political events, general elections and hopefully the national events that follow in the future.

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Osborne’s disabled space embarrassment

The Evidence: The Daily Mirror image which shows the Chancellor's embarrassment.

The Evidence: The Daily Mirror image which shows the Chancellor’s embarrassment.

Could George Osborne be one of the most embarrassing Chancellors to have served the UK? Well it is quite possible. After fiascos including the ‘train snobbery’ and the booing by 80,000 sports fans during last years Paralympic games, today it can be revealed that Mr Osborne’s privatley driven car was seen parked in a disabled car space. Flouting the rules.

The pictures were taken on the M4 Motorway were the Chancellor was seen entering a service station for a McDonald’s meal. Onlookers have described how the car park was not full and the £50,000 taxpayer owned Range Rover was in no hurry to move. Charities have criticised Mr Osborne for the incident.

After announcing huge cuts to the welfare system, including millions of pounds worth of disability benefit, the Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, Richard Hawkes said: “Many are already struggling to make ends meet, yet the Chancellor’s response has been to cut vital financial support and squeeze local care budgets. They will see this as rubbing salt in their wounds.”

In the defence of Chancellor, a Tory spokesperson has insisted that he went into the service station unknowingly that the car was to park in the disabled space and that it would stay there. It remains unknown if the senior Tory cabinet minister condemned the driver of the Range Rover.

It’s not the first time Mr Osborne has been publicly ridiculed. Last year, he was forced to cough up £160 after sitting in a first class seat on a train with a second class ticket. After initially refusing, the story unfolded thanks to ITV Reporter Rachel Townsend who was on the same train. At the Paralympics he was booed by an 80,000 strong crowd at the London 2012 stadium, after huge cuts and little sign of an economic recovery.

In further bad news for Chancellor Osborne, workers inside the service station have told news agencies that they did not recognise the Minister – instead they thought it was his Labour Party shadow, Ed Balls. So another embarrassment for the Chancellor and for the government. What will be next? It’s like waiting for a car space.

Have we seen the best of Top Gear ?

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Top Gear line up: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

Top Gear line up: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

I will always openly admit that my favourite programme on television is Top Gear. The mix of laughter, cars and genuine passion and interest for what the three presenters do is what appeals to me most. Hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, “New Top Gear”, as they call it, began in October 2002. Ten years on, Top Gear remains the most watched car programme in the world with over 300 million viewers and remains one of the, if not the, most successful and most watched show on British television. But in recent years, the numbers of shows per series has decreased dramatically, and the content of the show has moved away from the original ethos of Top Gear. So have we really seen the best of Top Gear?

When considering what to write in this blog, I originally thought it would be a simple answer of yes, however, the latest series of the programme, broadcast in early 2013, has shown how the quality of the show remains one of the highest on British TV. Stunning camera shots, specialist filming of high performance vehicles and interesting yet quirky items have seen Top Gear deliver highly on their changed priorities – more expensive and powerful cars are reviewed over ‘sensible’ cars for the average motorist.

The early editions of the new format of Top Gear did reflect some of the content of the old format. Informative and factual reviews of cars such as the Citreon Berlingo and Land Rover Discovery made the car reviews, whilst the new interests of the modern viewer wanted excitement and power. This came in the form of more focus on power cars such as the Lamborghini Murcielago and Pagani Zonda. The new format is studio based, unlike the previous, and features new additions such as lap times with The Stig, and a new interview feature – A Star in a Reasonably Priced Car. These segments revived Top Gear from what was a struggling motoring programme into a show that boasts immense commercial success.

It was around series 4 when Top Gear moved to film new and exciting challenges such as the legendary Aston Martin versus a train to Monte Carlo and the cars playing football – a feature which still recurs today. In the latest series’ of Top Gear, there has been a shift from the review of sensible, everyday cars, to longer films about supercars and the challenges the presenters face from the producers. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I always defend the programme when people claim ‘they don’t do normal cars’. That’s not because they’re not interested in them. The audience has changed. Younger viewers want excitement and high-octane thrills. An insight into the power of a Ferrari is likely to be preferred over reviews of a bog standard Vauxhall.

In 2007, Top Gear moved into another new era, as some of the one hour programmes became dedicated to one single challenge. These often consist of buying a certain type of car for less than a given budget and then driving them through rough terrain, encountering a number of difficulties. The rapport of the presenters, the character of the cars chosen and the obscene challenges faced are what have and continue to bring in the millions of viewers who tune in on a Sunday night.

