Wednesday, 19 March 2008


I found myself trawling through some old photos from a lovely end of series party the other day. Don't ask why, it's even sadder than you'd think, but it got me thinking about the 'joy' of media parties. I've been to loads of them, from tiny intimate affairs to humungous happenings with thousands of attendees. Here's a lazy awards' ceremony spoof of some of them:-

An Xmas party with the theme 'white' in a warehouse on London's trendy-now-but-still-shitty-really Brick Lane. Me and my little band of five staff turned up to this enormous venue, past the ice sculpter and a man painting a collage of the event on one of the walls, drinking sponsored ice vodka and eating tiny dollops of food that was white. That'll be eggs on bread then.

Upstairs, in the special VIP room, proper ministers of the realm were in attendance, as well as big name celebs off of the telly and everything. I got taken up there by my immediate boss, and sat in awe as breakfast TV presenters chatted to channel controllers, with a smattering of very pretty men and women gliding around with trays of drinks.

See above. My immediate boss was a very clever and astute man, and good company. Until he proceeded, as he did at any venue serving booze, to get well twatted and have to be steered away from people he didn't like. That was everyone else in the building, and he'd snarl and point and slur at them as he stumbled around. Luckily he made no sense. He eventually went to sleep, I escaped the VIP area and ended up in a nasty little boozer down the street with a mate who lived down the road. And a few staff who'd just left the company so weren't invited - we had a reet good time.

You know, I can't even recall what it was for - we went to a tapas bar locally for lunch and drank lots of beer then wine. My other immediate boss then went back to the office. We all stayed and drank tequila. And flaming sambucas. And more wine. Staff drifted back to work, most of whom fell asleep on their keyboards. I stayed until 6pm, surprised it was still light when I exited the bar and proceeded to fall flat on my face. Commuters stepped over me, tutting at my drunkitude. I giggled and somehow managed to get home in one piece.

A party for a company I'd left years back, me being invited due to some clerical error. I went dreading it, going with someone I used to work with but really REALLY didn't like. He bored me shitless on the way there. When I got there the only people I knew were the accountant (dullest man ever), the senior management (on full schmooze-with-everyone mode and not at all interested in me) and - oddly - a commissioning editor from Sky who'd been in charge of a very troublesome show I'd produced.

The venue was the Polish Embassy (no idea why) and topless male models were offering vodka continuously. Oh dear. I drank lots and lots of it. I mean gallons of the stuff. I danced with said com.ed., telling her of all the people I'd worked with she was by far the best (a lie). I told my old boss she was the loveliest person I'd ever worked for (another lie). I got stuck in a corner with the accountant and the guy I came with and managed to leave them deep in conversation with each other, keeping them out of my way all night.

Old friends then turned up and I had a ball. I think. It got even blurrier. I snogged a lady. I tried to snog a topless male model. I then wandered home and fell asleep on the Circle line and went around several times. Someone then tried to mug me - well, went through my pockets whilst I dozed, so I had no money.

I then fell asleep again and had to be picked up from central London at 3am as I was totally lost, disorientated and skint.

Top night!

The end of series party for my one and only foray into ITV, it was in the upstairs room of a fairly ordinary pub in Covent Garden. The bitter rivalries and simmering tension on this show had been a nightmare throughout, especially as it was the first big thing I'd been in charge of. Even if the show was actually run by the lovely exec producer and his old Irish director mate.

The researchers hated me, and each other. The celeb booker hated everyone. The cast hated the writer. The writer... well, he wasn't bothered really, just glad to have free booze. The technicians hated all the producers as they thought we'd ruined their show. My big boss hated everyone except me as she thought they'd ruined her show.

So there was quite an, erm, atmosphere.

Booze flowed and it all went much more smoothly that I'd expected... until, of all people, exec prod and director bloke had a blazing row and off stomped the director. At least this shocked everyone into behaving well for a bit. I stayed sober for once and had a miserable time. Even more so when I found out I was expected to pay for the entire thing - it was a 'proper' telly tradition that the producer pays personally for an end-of-series thing. I pointed out my researchers earned more than me, and lovely exec producer footed the bill in the end. He was paid six times my salary so could afford to.


