Sir John Tusa

I'd have insisted that the BBC board of governors interview me for the post of director-general in 1991.

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

They would have at least had to listen to an alternative philosophy for the BBC from the one they later got under John Birt and came to regret. A career decision I'd have handled differently was my acceptance of the presidency of Wolfson College, Cambridge, in 1993. I should have tested the Fellows' declarations that they were outward-looking, forward-thinking much more thoroughly. They weren't. My best decision? To walk out after eight months. Another decision that taught me a valuable lesson was in 2001, when the Royal Shakespeare Company announced, without consultation, its withdrawal from the Barbican residency. We warned its management that they were taking a huge risk with the RSC's artistic and business model. Three years later it has still not recovered from that decision. All those who planned the strategy have now gone. Having worked in radio and TV journalism, radio management and now arts management, I can't imagine a broader spectrum. My only regret is having done things late in the curve - presenting Newsnight when I was 44. I wish I'd had a longer run at TV presentation and staying on Timewatch. Otherwise, no regrets. I came to the BBC World Service at 50 and the Barbican at 59. It's fun being a late developer and very unfashionable. If I had to start again, I'd be more patient with people and less patient with failure to act and deliver. Also, know when it is right and necessary to make enemies, but don't necessarily keep them for life. And believe in your values, though accept that others may have better ideas as to how you realise your ideals in practice. Sir John Tusa has been MD of the Barbican Centre since 1995. He was MD of the BBC World Service 1986-92.

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