I can’t, however, feel comfortable that Top Gear will go from strength to strength. The legendary films that Top Gear has produced – the trip to the North Pole, the American special and Bugatti Veyron race across Europe are items that viewers will not forget and that brings a very high standard to future productions. It’s simple – some but not all of the films following such stand out years for Top Gear have not been matched.

At points, there is some question about the spontaneity of events. The caravan holiday antics where a tourer was set on fire, for instance, was set up, yet was presented very realistically. The idea of some features purposely being scripted for laughs seems rather disappointing to any viewer, especially when the show was so spontaneous in earlier editions.

It must be commended that the show does have a proven track record of success. No other programme has ever been as commercially successful as Top Gear and probably no other programme will be. The recent 19th series of the programme finished alongside two “Best of Top Gears” – a regular look back the highlights at the end of the series. The stand out feature from this series was the quality of the films. Yes, Top Gear might not film as many reports as previous series’ but the quality of what is produced is above and beyond an ordinary motoring programme. The two-part special featuring the presenters travelling to find the source of the River Nile was possibly the greatest Top Gear adventure yet. The trip felt fresh, alive and exciting. The presenters were genuinely passionate about their quest to find what they had been challenged with. And with the usual combination of bickering, bantering and boyishness, the show was a ratings success for the BBC.

Some of the ideas have felt a little strained, almost as if Top Gear executives are running out of ideas. However, if Top Gear are going to do less shows per year, the overall quality of series 19 would be welcomed any day.

Yes, Top Gear has been on air, in its current format, for over ten years now. And yes, it does feel that the top of the hill has been reached in terms of its features. I will always be an avid and loyal viewer to Top Gear whatever happens. Lots of people will moan about how the show has moved from its roots to focussing just on fast super cars. My argument is that Top Gear is a reflection of its audience. An audience which has developed and changed with the years.

Awarding Jeremy Clarkson a special recognition award in 2007, Sir Trevor McDonald claimed: “He has helped create a niche show for enthusiasts into a must see show for millions of fans.” Not many programmes can boast of that success.

A fond farewell to Television Centre ?

Lights out at 'TVC'.

Lights out at ‘TVC’.

It is hard to imagine but at one point in time the majority of the BBC’s central departments such as news, sport and drama were all based under one iconic roof – Television Centre. Now, however, after 54 years at the heart of West London and as a symbol of the BBC, the building is to close, being sold for redevelopment. When I first heard the news, I admit I did question the decision. Why would the national broadcaster of Great Britain close one of the most recognisable buildings in the country? However, since that decision, the BBC has changed and now the corporation has based various departments around the UK.

Last Sunday saw the final BBC News bulletin come live from Television Centre, before they themselves relocated to a new home. But it isn’t the first relocation. Departments such as drama and comedy have moved to locations including Cardiff and Glasgow, whilst the biggest relocation of BBC departments has been to the new Media City UK in Salford, where BBC Sport, Breakfast and CBBC (amongst others) are now based. I can say I have had the pleasure of visiting Media City and it is a brilliant working environment to be a part of. The modern surroundings, leisure attractions and the Manchester Ship Canal offer an unrivalled media environment.

The new buildings are large, modern and a reflection of the new era for the BBC. The open plan and ‘airy’ atmosphere in Quay House allow BBC Sport, BBC Breakfast, Radio 5 Live and other departments to work together in a building which offers excitement and evidence of the new digital era for media innovation. It is these new buildings and relocations which will be the new history of the BBC. Official figures already show that tourism in Salford is up for the seventh year on the row, with visitors travelling to see the new redevelopment.

It is the relocation of the broadcaster and indeed other media organisations which are transforming the media industry. Away from the London centric representation that has portrayed the BBC in the past, the corporation is now one which is based and created from all corners of the UK. Not only is money being saved for the corporation but new talent is being discovered from around the United Kingdom.

Departments such as BBC News will remain in London, at the new headquarters at New Broadcasting House, for obvious reasons. The selling of possibly the most iconic media building in the UK may lead you to ask where some of the programmes previously filmed at ‘TVC’ will be rehomed. Well, although the centre is being redeveloped and sold on, some of the larger TV studios will remain. The BBC, alongside other broadcasters and independent companies will be able to hire out or rent the studio – a cheaper alternative than owning the buildings than house the studios. This method of filming is already in place at “The Studios” in Salford where the BBC does not own studios for the likes of CBBC and Match of the Day. However, the BBC does have an increased stake than other broadcasters and companies, so that regular programmes can be permanently based and filmed.

So when I think back to the news that Television Centre will be closed, yes it will be sad to see the national broadcaster leave their iconic home. However, the next era of the BBC is to be created around the UK in new and plush working environments. But will any of these rival the iconic ring in West London? Only history will tell.