So the next time you think you'd love to go to a glam media party, think again. That's the shocking err-I-can't-write-any-more-on-this conclusion to this collection of blogbits.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Adventures in journalism p II

After the 'triumph' of filming the inside of my bag for an hour (see last blog entry), I got one more chance at undercover reporting. This time was better as I didn't have to film anything, there was a cameraman and everything.

It was in the late nineties and there was a lot of fuss about people hacking into mobile phone calls. I'd done it myself - well, not quite true - my mate had done it when we were both pissed, and there was nothing on the telly. We'd howl at the genuine Cockerneee folks screaming and shouting at each other on the airwaves of East London.

But the networks were changing to digital, something they claimed was "100% crackproof". One in particular emphasized their security aspects, having a retired major bloke (complete with shouty posh voice, shiny bald heed and little 'tache, I later found out) as their security supremo.

We were piloting a show explaining technology to an adult audience. The show started very grandly with a virtual presenter, incredibly heavy graphics and lots of aspirations to be trendy yet accessible, informative but funny. It ended up on air with our usual games presenter outside in the streets doing leaden links, hand-held camerawork and the thin one off Birds of a Feather explaining how to work a mouse. Sigh.

Anyway, my idea was to hack into digital mobiles. I did some digging amongst the, er, more dubious people I knew, and found a hacker blokey. Another stereotype - heavy metal T-shirt, lank long hair, odour of stale pizza. But he knew his stuff - he had hacked his electricity meter so had never paid a bill, had copies of the latest 'uncrackable' games and showed me how to listen into digital calls using a scanner and a piece of software on a laptop. The fact it was the Head of Finance (a very large woman so fat that if you threw a beachball her way it would orbit her like a moon) talking saucily with her equally rotund bf slightly put us off but there you go.

So off we went to the only service station on the M25 to film the feature. We filmed people on their phones, and filmed Hackerboy listening in. It did seem to work, even if all the calls were from some poor salesman telling his office he was halfway to Slough or something.

Then we went to the phone company, just for a chat about their fab security I'd said, Hackerboy sitting in the corner with a clipboard as if he was a researcher. I was the interviewer, but said to Major Security-Breach (or whatever his double-barrelled name was) that I'd be cut out. He was to put the question in the answer, as we're all trained to do in MakingSoundBiteTV courses.

I asked lots of nice easy "So why is digital better than analogue" type questions, and then Major Soon-Exploding made a bit of a boo-boo. He said no-one could break his systems. I asked how he knew. He said that he'd employ anyone who cracked the systems to work on improving them, quite a liberal answer as hacking was (and still is) illegal.

I said that he'd better give the researcher guy a job then as we have footage of him cracking their security. This started to play on our monitor.

Major Losing-Control watched for a minute or two, then glared at me, picked up his very shiny small phone (as the camera zoomed in) and dialled 999.


I said that we informed those we'd listened in on what had happened, that no personal information or compromising details had been retained, and we'd come straight to the company to inform them their claims were incorrect. That they were lying to their customers. Surely exposing such injustice was more important than making a point.

Major Snarling-Crackpot leant forward and almost spat into my face "GET OUT OF HERE NOW", and then stomped off. We packed in silence and left.

Awaiting me the next day were legal summonses, tens of messages from various legal and phone company bods and one from Hackerboy saying he thought he was followed home so he stayed at a mate's place that night and slipped out at 2am.

The boss was delighted, toasting me with champagne and saying we'd got a massive result. She even loved the final feature, with the back of my head featuring prominently as I courageously stated our case, the slight tremble in my voice sounding more indignant than terrified, even though the latter was the truth.

And the BBC loved it, fab, the pilot got a series commissioned. Yay all round.

Well, er, no. The feature was never broadcast as the phone company actually did improve their security and make the calls crack-proof (well, until PCs got faster and more powerful anyway). Hackerboy seemed to have 'borrowed' things from where we filmed, and from our office. And the back of my head and dodgy accent was deemed too "untelevisual".

Hey ho.