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A hack's life: The young Peter Sissons interviews Leader of the Opposition Edward Heath, under the watchful eye of Sir Alec Douglas Home in 1967 

How wonderfully appropriate that Peter Sissons's memoirs should come from Biteback Publications. For, in writing them, he hasn't just bitten the hand that fed him; he's chewed off the whole arm — and he's a messy eater.

Sissons worked for the BBC for 20 years and quite clearly hates the place and many, if not most, of the people who have run it.  He took the shilling — on his own account, oodles of shillings — but wealth and fame were not enough to reconcile him to the treacherous, backstabbing incompetents he had to work for there. And, finally — to coin a phrase —he's settling all those scores.

It is a difficult trick to pull off; the King Lear of television news raging against the dying of the limelight. There are times when he just sounds grumpy and petulant; times when his iron-clad self regard becomes tiresome; many times when his sweeping condemnation of those trying to run what is an extraordinarily complex and pressurised organisation is desperately unfair.

But this bellow of rage from the elephants' graveyard of broadcast journalism flattens some thoroughly deserving targets. That alone makes it worth reading, if you pay the licence fee, or care about news.

I ought to declare an interest. I have a walk-on part in his book and, while we were never close, he was a colleague I respected and reliably convivial company. Besides, I'm grumpy too.

It's tempting to skip the early stuff: the ambitious and supportive mother, the Liverpool grammar school boy rubbing shoulders with three Beatles and Jimmy Tarbuck — Sissons is in the top tier of what passes for aristocracy in Liverpool — Oxford and the job at ITN "because we have too many public schoolboys on the payroll".

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Rob Fawcett
April 2nd, 2011
3:04 PM
When I was a producer at the BBC, consensus was that 'The BBC would be much better off if they sacked half the managers, except for the inevitability that they'd sack the wrong half'.

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