Let's just say, shall we, that this has proved to be a series still in a stage of fluidity and development. Probably happens to every programme, but we rarely realise it.
So we knew before we got whisked off to the studio this morning that we weren't going to live broadcast after all. They were going to record the interview and use it at some time unspecified between now and the final day on Friday. Will they broadcast it in the end? Maybe, if some big news story doesn't sweep everything else out of the way before it.
Visiting the BBC Television Centre, which I've often driven by in my car, was curiously like my last visit to the Department for Education and Science.
There's this colossal building with a reception area which is a mixture of charm and pretentiousness. I mean, how about calling the reception area of this massive production bureaucracy by this name?
Yup, those are some tasteful and understated Christmas lights. That should comfort all those who feel that the BBC is at the heart of a conspiracy to stamp out the core Christian identity of the UK. But maybe it's just a bit of subversive initiative by the floor staff who haven't bothered to get it checked out with their equality officers?
The amusing thing was that this "Stage Door" affectation seemed to be unknown to the conscientious Today Programme staffer whose job it was to meet me and take me up to the studio. My mobile phone rang as I sat by the Stage Door notice. It was the staffer. We had this hilarious conversation, in which, in response to her asking where I was, I said that I was sitting in front of the Stage Door notice in the front reception area of the building. What Stage Door? she said. Can you describe where you are? So I described the foyer and what was in it, and I explained that it was where all the BBC cars stopped and deposited their visitors. This didn't immediately do the trick. Are you inside or outside, she asked? Good question.
So when I got to the hospitality area (practically all the food had gone), there was Tim Ireland. Oliver Kamm wasn't able to make the date they'd fixed, anyway. The best bit of waiting was Tim showing me his favourite Daily Mail type headline of the day. Only I can't remember if it was really the Daily Express or the Daily Mail. Vintage examples of the populist media agenda scare themes (gays! gay marriages! asylum seekers! bogus asylum seekers! gay bogus asylum seekers flood the country and destroy marriage!)
I love it. Maybe I should look more carefully at those squeegee screen cleaners who still hang around waiting to pounce on cars stopping for the lights to change at Bounds Green on the North Circ. Will they all start signing up for fake gay partnership ceremonies? And why would they choose those rather than fake marriages?
So when we got round to the interview, it was all very civilised. We were interviewed by Caroline Quinn, one of the Today programme anchor staff. What kept coming across was how conservative the Today programme's audience is, given the reputation it has for being radical and setting a well left of centre agenda. They describe their audience as being great letter writers of what sounds like rather a pedantic type. They complain about the programme's encouragement of listeners to visit their web site.
But they're easy to send up. They're actually fairly typical, particularly of our middle class intelligentsia of a certain age. Last time I was at the DfES, the most energetic and outward looking of the HMIs said to me, why on earth would you want to keep a blog? I got to share a three hour train journey a couple of months back with a very lively young high-flying DfES head of department, responsible for developing policy in a cutting edge sector of the ministry, with a big stake in promoting the use of information technology in schools. She knew about blogs, but had never visited one, and didn't know what what they could be used for. Well it was a three hour train journey....
And that all reminds me of my experiences of the seventies, when I was the only academic I knew at my university who had a colour television. But almost all the working class people I knew had them. The same thing happened when video cassette recorders came out. Then when DVD players came out. And then with DVD recorders. I still find that huge numbers of schools don't have DVD players or recorders. And my feeling is that far more working class people have big plasma TV screens than middle class intellectuals, even when the latter have the salaries to afford them.
Not that I think that blogging is more popular with working class than middle class people. Most of the bloggers I know of are in their mid twenties to late thirties; they're university educated, more often than not from elite schools and universities, and they're often in media related jobs, sometimes working in sectors that didn't exist ten years ago. I know personally of only one blogger of around my age; the legendary Norm. The women involved in blogging I know of are mostly younger than the men, and there are far fewer of them.
Most of the people who are my friends have no interest at all in blogging. Which has its advantages. They're not particularly interested in looking over my shoulder to see if I write about them. When I do mention my blog, they listen very politely and express goodwill, in much the same way they might do if I started talking about a collection of cheese labels.
Ten years ago, I knew very few academics and trainers who worked as independent consultants. My own university seemed to be eternally unchangeable, and took about three years to make the simplest decision. One day I visited a little enclave on the campus which was hired out by a consulting outsourcing company which was involved in taking on contracts to inspect schools. It was something I was interested in. There were three large rooms, two men who were running the company and about six secretaries. One of the men talked affably about the various contracts they were running, and the work they were doing. At that time, they were holding contracts for something like seventy percent of the inspections in primary and secondary schools. Then they were running the careers advice service for several counties, having won the contracts off the local authority providers who had thought of them as their eternal right. And they were running virtually entire education services for various small ex UK colonies in south east Asia.
The man told me the company was only a few years old, but their annual turnover was fifty million pounds a year. I knew that the turnover of the entire university, with its Royal Charter, its thousands of staff, sprawling buildings and eternal shortages, was forty eight million pounds a year. That revelation made me determined to change the way I worked, and to get out of being a member of an institution that saw itself as having an eternally unassailable place in the world.
I had something like those feelings yesterday when I contemplated the huge size of the BBC complex, the vast hordes of staff, the mega-budget sustained by the compulsory tax of the UK licence fee of £126 per household. All of which is running six or eight TV channels and seven or eight national radio services. But it's as big as the DfES which is responsible for thirty thousand schools, the colleges and the universities. Any private TV or radio production company you come across is small and lean.
Blogging is only just on the BBC's horizon. It is something they are quite interested in and ask questions about. They have a pretend version of it on their web sites. Meanwhile, there's this astonishing world wide exchanging and networking going on, high profile journalists, would be and published writers and people who sit up in the early hours in their pyjamas, taking apart the day's news stories. I draw my own conclusions.
And I'll say more about the interview when they broadcast it. Or if they don't, I'll write about it by the weekend.