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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


Alexandra Palace: The 2007 Fireworks cash buckets scandal – Why the indifference of the Charity Commission?

THIS Saturday, 7 November, perhaps 40,000 people will again attend the annual Alexandra Palace fireworks display, the biggest in London. The public may again be asked to contribute by way of donation at the gates. Historically, collections from these evenings have been donated to charities and staffed by volunteers.

But in 2007, our Palace was run by a commercial operator under a licence granted by the Charity. At the gates in November 2007, many collectors demanded a "donation" for viewing the fireworks. When asked where they had come from, they said they were employed by the licensee to collect the money, and for the most part came from outside London. The unsealed buckets were labelled "donations for Alexandra Palace Charity". Some estimates put the amount collected that evening at in excess of £60,000, in cash.

Where did all that cash go?

Despite many questions being raised as to what happened to this money, it would appear that it never reached any charity, nor used directly for any charitable purpose.

The management of the Palace later refused to answer questions relating to how much had been collected, or where the money ended up. In a Board meeting, the previous (now-departed) general manager said that the cash was not accounted for "separately".

Which means that the cash was literally not accounted for.

Did these charitable donations in fact end up in the accounts of a company controlled by one of Britain's richest men?

Should the Charity Commission not be investigating these sort of matters, and examine the system where large amounts of cash donations are made? After pressure from members of the public, the Commission reluctantly began an enquiry into the Trustees' Licence-to-Firoka in 2008. Two case officers were appointed. But despite the evidence in September 2008 of the independent Walklate report, the Commission's own "enquiry" was wound-up prematurely by the end of 2008. Why?

The last 29 years of control by the local authority have been a dismal and expensive failure. It is hardly surprising because the Trustees are all Councillors and have neither the time nor commitment to make it work. Councillors come and go on a regular basis, often lasting no more than a year or two. It was always going to be a recipe for disaster, as it has proved to be.

The Commission has a policy that charities which are controlled by local authorities should be phased out and that the ownership and control of the assets should be maintained by properly constituted Boards of Trustees who have the necessary experience, qualifications and motivation to ensure that the charity is run in accordance with its charitable objectives.

Why is the Commission still sitting on its hands and not getting involved with the phasing out of the local authority control of Alexandra Palace? Should we not have new, independent Trustees on the Board?

Dame Suzi Leather became chair of the Charity Commission in August 2006 and is a political appointee of the current government.

One is bound to wonder whether the political connections between the many majority-group councillors, who have gone on to significant positions within politics, may be inhibiting full and proper investigation of the activities of Alexandra Palace. An enquiry that might expose the poor, and possibly corrupt, decision-making of political figures.

Alexandra Palace needs to be taken out of the political arena so that it can fulfil its true potential.

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