I have just returned from sunny Los Angeles, visiting Simon Cowell, the subject of my most recent biography. He told me about a visit by Cheryl Cole to his amazing house in Beverly Hills to patch up their arguments. ‘My book is number 1,’ boasted Cheryl. ‘Mine was number 1 for six weeks,’ countered Cowell, enjoying a rare moment of self-congratulation amid a sharp drop of The X Factor USA’s ratings on Fox TV. Everyone, it seems, is having a crisis.
I am grateful to John Birt for offering me my first job in TV (at Granada). But I blame his legacy for the current crisis, the latest in a long line since I joined BBC current affairs in 1970. Under Birt’s ‘blue skies thinking’ between 1987 and 2000, the BBC wasted billions of pounds on consultants, structural changes, jargon-infested bureaucracy, an Amazonian gravy train of expenses and salaries, and a stupendous property spree.