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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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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.


THE ULTIMATUM: Alexandra Palace Trustees and Firoka

IN the disposal of Alexandra Palace, the weakness in the Council’s position, vis a vis Firoka, is now fully revealed. The attempt at obtaining a firm commitment from the so-called ‘preferred development partner’ has fallen flat.

The levers of power must be satisfying to operate, even if little thought appears to lie behind their exercise. The young chairman of the Trust since May, seems to have relished his powers to evict members of the press and public from meetings of the Charity Trust Board.
Then in early December, the Trust proudly announced that they were serving notice on their preferred partner (!) from Alexandra Palace and, if that eviction wasn’t enough to demonstrate how tough was the Council’s new position, they also gave Firoka an ultimatum, reported in the press as:
“The time has come for Firoka to decide whether to move ahead in partnership with us as preferred development partner at the palace. If there is a will to progress, we are prepared, ready and willing to move forward.”
The only will demonstrated so far, has been a will to treat the Council-run Trust with contempt. The ultimatum expired on 28 December, without any apparent response from Firoka. The bluff by our Council - with their empty hand - has been called by professional players.

The Trustees do not admit publicly that they learnt anything from their defeat in the High Court, apart from learning the way ahead was now clarified (?!). But they probably did learn one thing: that the bluff of Firoka could be called - as it was called finally by the High Court judge - and Firoka does not necessarily walk away as they threatened.

In their earlier negotiations the Trust had buckled each time Firoka had threatened to walk. The custodians of our history, the Council, even agreed to the demolition of the world’s first television studios in their craven desire to appease commercial greed. The Council-Trustees should have called the bluff of Firoka a long time ago and pretended to Firoka that the Trustees were competent partners to be respected.

The recent attempt at a tough position came far too late and with its failure, the feeble position of our council is exposed still further.

Chamberlain’s speech to the House of Commons after the failure of his ultimatum to Hitler is well known, but do not expect any statement from the trustees along similar lines:
“Sir, that was a final Note. No such undertaking was received by the time stipulated and consequently this Trust is now at war with Firoka.”
Instead, expect an increasing bunker-mentality from the beleaguered Trust. Expect no public comment, but actions that signify the following statement:
“Ratepayers, that wasn’t actually a final request to commit (nobody really believed us, did they?). Although no undertaking was received by the time stipulated, the Trustees will continue to beg, bungle and grovel to Firoka to take Alexandra Palace away from us.

We now know we are rubbish negotiators, we don’t have any Plan B, and no exit strategy because we have burnt our bridges. We will get an awful deal on behalf of the Trust beneficiaries (the public).

We must appease Firoka before they turn on us and sue us for millions due to misleading them over the need for a public consultation. We (the Council Trustees) deliberately ignored the promise of a Government Minister and we may yet end up paying a far bigger price than merely the costs that were awarded against us in the High Court.

We have no choice but appeasement. You ratepayers will suffer, but hey, you’re going to suffer anyway!”
Having the local Council running a big asset disposal is like an anemic hemophiliac trying to get a good price for a blood-bank from a vampire.

31 Dcember 2007