The merger of Rediffusion and ABC’s operations continues, but it’s not looking good for Rediffusion’s staff

Cover of Fusion
From the final edition of Fusion, the house magazine of Rediffusion, 48/49 for Christmas 1967

The heading on the last leader in the summer edition of Fusion was ‘Fused’. Unfortunately there can be no other heading than the one now printed here.

Few editors of house magazines can have had quite the task which now faces this editor. In the last edition at the end of July the leader started: ‘Next month the clouds of obscurity which mushroomed around our future following the ITA announcement about the changes in ITV should begin to clear’.

At the time of going to press in the first week of December they are still as murky as ever. The decision was taken not to publish an autumn edition of Fusion as scheduled unless some facts could be printed about the future of the staff. It was felt that it was better not to bring out Fusion at all rather than to ignore the situation.

There were no facts so Fusion did not appear. There are still few facts as this is written but now the editor feels it is right to bring out a bumper Christmas edition in which he hopes his readers might find some cheer. In the tradition of Fusion there are some features in which we laugh at ourselves. We hope they will provide a few smiles and that nobody will be provoked to take offence.

We hope, too, that by the time this reaches you the murk will have cleared a little; that, for example, the situation of redundancy payments and the winding up of the pension fund will be clarified.

We hope, also, that a few more will have been reassured about their future careers, inside or out of television.

Indeed, we have all been hoping since June and after six months that hope has begun to wear pretty thin. There are many whose patience has been tried to the limit.

We have lived through a miserable period with bouts of industrial action, threats of more and rumours galore. When 1,400 people have their jobs taken away from them there must be upheaval, distress, anxiety and downright dismay.

But need there have been so much? Could not a lot of it have been avoided?

This much must be said: if anybody had sat down deliberately to devise a situation so complicated that it was almost beyond the bounds of reason for anybody to solve promptly, then that person could hardly have done better had he been the architect of the present muddled position.

Any reasonable person must understand the position with which management has had to cope … winding up Rediffusion Television, agreeing with ABC on the formation of a new board for Thames Television, settling on the disposition of the assets of this company, negotiating with Weekend Television on the lease of Wembley, negotiating with the unions on re-employment and ‘terminal payments’. Enough headaches there to last for quite a few months, and indeed they have.

Also any reasonable person must understand the fears and insecurity with which the unions have had to cope. There has been the whole vast question of what was to happen to their members: some to Weekend, some to Thames, some to Yorkshire, none looking at any of it with much enthusiasm.

There have been problems over the seniority acquired with this company, compensation for the loss of security and the tragedy of reduced pension rights which is particularly severe for those over 50.

Any reasonable person must also understand the problems with which the new company, Thames Television, has still to cope. Who are to be the section heads in the various departments? Who are to join from Rediffusion and who shall come from ABC? Will ABC’s 11-6 domination of the first batch of appointments be reflected in the final figures? Many of these question marks still hang over us.

We are all reasonable persons. We can all see that there are many points of view to be considered. Why then has the situation been so unreasonable?

The editor of this magazine can, perhaps, take a neutral line, supporting neither the management nor the unions. Certainly this editorial has been vetted by neither.

If a neutral line is taken what does one see? Fundamentally there has been a terrible lack of communication. But, again, any reasonable person can appreciate the reasons for this.

You cannot make announcements when valuable acquisitions are under negotiation. You cannot communicate when in the middle of delicate negotiations. This applies as much to the unions as the management.

Or can you? Is not this inability to communicate a disease of this country and, indeed, of the world? How many of the current disputes in British industry could be resolved before the strike, go-slow or work-to-rule occurs if there were better communication? How many international disputes and grievances could be settled with better communication?

To come back to home, the irony of all this is that Fusion is supposed to be a method of communication. As a house magazine it has won more awards than most for its contents, for its design and, presumably, for its ability to communicate. Yet, in a situation which demands clear and prompt communication, it has failed utterly to do so. We can take comfort from the fact that many house magazines really limit their communication to pompous statements by the chairman or managing director. Fusion has never had those, nor been asked to publish them.

So when it does come to a crisis how do you communicate? Some industries have a complex system in which house magazines, newspapers, news letters, bulletins and all types of meetings are integrated. It would have been interesting to know how much more all this would have achieved in our situation. Fusion is inclined to think that it is not so much the method as the ability and willingness to do so which matters. And of these two, ability is the key. As the structure of society becomes more and more complex, the need for unequivocal, expert communication grows.

In our present situation, the word ‘communication’ not only covers the obvious statement of facts to others but also – and this is possibly more important – the exchange of views and opinions by those taking part in negotiations.

Everybody knows how a word-of-mouth message can be distorted after passing round a circle at a party game. This, too, is happening far too frequently in everyday life. Put those words into the mouths of people who have an interest in seeing them distorted and confusion piles on confusion.

Too often in this country, negotiations break down or are misinterpreted because of the inability of those concerned – both unions and management – to communicate clearly and without allowing their viewpoints to distort the situation.

It is possibly this endemic disease which has prolonged the negotiations in the present situation.

Every reasonable person will agree that it has all gone on too long. Unfortunately those who have probably suffered most frustration by the silence are those who have had nobody to put forward their views – the non-union members of the staff.

We might send men to the moon and know how to transplant hearts, but we have still to learn how to communicate with each other. And that is the lesson from our sorry situation.

As can be seen from the following two pages there have been quite a few decisions but for the majority of the staff none have yet answered the key questions: ‘What shall I be doing at the end of July?’ ‘How much will I be earning?’ ‘What is going to happen to my pension?’ ‘What compensation do I get for my loss of seniority and security?’

To pile on the agony the death has also occurred of Capt. Brownrigg, our former general manager. That event is dealt with on pages 6-9 of this issue. However, it has a deeper significance which anybody who attended the memorial service must have felt.

The congregation consisted of all sorts of people. There were executives of the company, past and present. There were rank-and-filers. There were leaders in ITV. They all came to mourn his death and remember his achievements.

Tragically, though, the service also marked the end of an era; the end of the first chapter in the history of ITV; the end of Rediffusion Television.

Capt. Brownrigg and the staff of this company played their part in setting up Independent Television in this country and carrying it through its early years.

It has been an exciting time and we can only hope that, when the present murk lifts, the future will be just as stimulating and exciting as the past. And that lessons will be learnt from all we have recently been through.

The editor

About the author

Ronald Elliott was editor of 'Fusion', the Associated-Rediffusion house magazine, and wrote and edited for A-R's subsidiary TV Publications Limited.

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