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"Hello Radiolympia. This is direct television from the studios at Alexandra Palace!" *

THESE were the immortal words spoken to camera by Elizabeth Cowell and received at the big Radio show at Olympia, in West London. This was amongst similar test transmissions during August 1936, prior to the beginning of regular broadcasting just a couple of months later, on 2 November 1936.

Alexandra Palace was the birthplace of scheduled public, "high" definition television broadcasting in the UK and arguably, the world.

The American Modern Mechanix magazine of May 1935, described this as, England Will Broadcast First Chain Television Programs, to "Lookers".

BBC Studios A & B are the world's oldest surviving television studios.

YET in 2007, our People’s Palace was to be sold down the river by its very guardians – the Trustee – the London Borough of Haringey. The TV studios were to be destroyed with the connivance of the local council. Here is raw uncensored opinion and information about the scandal of the attempted fire-sale of our Charitable Trust’s asset, for property development. It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.

AFTER receiving a slap-down from the High Court (2007, October 5), two and a half years went by before the council finally abandoned its 15-year-old policy of "holistic" sale (i.e. lock stock and barrel). Then there was an attempt at partial sale ("up to two-thirds") to a music operator but without governance reform. To tart the place up for a developer, the council blithely sought about a million pounds towards this goal, a further sum of cash to be burnt.

THE local council has proved itself, to everyone's satisfaction, to have been a poor steward and guardian for over 20 years. Now, the master plan (below) developed under the new CEO Duncan Wilson OBE deserves to succeed.

It would be also be a big step forward to have a Trust Board at least partly independent of Haringey Council. 'Outside' experts would be an advantage. They'd likely be more interested, committed, of integrity and offer greater continuity. Bringing independent members onto the board and freeing it from political control would be the best assurance of success, sooner.


• Flogging the failing Firoka deal at AP

SO THE Alexandra Palace Board is still trying to flog the failed Firoka deal. The smell of big profits means that Firoka overlook the behaviour of their partner and has given a ‘fresh commitment’, whatever that means. The Chairman claims that “Firoka has provided the clarity the board wished to see”. For the public, the only clarity is the clarity of named documents obtained from Haringey Council, grudgingly, under the Freedom of Information Act.

The reported sale price agreed is £1.5 m and that figure has almost certainly now been exceeded by sale costs. The deal only makes sense to the property developer-of-last resort.

It would be easier to believe that the AP Board will keep its responsibilities as guardian of this precious and much-loved building uppermost in mind”, if the Board had not already agreed to a huge swathe of commercial offices (30,000 square feet) and to demolish the world’s first television studios. In the agreed Lease, there is also provision for a casino. The Chairman said the casino was a myth and was not in the final proposals. A casino is arguably not within the aims of our Charity.

In his High Court Witness Statement, Mr Kassam of Firoka attested
“If the deal that was finally agreed, after an extremely long negotiation process … and which has cost so much … for both FAP and/or Kings Cross, is not allowed to complete in the terms agreed, the current intention is to abandon any interest in Alexandra Palace”.
The judge had no difficulty in calling Firoka’s bluff over the withdrawal threat, but Mr Kassam also described the negotiations as “difficult, protracted and complex”. We can believe that. How likely is it that the public – kept in the dark – will get a different and better deal? Now the two sides want to drag it out further. We are told that discussions will proceed – but how much longer?

After nearly suffocating the trading company, the Board has only just revived it again and they’ve claimed it needs to generate the maximum profit possible. Is the Board standing by to shut it down again? Uncertainty hanging over APTL hobbles its future.

If the deal goes forward to Haringey-style consultation, it is likely to end in the High Court again and with the same result as before.

The council needs to act decisively. Any idea of selling to an asset-stripper must end now.